Monthly Archives: January 2012

Actors NEED writers

Lifeboat Mug

Phil: It’s a simple fact that the real heroes of any film, television or theatre performance are the writers. Without them, everything you see in the way of entertainment would be rubbish. The problem is that actors are generally perfectly capable of walking and not bumping into the furniture, but if you ask them to speak without someone telling them exactly what to say, it all goes horribly wrong.

The proof of this is arriving thick and fast thanks to the awards season. Every few days, some thespians are stuffed into smart dinner suits, or diaphanous dresses, and then let loose on a stage with a microphone and no script. Then you get proper car-crash stuff such as pretty much every acceptance speech by Kate Winslett. Who else says “Gather” out loud to themselves before starting ? Or has the organisers winding up the music volume in a less than subtle effort to say, “Sit down love and shut up before you embarrass us all”.

But this years doozie, has to go to Christopher Plumber. At the Screen Actors Guild awards he said, “Actors are gregarious and wacky are they not? I love them dearly. When they honor you, it’s like being lit by the Holy Grail.”

Is it really ?

Well, after a little bit of research (looking at Wikipedia and watching the third Indiana Jones film) I find that the Holy Grail is “cup used by Jesus at the Last Supper”. That’s a cup Christopher. You are being illuminated by a cup. Now I don’t know about you, but having checked all the cups and mugs in my house, none of them provide any form of practical illumination. Fine though they are as vessels for containing tea, should the lights go out, you aren’t going to get any help finding it from them.

Chris has obviously confused cups with light bulbs. It’s an easy mistake to make, I’m always stuffing a 40 watt’er in my gob instead of a steaming mug of hot chocolate. No, hold on, that’s wrong, I’ve actually never done that. Because I can tell the difference. In the same way my favorite lifeboats mug never finds itself screwed into a light fitting.

So the division of labour is simple; Actors read stuff out loud, walk around a bit and pull faces then congratulate themselves on being clever. Writers do all the brainwork, make everything good and get hardly any of the credit. Or the money. Or the groupies. Humph.


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When good writing matters.

SPAMPhil: A mysterious e-mail arrives:

I have read your blog and impressed with your post. I am also a writer and have written many articles on various topics.I have recently made articles which are quite informative and totally relevant to its theme. I want to publish link (just only link not whole article) of my articles on your blogs site, kindly place the link of any suitable article on your blog. In return i will place your blogs site on my site. Select any article which you think is the most suitable for your domain.  

Waiting for your reply.  

Hmmmm. First off, I don’t know which blog is being refered to. The fact that the sender and recipient e-mail address have been fiddled to be the same doesn’t help and might make a cynical person suspicious. As I run four blogs, maybe the links should be from the model making one ? Would a link to a post about kids outfits be useful from this ? Anyway, which post ? I’ve written over 2000 and each one is bloody brilliant. Be specific as well as impressed.

The main thing that annoys the heck out of me is the poor quality of the writing itself. “I have recently made articles”. MADE articles ? You mean WRITTEN SOME article don’t you ? I mean, this isn’t selling me on the idea of pointing my hard-earned readers at your content is it ? Whilst I sometimes consider grammar to be my mother of my father, I like to think I’m doing better than this. I know that I is a capital letter anyway.

As for “just only link not whole article” – or “please give me free traffic” – give me a break. You want to nick my readers but I mustn’t pinch your “original” content ‘cos otherwise they won’t see your adverts.

Were I a teacher, I’d mark this effort “D- Must try harder”. If you are going to try to con me, at least get someone to write the stuff properly. Nolanparker SPAMwriters are available for a very reasonable fee!


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Ode to a teacake

Horace Broon lookalike Phil: It’s Burn’s night and this occasion you are supposed to address the haggis with a bit of poetry from the man himself. However, I wondered if instead of talking about a bag of offal, delicious though it is in fried form, he was actually writing about Scotland’s greatest export – The Tunocks Teacake.

