Wednesday, 3 December 2008

The Two Page Problem

Let's play flashback, baby...

Christmas 1998: It's freezy outside, what with all the snow and gusty winds. Lucky then that I'm locked up indoors, with the central heating on, writing underneath the Christmas tree. Nothing much; just page after page of Doctor Who stories. Back then I was quite a rapid writer, producing stories by the bucketload (all of which, I'm ashamed to say, have been lost since then - gobbled up by the garbage at a time I considered them uncool and totally unreadable) but the stories weren't anything like I produce now.

They were very short one page "episodes" - that then broke down into four, six or ten episode adventures (so a full story began, middled and ended during the course of roughly six pages - whoa!) Looking back on that, it seems crazy that I was able to do it. Nowadays I struggle to cram material into a 45 page script!

Part of my "2008 Hotlist" was to complete all of those episodic adventure series that I started around 2001/2, and haven't gotten round to finishing. It's interesting because it means I have to revisit that old one page format... well, now it's more like two. Around 2003 my writing style had matured enough that one page just wasn't enough. Too simple!

In reality I've outgrown a series like "The Kenchucky Tree" because it's far too simplistic in aproach. After all it's chief concern - the life of a family - happens to be its only concern. The series has no substance, and it really couldn't could it, with just two page stories through which to tell the stories and drive the series' narrative forward?

I've wrote four of five new 'episodes' for the series this year, and faced that impossibility of two page story telling again, only now its worse than ever! My mind through uni and college is now driven by three act structures, and motivated characters, cause and effect, et al. It's completely alien to me to be writing short stories like this, because it means I have no space to fill out details, and no time to add those details that transform average into good. In short, my writing has become far too sophisicated to manage its own history.

Put it this way - it's like when you're twelve and you suddenly get those urges (you know the ones; those that drive your sexuality the rest of your life). At first all you can imagine doing is getting the girl, and kissing her. Then kissing isn't enough, and you wanna advance further and maybe take it into private, where the shirt might come off. Eventually you have enough confidence to start exploring one another's bodies, and finally you go the whole hog and have sex - only once you've had sex kissing isn't enough any more. It doesn't drive you. It's all about the sex, because you've advanced too far.

Well, my writing is kinda like that. So I've been experimenting with the styles of my writing - trying 'episodes' without dialogue, or episodes set entirely in a character's subconscious mind, during the aftermath of her near fatal suicide attempt. The most recent example would be a great two page letter that a character wrote to be included in a time capsule, during which we learn all about his past, how he got where he is today, how much he cares for his family, and his hopes for the future. It was the first time I ever cared about that particular character, and it did indeedio advance the series plot, by demonstrating how things change and dropping a hint of the change about to come. And though it broke from the series' traditions, it was probably the best episode of "The Kenchcuky Tree" that I've ever written.

It's a shame because I only have another dozen or so 'episodes' left to go on the two remaining episodic short stories that I write. After they're done, that'll be it - back to scripts, and comic books, and the occassional short story, but it'll never be like this again. The end of an era - one that developed my writing... Hell, it did more than that - it helped birth my interest in the medium. But I'm so glad it's over - that chapter, my childhood writing, is almost closed for good and I can move onwards and upwards into that adult writing world - which presents its own equally demanding challenges.

To the past, present and future!
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