Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Someone sent me a link to BBC Radio 4 – On the Ropes: Max Moseley. Since sadomasochism is one of the threads in my new novel, I thought I’d share these thoughts.
Overall, Moseley came over as thoughtful, articulate and rational. The interviewer, John Humphreys, came over as a moralistic twat. Amazing how sexual moralism can make a wealthy Tory son of fascists seem progressive compared to Humpreys’ reactionary spouting. Moseley pointed out that what consenting adults do in private is nobody’s business but their own. How can it be ‘in the public interest’ what people do in private, if nobody is being harmed? Public figures are surely allowed a private life. Isn’t that a universal human right?
The interviewer made great play of the fact that the women involved in the orgy were being paid. Moseley pointed out that these women, in their private lives, with their chosen partners, did the same things unpaid. Humphreys snorted derisively: they would say that. I know a few pro dommes and all of them do it because they like it. Of course they like getting paid too! But getting paid for something doesn’t in itself make that activity disreputable. I like writing and would do it whether I was paid or not, but it doesn’t mean I wouldn’t like to get paid for it. Indeed, I’m sure Mr Humpreys, in private, likes to pronounce moralistically. I’m sure he’d be the first to argue that doesn’t mean he shouldn’t be paid. The reason for calling these women prostitutes and making much of their being paid is to make a connection in the listener’s mind between their activity and the image of street prostitutes, trafficked women and vulnerable teenagers forced into selling themselves. But it’s an illegitimate connection. Those women are coerced not consenting. It is the absence of consent that is key, not payment.
Moseley was interesting, too, in that he’d kept this side of his sexuality secret from his wife of fifty years. As a novelist, what a stunning idea! Secrets are always powerful in any drama. They create motive and mystery and suspense. When you have trouble plotting, it’s always good to give your character a secret. My heroine comes from the other end of the political spectrum. She’s an anarcho-eco- erstwhile feminist, and her reasons for keeping her secret are to do with the repressive moralism espoused by some ‘progressive’ people – especially a certain type of feminist. One could contrast Moseley’s “It’s nobody’s business but my own” attitude with that of Tommy Sheridan, who also took on the News of the World.

Trying to get back into it

Posted: March 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

Last week i caught up with some writers i hadn’t seen for ages. One had moved house and was settling into a new writing regime to fit in with her young family. She had, after a break, managed to get some dedicated writing time. She felt that, in the interim, she’d lost her ability to put sentences together. She’d forgotten how to write, and felt like a novice starting out painfully to learn the basics.

I said: that’s how it is after a break. The anxiety gets to you. Once you break the flow, everything becomes an effort.

And here I am, at that very same place. I decided to start March with a project I’d put down for several months. I told myself I could get into a regime of writing 1666 words a day as I had for Nanowrimo. In my head, it seemed so simple. In reality, yesterday I managed perhaps 100 words. My doubts about where it was going ate away my confidence. The idea was that I could get together 5,000 words and a synopsis for a Time to Write award.

Maybe that’s too much pressure. I can’t see anything. Where am I in this story? Where is it going? How will I know when I’ve got there?

I try to remind myself that this is what it is like. Sometimes you’re just lost. You can’t pull a shape out of the air, to order. Or at least, you can but just don’t believe it will resemble the final shape, what the story will look like when it’s finished. So much writing about writing is misleadingly elegant. It suggests, leads you believe that writing is an elevated, sleek, glamorous process, glidiong down the catwalk, twirling and dazzling. It’s not. It’s a mess. It’s a stutter of anxiety and a sprawl of ‘Oh fuck it, just get anything down. However awful. However fucking crap’.

Late Bloomers

Posted: March 2, 2010 in Uncategorized

I’ve just been reading ‘Late Bloomers’ in Malcolm Gladwell’s What the Dog Saw (Allen Lane). It’s heartening. He contrasts Picasso – precocious, ferociously naturally talented – with Cezanne, who had to painfully slog at learning to draw, to enable his vision to take shape. Cezanne would not have survived as an artist without support.

I find this doubly reassuring. I hold in mind the model of Penelope Fitzgerald, who never started earning in the higher tax bracket until well into her seventies. Age is not a barrier.

The other thing Gladwell talks about is the unconditional support of Cezanne’s father, and, another example, Ben fountain’s wife – paying the bills and keeping the household afloat not just for a year but for decades. It makes me think of Julia Cameron’s remark, what wouldn’t we do to support those we love – why can’t we extend the same to support to ourselves?

Which brings me back to the Writers’ Award. It’s hard to convince anybody if you don’t believe in yourself. And sometimes I think the real purpose for me of these applications is to convince myself that I am worth it. I wonder if the source of my frustration with myself is not my distractibility or disorganisation, poor time management or any other surface symptom, but a simple desperate lack of faith. I have a horror of being like those X Factor contestants who can’t sing and don’t know it. I fear I am too insanely deluded.

