Monthly Archives: July 2015

Why I Write

I’ve been interested in telling stories for as long as I can remember. Somewhere I have a story written in crayon from when I was five. I believe I’ve wanted to write, or just tell stories, for as long as I’ve been aware of language.

I remember telling, possibly annoying, dad a story while climbing Cadair Idris. I would’ve been quite young. It was a story about the founder of an alien religion. Her name was Qwan and she spent a retreat in a cave on a mountain. Dad said afterwards that he let me continue as it meant I didn’t notice the progress I was making.

Writing is a compulsion. If it was cocaine or alcohol I might have dscn0620_37352048_oa problem. Many of the actual minutes of writing can be quite a struggle. The translation of a beautiful scene in my head to the page is not always an easy one. As evidenced by the amount of times I’ve restarted my novel.

I have an MA in Scriptwriting and this has made me rather critical. When watching a TV show, film, or reading a book. I start to think of how I might have approached a story differently. The advantage of first person over third person, whether a chronological structure is best or if a non linear approach would give more possibilities. The films of the Hunger Games are interesting on this point. The books are first person but the films, deciding not to have a narrator, are able to show the story from more perspectives.

I fear that writing has made me somewhat arrogant. I sometimes look at what has been done and feel I could have done that better. This perhaps is perfectly normal. They say that art is never finished only abandoned and perhaps every piece of film and TV has that one scene, or line, which the author wishes they could rewrite.

The foundations laid by works like: Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, and any other can be taken20130609_154715 in knew and exciting directions. I’m not talking about fan fiction or writing stories in those universes but about the sparks that they can engender. Star Trek or Star Wars cannot take ownership of space for a story telling frontier but they can inspire new stories.

Sometimes I’ll watch a film and think I know where the story is going. When it veers off in another direction and that is wonderful as I can write the story that that film sparked. In this way I write because ideas arise in my mind from everything I see. Ideas for silly stories, ideas for serious stories, ideas that would take a lot or work, and ideas that might never work.

I said in a previous post that making the ideas stop is the problem not coming up with them. I write because I have to write. My mind gets over loaded wi20130609_152814th ideas. I have characters in my head and I want to tell their story: Michael Wisdom, Stephanie McKnight, Virgil Noxon, Stacy Tanner, Tina Hilton – those are some of my characters that I hope will be know to the world one day.

Writing is always there in the back of my mind. Sometimes I’ll spend hours staring at a computer and get no where. Then a walk to the shops, a trip to the gym, or just doing the washing up and the problem unclogs itself and I can finally figure out the problem.

I’ve yet to experience that wonderful moment of my characters speaking to me. It sounds so magical that, when the foundations are laid, the story practically writes itself. I have had the wired magic of a character telling me about themselves.

Sometimes a character’s full background is irrelevant. You can tell the story of the brilliant Doctor/Detective/Wizard or whatever it might be without delving into his or her background. It’s nice to know these things though. Once you start thinking about these things the ideas flow to you.

You see your character as a child and you imagine what their life was like. Then, out of the emptiness, ideas pop into your mind like a firework.  dscn0416_11670707_oI had this experience with my character Virgil Noxon. I knew he was black and the first officer of the Sovereignty, the starship in my story, but that was about it. I needed to know more.

So I started to write a scene of him visiting his father. The idea came to mind that they had a very formal relationship. They had a good relationship but I could more easily imagine them shaking hands rather than hugging.

And the strange thing? His farther was white. So this gave a new direction for the character. He was adopted and had two younger siblings: Morgana and Wyatt. Incidentally he was named Virgil after Virgil Earp. Wyatt was a natural choice for his brother and Morgana came from Morgan Earp – his father just wanted to change it a little as he’d had a daughter instead of a son. The names just seemed to fit.

With Stacy Tanner, one of my novel’s central characters, I knew she was an only child from the get-go and I can’t say why. Michael Wisdom is a middle child, Stephanie McKnight, has one older brother, Tina Hilton has a younger sister and her mother was a teenager when Tina was born.

I don’t know where some of these ideas came from. The random nature of ideas arising in the mind is probably the primary reason I write. Whether my stories are any good is another question entirely but I know I can’t stop myself. Writing is a compulsion you become like a God to your characters and get into the wired situation of thinking about who you have to kill to get to the next plot point. Writing is my addiction there’s nothing else to say.

