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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Timelines

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.

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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:

Arrrrrrrrrrrrgggggggggggggggggg!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Wooooooooooooooo!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Deeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaathhhhhhhh!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yeeeeeeeeeeeeeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaahhhhhhhhhhhh!!!!!!!

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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