Writing

Characters coming to life

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I’m sure Sally Wainwright, Tony Marchant and the likes still get a buzz from seeing carefully crafted characters brought to life in front of them. So far in my writing career I’ve experienced this twice.

The first time was just before Christmas when a radio play that I was co-writing was recorded in a radio studio at the university by performance students. I remember walking to the studio and overhearing a young actress practicing her lines with a Polish accent. This made me chuckle to myself as this character that she was rehearsing was the character that I created for the radio drama series.

On top of my scriptwriting I have also been taking a short course in Writing for Stage. This was run by The Houldsworth, a new fringe theatre in the Northern Quarter in Manchester. Each week we would look at various aspects of storytelling such as creating characters, structure, dialogue and stage directions in the hope that by the final week we would have a few scenes of a play that could be performed live.

Last weekend was the final week of the beginners course, and the session was dedicated to actors performing our selected scenes. Although slightly nervous at the prospect that what appears in my head and onto paper will not match what appears on stage – the experience was one that I had been looking forward to in the run up to the weekend.

It did not disappoint.

Five actors who work closely with The Houldsworth Rep Theatre gave up their Saturday to perform extracts from several plays all written by the course members.

Most of the playwrights felt slightly anxious as soon as their play was the next one to be performed, but the actors did a sterling job and hearing words that first are heard in your head, to being performed in character by a professional was one of the most satisfying experiences a writer can have.

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Collaborative Writing (Part 2)

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It’s been a while since my first post on collaborative writing. Since that post I managed to hand in my episode of the radio drama (episode five) and a two thousand word reflective essay on the whole process of working as a team.

First and foremost that I learnt about from my experience of team writing is that everybody needs to know the contents of each episode, in order to craft their episode with a natural flow. What I mean is that it is really bloody difficult to write your own episode without knowing what the episodes preceding your own contain, in terms of plot, characters used and the overall story arc.

However, my experience of team writing changed when I booked myself on a storylining workshop at the end of January. To anybody who wishes to experience a simulated storylining conference environment, with two very experienced professionals in Gill Creswell who was a storyliner for Coronation Street and a writer for Hollyoaks, and Jo Hallows who was Executive Producer for Hollyoaks, this is certainly a worthwhile investment to any prospective team writer.Hollyoaks

The venue was at the magnificent People’s History Museum in Spinningfields, Manchester. Day one was an introduction to scriptwriting and contained all the usual pointers on characters, dialogue, three-act structure and plotting. Gill gave the group some great little exercises on how to develop a story, and using imagery was introduced – something I have never considered before, but I will now.

Day two was what I had booked onto the course for. The storylining conference! We were given some facts to a story which as a team we were working on developing. We came up with characters, back story, a ten scene story, a title and all of this was through everybody being given the opportunity to pitch their ideas. It was an incredible experience, and I left the course with a few more contacts to my book and confidence that in the future I won’t be shy on sharing my ideas.

Hopefully, these skills learnt will come in handy one day when I get to write for Hollyoaks, Corrie or Waterloo Road.

Collaborative Writing (Part 1)

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This semester’s module on my MA TV and Radio Scriptwriting degree has been a collaborative project in Radio Drama.

Having never written for the medium of radio before, I was looking forward to a new writing challenge commencing in my second year of the course.  Not only are radio scripts a slightly different format to television scripts, but they also require a lot more thought about how to make dialogue audibly visual instead of pictures on a television screen. It is certainly a skilful craft to master, but not one that I would shy away from.

The second challenge to this project was finding out that it was going to be part of a collaborative project. Once I have my masters under my belt I will endeavour to co-write something with another fellow writer. Although I think the relationship has to be one that you seek, rather than it being forced upon you. James Corden and Ruth Jones met on the set of ‘Fat Friends’ and that relationship grew from there. Damon Beesley and Iain Morris worked together as producers before they crafted the hilarious ‘The Inbetweeners’. wallpaper-titles1280

What I am getting at is that chances are that most co-writers know each other before starting on a writing project together.

You have to be able to tolerate each other firstly, but I also think it’s extremely important to share similar writing styles, and in this case which was a radio drama – to at least have a similar sense of humour.

So, to find myself thrown into the lion’s den with seven other writers as part of my collaborative writing project sent me into a cold sweat when it was announced in class.

In the first year, all my stories were my own. They were my characters that I had created, a storyline that I believed in and of course the dialogue was believable because it was written by me. If I got a less than average mark, then that was my fault too.

So, to be thrust into a group in my second year when these grades really matter to me was out of my comfort zone.  And, to write a script for a series that I hadn’t created was also difficult to digest at first.