This post was written in response to a prompt from Chuck Wendig at terribleminds.com

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What do I Need to Know?

20150501_234921-1[1] If there’s one thing that all Star Trek series have in common its the invulnerable crew member. Whether it was Spock, Data, Odo, the Doctor, Seven, or Phlox there was always a character that was unaffected by the threat of the week.

This was used most in TOS and TNG. Given all the times that Spock or Data saved the ship it’s a wonder any other starship survives. As Riker once said “Fate: Protects fools, little children, and ships named Enterprise.” Contagion – TNG

For as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to write stories. I don’t remember ever wanting to write Star Trek per se but I did want to write stories in my own universe.

I wanted a mixed crew, humans and aliens, and had four basic races. Two of them were, essentially, human with funny foreheads, that could have been achieved with tattoos; then there was one with a spherical head, and another with four arms. I was thinking in very narrow terms. Star Trek aliens are, for the most part, humanoid. While this may be scientifically implausible it is a necessity for a television show. Leaving aside the fact that CGI wasn’t even a thing in the 1960s it is still much easier for actors to act against a real person than a tennis ball on a stick that will become a creature.  CGI vs actor in prosthetic is a discussion for another time – for now I just want to go in a slightly different direction.

So I had my crew and amongst the senior staff all but one of those races were represented. I however wanted to consider the whole crew. In TOS Spock is the only Vulcan. Why? Why are there no Tellarites or Andorains on Enterprise? So I had lots of aliens, or non-humans if that’s more PC, aboard.

This presented a bit of a problem. I needed to know who they were.

There was a joke, I think it was on The Generation Game, where a contestant was quizzed on Star Trek. He was asked how many crew the Enterprise had, the D by the way, and he said 1,014, he was then asked to name them and was promptly gunged when he couldn’t.

This was where it all started for me.

Not the gunge thing the naming thing.

I wanted to be able to name all the crew of my ship. Originally it was called Capable but I renamed it Sovereignty – on the grounds that Capable is a bit wishy washy. The idea was that when I’d got the story I could look at my spreadsheet and know the names, ranks, and positions of all crew. Therefore when the Amadors were the invulnerable ones I’d know how many there were aboard and what they did.

I’m aware that this is a rather ridiculous level of information to want but there you have it. It turned out to be, and still is, a major headache though – which I’ll discuss next week.

Incidentally a friend at work was doing some spreadsheet work a while back. She was having a bit of difficulty and I tried to help. She asked how I knew about spreadsheets. I didn’t tell her that I’d wasted/used hours trying to work out the forenames, surnames, gender, rank, position, and nationality of the crew of a star ship. I think I just mumbled a vague statement about having used them.

She already knows me to be odd so that fact could only make it worse.

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Moving House (Part 2)

So I’ve been looking at more flats. It is an interesting experience. You have to look at potential rather than what is actually their. Some flats have hideous florescent green paint, or hideous furniture, or they simply haven’t been looked after, or they smell of cat.

Then you get the flat that would be perfect…

… if only it was about 5 kilometers away from where it actually is.

… if only it wasn’t so close to that infamous murder site.

… if only it wasn’t so close to a busy road.

… if only it wasn’t so dark and dingy you’d think it was designed by a vampire.

You see I like my flat except for its location. So I think I’ll just load it on to a truck and take it into Cardiff. I’m sure I can find a large field to plonk it down in.

That’s the only solution I can see so far.

When I am back in Cardiff I’ll have to think of another excuse as to why I haven’t gone to the gym in two weeks.

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Never Before! Never Again?

The day before yesterday I did something I don’t think I’ve ever done before. It wasn’t anything exciting: I didn’t go to space, traveling in a balloon, or kiss someone.  I…

You may not believe this…

I left the flat without my mobile.

I was only going down the road a way and decided I wanted some time alone with my thought. Which is ironic because I live alone. However either due to procrastination or loneliness I usually have music on or you tube on.  When walking I normally listen to an audio book but silence is nice too now and then.

Well I say silence but I was walking along a main road.

I’m old enough to remember pagers. I know they still exist but no child would have them now. I had one in high school, somewhere between year 7 and 9, but now they’ve surely been replaced my mobile phones. I am fairly certain that since I got my first phone, a Nokia 3210, I’ve always had my phone with me.

It is a strange thought.