Scots people, look away now:

Address To A TeacakeDelicious Tunnocks Teacake

Fair fa’ your honest, sonsie face,
Great chieftain o’ the biscuit-tin!
Aboon them a’ ye tak your place,
Rich tea, hob-nob, or garibaldi:
Weel are ye wordy of a grace
As lang’s my arm.

The groaning trencher there ye fill,
Your hurdies like a distant hill,
Let us hope that Alex Salmond and his hoardes,
Does ne ban your export sales,
Or this sassenach
Weel be vaulting o’er Hadrians Wall.

or to put it another way, as that great Australian Mel McGibbson said, “They can take our lives, but they can never take our Tunnocks !”


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Feeling Squeamish ?

Be nice to me. I gave blood today.Phil: Does the sight of blood turn you weak at the knees ?

I’m lucky in that I’m not bothered. The claret can be running in the streets and I’ll probably be OK. Giving blood doesn’t bother me, I’ve been doing it for years and as long as I don’t watch the needle go in or out, I’m fine. The staff might try to hide the donation from sight out of deference to the giver but I want to have a good look and even poke at the bag to see how warm it is. After all, I might change my mind and decide I want to keep it !

Candice is not so lucky. Needles are the problem. Which makes it a bit of a surprise that she wrote one of the our lead characters as a bit squeamish. The central love story involves this foible and we’ll be using it for comic effect in the future. Maybe it’s a case of “write what you know” but I suspect that the fact it’s not the strong female lead that is afflicted but the object of her affections that has been hobbled might be more telling !


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Too real ?

Candice: Its funny this writing in pairs malarkey. Some times the same idea floats in two brains at the same time without actual conversation between the two.
Phil and I have been playing with ideas for putting that famous hook into the story. As he mentions, he’s been playing with the timeline in one way – I’ve got an idea for another route. However the PC died over Christmas and I can only write on my iPad, which can’t cope with 200page word documents. So my idea for the hook stays sitting in my head until I can get a new PC.
However, I had also been thinking about timelines and structure as a whole. And then I see Phil’s post… Hum two minds one common thread. I suppose our regular meetings at the airfield have put us on a similar track.
Our book, or in fact our series of books (we have ideas for seven at the moment) are based around a fictional company that goes in and closes companies down. The office experiences we describe in the book at based on true life, just expanded to create some comedy.
However , with the same thoughts at the hook question, I’ve been thinking about the situations and descriptions around the office in the book and have decided that they are probably abit too linear and true as well. Like Phil said, we know what’s going to happen and we have plotted it all out, but have we actually over plotted and described every situation as it would be in real life, rather than how it would work in a book. Plots move quickly and make assumptions about the reader’s knowledge to move forward, they don’t outline everything line by line.
So there might be a cull going forward, pc permitting, not just rejigging the order to give us our hook, but actually cut some content too. It might take us under 80,000 words, but as long as they are the right words, the exact number shouldn’t matter !

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Sausage and chip leftoversPhil: What order do you eat your dinner in ?

Are you a slave to the convention that dictates you start with, sausage, egg and chips and then follow-up with a desert ?

Or do you have a spoonful of sweet to tantalize the taste buds and the return to the main course, the tingle of anticipation taking the edge off those brussels sprouts that you don’t want to eat but know that you should ?

That’s sort of the problem we are grappling with at the moment. The Book begins in a fairly linear way. We set the scene with some character back stories. After a couple of chapters this all comes together and the story begins to pick up pace. The problem is that when you send the requisite first three chapters to an agent, what they get is the build up and little or none of the pay-off.

We’ve been told we need “a hook” to draw people in and the sensible solution appears to be to drag some of the main story toward the front of the book. Having played around with this, we both feel that while this might help, it does make the timelines less clear. For example, I’ve written a version which starts about half way through the earlier draft and then jumps back to the build-up. Not with much is given away, just a morsel to tempt the reader, but enough to plant a seed in the back of the mind. Possibly.