It cheers me to think of Cezanne learning to draw. I did an art foundation course and I can remember literally crying at my easel, trying to grasp perspective and 3-D. It’s just hard, and it really does help to know that other people find it hard too.

lizard

Posted: January 29, 2010 in Uncategorized

I found this article by Seth Godin which seems very pertinent to achieving your goals quieting the lizard brain

Effective Villains

Posted: January 14, 2010 in Uncategorized

Some exercises for when you have trouble with your villains

  1. Write from their point of view. Really get inside their head. People generally don’t see themselves as villains. They will have a way of explaining or justifying their actions. They may for example see themselves as the victim or the instrument of divine (or not so divine) justice. Look at the exercise Deadly Emotions: In their Shoes.
  2. Write the Dear Author letter
  3. If you are having trouble sympathising with them, let them share something with you. Let them love the same thing as you. Admire the same author/ thinker/ composer. Gift them some incident from your own life. Have them come from the same background as you.
  4. Give them a high or humane motive. Andre Jute describes how he humanises a duplicitous spy by making him go back and rescue his cat.
  5. Make them witty or charming. Think Hannibal Lecter.

What I really want is for them (the audience) to lean in into the crib and coo enthusiastically; to see features that are possibly, recognisably, mine as a source of delight: ah! she has my eyes — by implication my own eyes are a source of wondering exclamation.
The metaphor breaks down here — or takes a violent turn off. This work is not a fully formed Mini-me. It is more of an experiment in a jar — the story is narrated by twin embryos in the womb. Their perspective is necessarily limited to other people’s stories. They have no real substance yet to constitute their own story.
We do not see Frankenstein’s diary. In the weeks before his successful experiment in re-animating a whole, sewn together from salvaged body parts, we do not see his anxiety; the tentativeness of his steps; his false progress and back-tracking.
This is precisely what I will be documenting What is the genesis of fiction? Where do narrative ideas come from? These are questions that are always asked, after the event, yet remain mysterious.
We can answer the specific: That character was based on my aunt Irma; I read about that event in a newspaper and wondered what if…?; I noticed my reaction to such-and-such and thought to exaggerate it madly. But that’s not really it.
Fiction, like Frankenstein’s creation, is a compound process: this added to that creates a reaction that produces something different from the component parts. this new substance is introduced to another, and so on. This, presumably, is what happened at the beginning of all life…
Let me give an example: the girl in the purple fishnets.
the story is narrated by the embryos. This is the basic conceit established in the first post — which seems to be a kind of ‘first cause’.
One of the post is titled ‘The odd circumstances of their meeting’, following on from the first post which mentions Jacob musing on the rather surprising events that led to me being here on this plane of souls.
When I wrote it I had no idea what the circumstances were. I mention ‘the rather surprising events’, so now I have to justify the phrase. This move is known in Improv as ‘jump and justify’. Essentially, you make a bold statement: “I can’t look: it’s too horrible!” or “So you have found out my secret!” and after justify it.
It is only at this moment of writing that I realise what this project is — a kind of improv fiction. The medium, the technology, is almost beside the point. What is special is the rawness.
With www.chez-swann.com (the previous web novel), I had a sense of the overarching narrative. I knew where it was going. I was in control: the freedom of the form was only apparent.
This time I want to extend, to push the openness, the unpredictability.
So the ‘odd circumstances of their meeting’ prompts the question: in what way odd? We learn (and I am learning just before you, the reader. It is an experiment and I am revealing the contents of the jar only moments after I have seen them myself) that they have met online. But that’s not really odd.
So I add mistaken identity. (A friend of mine described how his most successful chatr-up line was based on a similar mistake: he thought the woman he was talking to was part of the same MENSA event he attended.)
The fat girl in the purple fishnets was simply a punchline. The detail of the purple fishnets was salvaged from my own life: I had recently bought a pair for £1 on whim. The detail was added purely in the interest of a balanced sentence. Compare:

the girl in the corner with red hair and a geometric pattern dress

That’s a bit flat. It too obviously underscores the mistake.
But something has happened with:

Oblivious to the fat girl in the corner with the frizzy red curls, purple fishnets and a black-and-purple geometric print dress.

It’s something akin to Runtgen’s photographic plates or Fleming’s penicillium mould. The accidental has become the story. This, in improv, is known as a ‘turn’.
My immediate reaction:
I am very concerned about the fat girl in the purple fishnets.
This may prove a decisive turn, so why? What motivated it?
I think there are both formal and idiosyncratic reasons. There is a loose family resemblance to ‘Tristram Shandy’. So digressions will be in order. There is her narrative plight, which is more affecting than the happy accidental couple going off to the restaurant together. And there is the purely personal: she’s wearing my tights, dammit, I want to see where she goes with them.

purple fishnets

Posted: January 27, 2009 in Uncategorized

Jacob and the redhead have left the bar, but what of the fat girl in the purple fishnets?
I put her in for a bit of an ironic chuckle, but Christ, doesn’t she deserve better?
It’s her ad that’s set this whole thing in motion. Our embryos wouldn’t have been conceived without her. Oh yes, I haven’t told you they’re twins. You won’t find out for ages.
Anyway, I don’t think this is the last we’ll see of purple fishnets.