BBC Salford Sitcom Showcase

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On Friday night I attended the second year of the  Salford Sitcom Showcase at the BBC Studios in MediaCity. A colleague from my masters course had managed to secure extra tickets, and even better the tickets belonged to the gold wristband brigade.

The gold wristband brigade are looked after, something that “cheap seats” moi was not used to. And of course made the most of the corporate hospitality (darling!).

I enjoy the thrill of being in the audience, whether it is at a concert, theatre or in television studios. As I write this, I will be attending the Celebrity Mastermind recording tomorrow night which reinforces my audience geekness.

The Salford Sitcom Showcase is an event for the BBC to platform six theatrical presentations of new potential sitcoms to local audiences and to the industry professionals. I do believe that Citizen Khan was picked up at one of these showcases last year.

The first sitcom was called Chain Gang and was written by Kevin Cecil and Andy Riley who wrote together on Little Britain and Spitting Image. More recently they wrote the international box office success Gnomeo and Juliet. The log-line for Chain Gang is “At Sunbeans every macchiato is served with a smile…apart from one branch in Bristol, where it’s more likely to be emptied over your head”. The premise for the show is that the execs at Sunbean send in the wimpy Alistair, fresh from management training to turn around the Sunbeans branch lazily run by the ruthless Natasha, who sleeps with musicians by telling them that she works for a record label.

I really enjoyed this pilot episode, especially Paolo, a camp, Brazilian who spends his working day at Sunbeans on his blackberry – and that’s not the flavour of muffins either. Paolo was played by Stefano Braschi and I could easily see him being the lead character in this show if it did get commissioned as he was far more likeable than Natasha. A gag about him cleaning his cock-ring in the milk steamer had tears of laughter rolling down my cheeks.

The second production was called Homeboys and was written by Pete Jackson, who had a stint of acting with Ant and Dec on Byker Grove. I found this show started off very strong, lots of laughter and characters were set up almost immediately in their first scenes.

David and Brian are Homeboys; 20 something brothers still living at home, despite their parents’ best efforts to get rid of them. David and Brian are total opposites, David is a cocky salesman, and Brian is a recluse who spends his time under the kitchen table in a homemade bar.  The lovely Pauline McLynn from Father Ted and Shameless series starred as their quirky mother and for me she stole the show as she helped David to trick his boss into thinking that he was going to make a killer sale in damp-proofing.

Afterwards, myself and my peers were introduced to a few people who were involved in the production. I spent half an hour chatting to Pauline aka Mrs Doyle from Father Ted who was the most delightful and friendly person I could have met.

Afterwards, it got me thinking to my own goals that I have with the writing. Maybe one day it will be a script by me that has made it onto the shortlist for a live performance – who knows?

But, one things for sure, I definitely could get used to having priority seating, access to the actors, all you can drink wine and platefuls of fancy nibbles.

Blog slacker

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As this year draws to a close, I realise how little I have been blogging since I really injured my back, which was back in May.

It’s amazing at how an injury such as a slipped disc can change your whole outlook on life. I know there are many people in far worse health than I have been, but it has been really tough.

I look back to how fit I was in April when I completed theSalford10k. I felt amazing, both physically and mentally and my passion had grown for running. My longest run being 11.5 miles which at the start of the year I would never have anticipated that I could achieve.

Then 21st May 2011 I woke up with the worse pain I have ever experienced in my left buttock and leg. The next four months felt like hell. I tried chiropractic, intense physiotherapy and massage.  I felt the most stress ever in July when I was still crippled in pain and due to go to the States for 3 weeks with my family. In the end I wasn’t fit enough to travel, both physically and mentally.

Oh yes mentally! That was a massive shock to the system. I wasn’t prepared for how depressed I would feel. Injuries are not just a physical thing, but a mental one too. I suffered a couple of panic attacks which I hadn’t suffered with for years, so that really knocked my confidence. I didn’t feel myself, I had become desperate and pathetic – needing other people to keep me calm. How the hell had that happened? I hated myself every day that I felt like that. My poor husband must have felt so suffocated.

At the time of writing I have began running just a mile every other day. This feels like I am on the mend, but still hoping that my netball days are not behind me and that I will still be in a position to be able to play again. I am awaiting an MRI scan results too, although the scan was taken three months too late given that the pain has diminished somewhat.

I’ll never take my health for granted again. Being incapacitated and having to rely on other people is the worst experience ever. The darkest days being when my sons had to help me put my socks, shoes and tie my laces for me. I hope I never have to go through that again.