A Design In Fragments

It hasn’t quite fully clicked yet, the story for ‘Order For Burning’ remains a little bit incomplete but I think I’ve got the characters down at least. This is good step forward for now at least. Hopefully by the end of today (if I can actually stop writing this) I’ll blaze the first five pages. As explained in previous entries of Howling In The Dark I usually set about writing the first five pages of any feature script before I’ve planned most of the long term stuff out. That way, when you finally do finish planning you’re not looking at a blank screen because you’ll have already got a head start. Also, the start of any project usually means the anxiety of where to go with this scene or how a character would say that line hasn’t yet kicked in. I go in dumb just wanting the first five minutes to be brilliant. If it grips me and wants me to write the rest then, in theory, the audience will be griped and want to know the rest.

Mind you, I’m speaking as a guy who has never had a feature script made. Bear that in mind before taking any of my advice seriously.

One major dilemma I’ve faced in the run up to getting ‘Order Of Burning’ off the ground has been the battle between sticking to historical detail and getting a good story. In the actual events as far as I can tell there were originally eleven women found guilty of witchcraft around Dumfries at the time. One killed herself in her cell and another, Helen Tait, somehow got away with it. She was never executed, only sentenced to fifty ‘merks’ and banished from the region never to return. The main question I would have is how she achieved this. How exactly did she defy the usual crowd mentality and live to tell the tale (assuming she’d want to go around telling people she was accused of being a witch after that, I’d probably assume she’d want to keep her head down)? The records are not greatly clear in giving any detail on what happened so I could use artistic license to fill in the blanks or strive to find out.

Helen is one of my main characters, simply on account of her surviving all this makes her very valuable to our story in that it won’t be just a case of everybody going to die. She is the hope, she is the exception to the rule and as such she is front and centre in the current plan. I’m picking another one of the group to concentrate on and stopping there as any more would be a major headache to keep balanced.

If that’s the story based most in the reality of the situation then I’m also writing my own characters into a parallel story concerning a young man being trained by the Church as a ‘prodder’ to extract confessions from suspects, usually by the means of torture. Obviously, at one point these two strands will almost certainly cross over.

If you’ll excuse me, I’m off to start a document file entitled ‘Order For Burning’ and stare at the screen for a few minutes.

Riding Through Dust Clouds

So back to The Last Alive for now then.

I am around 37 pages in just now and it’s a mess, a wobbling sci fi tower full of half baked ideas that don’t quite link in that well together at any point. It could fall down at any moment and take everybody else with it. I’m writing it knowing that there’s a vast amount of surgery to do afterwards, well aware that it’s all complete tosh right now and I’ve straddled two main ideas and am at risk of collapsing down the gap.

The alien idea is sound enough but every single scene I write with the Nightcrawlers makes me start to think it would be very, very expensive. They don’t have a physical shape instead appearing as clouds of smoke which would probably require CGI. This in turn will probably be beyond most budgets for a first time feature. From a story point of view they probably don’t have to even be there, especially as they only seem to exist to give the town folk something to battle against come the final reckoning. The threat to the town is surely Morag herself, a girl back from the dead without ageing a day in the meantime? I’m coming round to the fact that smoke monsters only detract from the idea of a town coming to terms with one of their own coming back after they had mourned for her death years previous. There would hang so many questions over that situation that it would hopefully drive it forward far more efficiently.

There’s already the battle between Darren who looked for this girl many years previously and didn’t find her and Isabelle, her Mother, who still blames him for not doing so. Add young Morag into this and the possibility of her not being the actual Morag from all those years ago. That at least cuts down all the chaff from something which seems to have become so overblown and schlocky it’s becoming a pain to write.

I don’t think I’m ever going to finish this draft of The Last Alive, instead I’m giving it up as a lost cause and starting over again. It might seem dramatic but I’d rather do this than simply plough to the end of this current version before taking that apart for surgery instead. As an amatuer screenwriter with nobody currently standing over me I have the power for now to kill off ideas that aren’t working to hopefully give rise to something far better.