It didn’t really feel that strange not to have it. The only thing was I was thinking whether it was strange not to have it. So in not having it I could talk about not having it.

So go out without your mobile while you can.

The Samsung galaxy S5 mini, my phone, is an improvement on the S3 mini. However by the time they get to the S25 it’ll be truly mini it’ll be inside your skull! Resistance is futile.

Or like this….

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Of Snooker, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Equal Rights

I want to say that this post is a little late. I fear though that it will forever be relevant. I’m going to delve into the subject of …

There is no good word to end that sentence. I was going to put ‘tolerance’ but that is a bad word. Well its not a bad word it’s just not right for this context. Acceptance is also not right. Both words are synonymous with ‘put up with’ – what word should fill in that sentence? I don’t know. Answers on a post card please.

What I’m trying to get at is the idea that all humans a valid people. That it doesn’t matter what you look like, your gender, your religion, or your sexual orientation. We should accept all peoples. (Even if you believe that the best Star Wars film was Episode 1)

Naturally this post has been inspired by the recent US Supreme Court decision. I’m British (Welsh) and heterosexual so the decision won’t effect me but it is a very important one. I support equal rights because its the right thing to do.

It seems ridiculous that it has taken so long. People who are against equal rights tend to have two primary arguments that I’ve observed. One is the ‘where will it end’ argument. Some how they have this idea that if two men, or two women, can marry then one day marring pigs will be legal. That argument is so stupid its not even worth responding to. Someone did though, and quite well, because some people need to be told the bloody obvious.

The other argument I’ve heard is even stranger. There seems to be this idea that if someone is gay then they are different from a heterosexual person in all respects. I.e “Joe Blogs is married to a man. I would never marry a man. I would never bite the head off live chickens therefore Joe bits the heads of live chickens.” I swear I have heard this type of things. When Rowling said that Dumbledore was gay there was a commenter that said that he shouldn’t be in charge of a school because of this. Where the fear of equal rights comes from I can’t say. If its not fear then its about the ‘sanctity of marriage’. Then you get people who’ve been divorced and have re-married who are against equal marriage. If the Bible is your reason to be against it you can’t be divorced either.

I’m going to say something now that may be a bit of a stretch but I think its worth mentioning. I think that almost every couple in the world would find their marriage impossible in the right (or rather wrong) time and place.

Think about it. Marriages have been considered impossible because of: race, social standing, nationality, and probably dozens of other reasons. Parental approval would be another one. Now you may need to go back in time a couple of centuries or to the other side of the planet but I bet every couple could find a time and place where they would have been told you can’t marry the person.

I’m sure you’re wanting to know what all this has to do with Snooker and Buffy well let me explain.

Back in the dark ages of the 1990s, for the most part, people in the UK only had four channels. There was BBC 1, BBC 2, ITV, and channel 4. I can remember the launching of Channel 5 – I also remember that they had nothing worth watching.

I watched: Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Quantum Leap, Sliders, TNG, DS9, and others. Incidentally I said to a friend the other day ‘With the exception of Quantum Leap all shows I like have rayguns!’ She said that I was like a five year old. My own personal ray gun will soon be completed.

Anyway on occasion these shows wouldn’t be shown. We’d turn on the TV ready to see who Sam Beckett would be this week, what new reality Gimli and the rest would arrive in, or if the Picard Speech would be super effective – but instead two men were pocking balls with sticks – or two women were making grunting sounds as they hit a ball over a net. We’d wait and hope that the match would end. That everyone in the room would realise that snooker was boring or that it would start raining torrentially and the tennis would stop.

If this didn’t happen we’d get something like this: ‘If you’re tuning in expecting to see Buffy the Vampire Slayer that will now be shown next week. Right now were going to stick with the action [sic] here at the crucible.’

This always annoyed me, it still does in someways, this idea that sport was somehow above everything. That what I liked was secondary to this thing. You’d never hear ‘We have to leave the snooker now because its time for Star Trek.’

Obviously I get that sport is very popular. A decision had to be made. Some people seem to see equal marriage the same way. That if we allow men to marry men and women to marry women it will somehow diminish the marriages between men and women. Well if your marriage will be effected by something so trivial then you need to look at your own problems.

Its quite simple with this new law on equality nothing else will change. Equal marriage will not cause the end of civerlisation or the US to explode. All that will happen is equality and happiness.

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