We still need the set up though. So, should we just hope the reader can follow or make it easier at the risk of seeming patronising. Do you say “Two months ago, a BMW three series pulled in to….” or just go with the “A BMW three series pulled in to…” and hope that the reader works out that this is a flashback ?

This is a writer’s problem. We are happy with the story but then we know the whole thing. The setup is funny but not as riotously funny as what happens later. Comments so far indicate that it is these later bits that people enjoy, but at the moment, we are several cakes away from working out how to spread these moments throughout the text.


Filed under Phil, Writing

How to win X Factor

X Factor CakePhil: Last week m’collegue wrote “I really I need to go on the X Factor but I can’t really sing and hate ballads !” on the basis that it’s a lot easier to get published if you are famous already. I had this explained to me by the prolific and succesful author Gervase Phinn a couple of years ago. He’s a really nice bloke and makes huge amounts of time for his fans but is quite realistic about the challenges for new authors.

However, I don’t see this as a problem. All we need is for one of us to become famous and the world is our oyster. That means Nolan just has to win X-Factor. Nothing could be simpler.

You are probably thinking I underestimate the size of the task but I have a secret plan. Ten years of spinning the disks of death on the wheels of steel at our local hospital radio station have given me a pretty good understanding of the music industry. Add to that the fact I’ve played with Pete Waterman’s train set a couple of times and that the first person to pay me money for something I wrote now runs the country’s top mobile disco then my contacts in the biz are all I need.

First up, the “can’t really sing” problem. The solution is Autotune. For the civilians out there, this is computer software that takes in a voice at one end and spit out a tuneful voice at the other. It has been suggested, by cruel and jealous people, that some of the soap starlets who go on to have a recording career, owe a lot to this sort of assistance.

Next, we need a suitable ditty to warble. Ballads are out it appears. Never mind, although we’ve never swapped iPods to check out each other musical tastes, I know Ms Nolan tends towards the rockier end of the spectrum. Having seen her other halfs CD collection, I can understand this. After all, if you know you all three original Spice Girls albums are hidden in the loft and reducing the value of your property, then you need something to drown out any attempts to retrieve and play them.

My suspicion is that the iPod contains lots of Swedish Death Metal tracks. Before you head to Wikipedia to work out what I mean, perhaps I can help with some lyrics, reproduced here in the original Swedish so you don’t miss the delicate nuisances:


These will be accompanied by half a dozen guitarists sawing away on their “Axe” like crazed lumberjacks and a drummer making sounds like the very bowels of Hell are being torn asunder. All amps will be turned up to 11.

This is probably a bit esoteric for primetime ITV but I think we can still work on it. Maybe we kick off with some Kaiser Chiefs.

Retirement would do:

I want to retire
No longer required
I want to get by without the man on my back
A tear in my eye
With a heart full of pride I must go out on a high
And tell nobody why

That sums up our dreams – not lazing around on a yacht, but the freedom to create and do something interesting to be remembered by. You can see what I mean about not requiring great singing skills from the YouTube clip, budget cuts at the commercial channel will soon mean everything is recorded on mobile phones.

Perhaps I’m not being radical enough though. How about some thing from American band Monster Magic ?

Powertrip would probably do the job:

I’m never gonna work another day in my life
The gods told me to relax
They said I’m gonna be fixed up right I’m never gonna work another day in my life

“You’re just being silly”, I hear you cry. Well, no I’m not. Those of us old enough to remember the Top 40 in the days before X Factor, when music was music and not the stuff we get now, will recall that the week after Christmas often saw some METAL at the number 1 spot. Why ?

Simple, all the METAL fans knew this was their chance. They would wait until the Crimbo number 1 chart, and then head down to Woolworths and buy something newly released by a suitable METAL band. Because the post festive chart was compiled on the smallest number of sales of the year, there being no internet and the shops being shut for several days, the single would rocket to the top slot and then vanish the following week.

So, the plan is simple. Lots of noise, plenty of head banging (I’ll need longer hair to help with this so we’ll have to wait a while), get the METAL fans onside. Add in all those who hate Simon Cowell and we can’t lose.