A Synopsis To The Synapses

I’ve spent lunchtime today ditching the original title and synopsis for ‘Seven Lucky Stars’ and instead turning it into ‘The King Of Teatime TV’. This includes sharpening up the original synopsis into something a little more exciting.

So, just for contrast, here’s the original.

Until now Edward Banks has had the TV world at his feet. Being the presenter of the 1980’s best loved game show ‘Seven Lucky Stars’ has brought him from performing stand up comedy in dingy clubs to the bright lights of prime time. He has all the houses, cars and video cassette recorders money can buy. During the filming of one particular episode however, the dream ends.

 Driven by pressure from the heads of the studio, producer John Woodward has been lumbered with the job of breaking the news of Edward’s imminent sacking to his long time friend. Recent surveys have revealed that Edward’s brand of humour, once seen as fun and outlandish, is now viewed as sexist and out dated. Making matters worse is the fact that his replacement is Edward’s old comedy club rival Ken Moon.

 During one episode featuring Brian, a man attempting to break a world record for most game show wins and Lisa who wants to win all the prizes for her Mum, the news breaks and a tense situation occurs between Ken and Edward over who is best to take the show forward whilst trying to avoid the numerous power cuts.

It’s a bit lame isn’t it? Just a continual list of stuff and no ending in sight. I’ve actually only just recently tried to break myself out of the habit of not putting endings in. I was always taken with the feeling that you should leave these things open to create drama and mystery but that idea now strikes me as a load of bollocks. It comes across as you having no idea how your own script ends and that you’ve pitched a half finished idea.

So here’s the new effort.

In the 1980’s Edward Banks has worked his way up to become the king of British game shows. Starting his career in the clubs, touring around the country with his stand up comedy act he was glad to be found by TV producer John Woodward who recruited him to present the new family game show ‘Seven Lucky Stars’. Taking charge of a show with the biggest prize fund on British TV made Edward a household name across the country. It also gains him everything he desires from his house to his car and his holiday home in the country. He also has a certain soft spot for the show’s mascot, a stuffed toy owl called Mr Bits.

A few years down the line and Edward is about to discover that the world of television can be a fickle beast. With his humour now seen as sexist and borderline racist by some in these more enlightened times the company set the wheels in motion to replace Edward at the helm. The trouble is, nobody has yet thought to tell Edward.

Filming is disrupted on the what will end up being Edward’s last episode and John is forced to introduce Edward to his replacement Ken Moon. Ken and Edward know each other from the club days and they detested each other back then. The rivalry quickly escalates as Edward works out his time on ‘his show’ is soon to draw to a close. As soon as Ken starts presenting the show, Edward is constantly over his shoulder pointing out where he’s going wrong. John finds he must balance his job of making the show and his long term friendship with Edward.

Complicating matters further are the two contestants for this particular episode. Lisa Sykes is a young woman who just wants to win a VCR for her Mother whilst Bob Smith is aiming for a Guinness Book Of Records entry as winning the most televised game shows. Whilst Lisa takes sympathy once she hears Edward is being fired, Bob cannot wait to see the back of him as he claims Edward is ‘an unprofessional waste of space’.

Tensions boil over and Edward is forcefully removed from the building . The final act sees Edward back exactly where he didn’t want to go, the smoke filled comedy clubs as he performs his stand up clutching a stuffed toy owl before screaming at the audience, throwing the microphone down and storming off stage. A faded shadow of a former TV favourite.

Whilst not perfect by any stretch it is more detailed, longer and does have some kind of ending (even though I am imagining fielding a load of questions about having a stand up performance as an ending to a movie). I’ve clicked send now so we’ll see where this goes.


A Rework Of Wording (Part 2)

I was thinking more and more about relisting Seven Lucky Stars today. The synopsis needs a complete rework as the last one was a bit limp and then we can relist it for consideration.

The other thing that needs to change is the title being as the current one is bloody awful. It doesn’t grab the attention, it just sounds like some kind of radio drama from the 1970’s. It’s a film about a family friendly game show host not being family friendly, it needs something a little punchier than this. Whilst hoovering today I found a suitable alternative. From now on I’m ditching ‘Seven Lucky Stars’ and instead having ‘The King Of Teatime TV’. It certainly has a little more life to it for a start.