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Beer and in-jokes

Phil: I’m not one for DVD box-sets. Most of the time, once I’ve seen a series, I’m not in a hurry to see it all over again. Maybe if you’ve got all thirty thousand episodes of Friends on disk then you can watch one without remembering the plot, but for most, the pleasure of new discovery is gone and I’d rather see something new. I’m the same with films, the collection is in single figures with the rest from Lovefilm for a couple of watches and then back in the post.

The exception to the rule is Inspector Morse. I might know whodunnit every time now, but the pacing of the plot, this was the first UK drama series to try two-hour episodes, and sheer quality of the filming makes me happy to watch them repeatedly. OK, so I tend to do other things while “watching” telly but you get the idea. Thus when ITV decided to flog the deceased equine again for a one-off prequel called “Endeavor”, I made an effort to watch it.

My opinion – very good – I worked out the murderer about three-quarters of the way through but that isn’t a problem, in fact it kept me watching to see if I was right.

The biggest fault was the inclusion of too may nods toward the original series. The Jaguar car I can deal with. In the period, most Police forces used them so the detail is correct. Only an anorak would comment that he seemed to be using the hand brake on the wrong side, so I won’t. However, we had opera, drinking (I’m coming back to this in a minute), workaholism, squeamishness with blood, problems with women, crimes in Jerico (scene of the very first Morse episode) as well as many other previous (future ?) locations, plus many others even I didn’t spot.

All of these must have been so tempting to the writer. After all, it’s part of the Morse cannon so we want to have lots for the fans to spot don’t we ? Personally, no, but I understand the temptation.

Despite being unpublished and therefore, sans readers, we are trying to work out how to deal with Book 1 in Book 2. Can we refer to anything in the first story ? Should we for those fans who have been with us from the beginning ? Obviously we have to assume that most people are reading us for the first time but does the odd in-joke hurt ? Is it in fact a good thing, a kind of thank you ?

Anyway, while you ponder this, back to the beer.

In the TV series, Morse is an alcoholic. The illness kills him in the end but long before this, it has come to partly define his character. Thinking is done in pubs with good beer. Someone therefore thought that it would be really clever for young Morse to be teetotal. What a clever wheeze !

The clued up immediately spot problems – in those days you simply didn’t get on in the Police force if you didn’t drink. I used to work for an ex-chief constable who described how on the CID course there was a role-call at 2am in the bar and if anyone had sloped off to bed, they were dragged back for more refreshment. Even 20 years ago, this was the case according to at least one person I knew. Thus, I can’t see Morse getting away without comment at the very least and being sent to Coventry at worst.

Worse, when he finally does drink, the makers get it wrong. The scene is just after he has fainted at the sight of a post-mortem. His boss takes him to a pub and orders two beers. Morse protests that he doesn’t drink but is told to “get it down you”. Which he does.

Now, I like beer but will happily admit that it is an acquired taste. At first, the stuff is horrible and bitter. It’s why da kidz drink alcopops, they are like soft drinks which taste lovely. Morse, as a non-drinker would have at best sipped timidly at his drink. Instead he gets through half a pint in two swigs. Considering it appears to be a pretty heavy porter beer, hardly a light pint for the delicate palette, this is good going or just wrong. Needless to say, he is immediately on the beer for the rest of the episode. From TT to AA in twenty seconds.

What’s annoying is that there was no need for this. Just let the man drink fron the outset and stop being “clever”. An in-joke too far methinks.


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What keeps you writing ?

Candice: After one of Phil and my customary catch ups this week he posed a question that has made me think a lot.
Now it’s back to paid work times post Xmas break Phil and I return to a weekly chin wag in the most bizarre of venues: an airfield cafe. Why there, you cry, rather than the usual costa coffee type venue ? Well it’s about equidistant from Phil’s place and my current work venue. We tried the pub nearer work but found out that by not being related to the locals we were frowned up. Abit further up the road was a garden centre but the range of options was poor, so the airfield cafe it is.
What they think of us there has always made me wonder. We come once a week without fail. I’ve got my work clothes on, Phil his famous sensible shoes. And we talk intently for 3/4 hr before I look at the big clock on the wall and say, “Must dash.”
Anyway, the question was posed just as we were standing in the car park, about to whizz back to work.
“Why are we so passionate about this?”
Phil had been surprised by my post as he had not realised I was finding our feedback so personal. However, he also began to realise how passionate I am about the whole writing concept.
Why? Well, I have this drive to want more out of life than just going to work, coming home, watching TV, you know, the usual day to day. I’ve always had it, and its probably one of the reasons I struggle to settle into a job, because its exactly that, settling into a job. I don’t want to resign myself to being a cog in a very big wheel, I want to make a mark.
So, I see the book as my way of leaving something behind. I’m also proud of the achievement of putting 80,000 words down in print, whether or not they are any good. When people find out I’ve written a book then they are always surprised and impressed.
So, really I need to go on the X Factor but I can’t really sing and hate ballads!
2012 is all about honing our craft and then really being able to make that mark. I just read in the paper about a GP from Hall Green who’s managed it – so why not us.

Ps this is written on my iPad using the word press ap. It’s not great, the ap that is, but it does mean I can keep things up to date from my sick bed, where I am currently lying full of cold!


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Who would play you in the movie ?

Phil: Channel 5 is delighting us on the New Year bank holiday with “Magic Beyond Words – The JK Rowling story” *.  According to the official website, it dramatizes the British author’s struggle to bring the beloved wizard fantasy of Harry Potter to life. In order to do this, Rowling is played by an Australian actor called “Poppy Montgomery”.

Now there is a fine tradition of famous Scottish people being portrayed by actors who hail from the land down under where women go and men chunder. Mel Gibson playing William Wallace for example. It’s obvious really, what with all accents being identical to the brogue, as proved by Sean Connery.

Anyway, this got me thinking. If famous authors lives are going to be subject to biopics, perhaps we ought to start thinking about who will be playing us in “The epic tale of nolanparker” – appearing at a cinema near you soon. This might sounds a touch presumptuous, but it’s best to be prepared in case Hollywood calls. After all, you don’t want to blurt out a name only to regret it later do you ?

So, I started by asking Candice. She consulted her husband and came back with either Diana Rigg or Gillian Anderson. An interesting and brave choice. The former is 30 years too old and the later was last seen on UK screens as a slightly mental Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. Presumably we are thinking more X-Files than Dickens, or at least we are if we don’t want the next lunchtime sandwich to be a knuckle one…

Which leaves me.

Now I’m not sure this is a plumb role but if I’m not to be airbrushed out of history, then I better come up with someone. Leaonard Nimoy is nearly twice my age now so he’s out. Brian Blessed would be good and he’s quite mad enough, but probably too loud and definitely over-beardy. Charlie Brown might work except he is a cartoon character. If America wants a Brit for anything other than a baddie, they ring High Grant but he’s far too posh and has that stupid flicky hair anyway.

Sticking with mad people, Mackenzie Crook can do weird but is far too skinny. On the other hand, Martin Freeman could pull off the bemused act I do when being told about fashion. He was in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy Film though, officially the second worst ever made, so irredeemably tainted. But, following this train of thought, when the phone rings, I’m going to suggest his co-star in Sherlock, Benedict Cumberbatch. Give the man a silly haircut and I reckon we could get away with it. Either that, or Wall-E.

Now admit it, you’ve often asked the “Who would play me in the biopic” question. What answers did you come up with ?


*Now I’ve watched the film, if the makers come a’knocking they will be sent packing. I knew things would be bad when they tried to pass off a modern Raleigh Chopper as a 1980’s model right at the start. Everyone knows that modern health & safety insisted on the removal of the crossbar mounted gear lever before the classic bike was re-issued. If they can’t get that right then how can we have faith in the other details like the heroine went out with Ron Weasly or the Edinburgh post office was full of trolls ?

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