Last week I returned from Aberdare. This is a small town in Wales and I was there as part of my Scriptwriting MA. This was a writing retreat to enable us to get away from normal life and write. Though we did watch film and television in the evenings.

On the first day we went for a walk around the local area. Thankfully the rain stayed away. The purpose of the work was to be inspired by the area for the writing of a ten minute screenplay.

A waterfall in Aberdare

The exercise we were given was to write a verbatim piece. There were many discussions of exactly what this meant but basically, in the broadest possible interpretation, it was to listen to people talking and use that to create a story.

The problem with this exercise was that there were very few people. As I walked around I wrote down what I heard. What I heard though was people talking to dogs or in Welsh or not talking at all. I don’t speak Welsh, I have thought about learning it from time to time, but anyway none of this particularly helped with the formation of a story. When the final work was read out it was fairly clear that the verbatim aspect had been disregarded by everyone – at least in any meaningful sense.


I made my notes on my ipod and noted down what conversation I had over heard. The story I wrote for the final piece could have taken place in any vaguely rural area anywhere…

As I looked at the mountains thoughts of adventure came to my mind. Though I still had no idea what I was going to write. I though about the scene in Twin Peaks where Ronette Pulaski walks down from the mountains. And the possibility of a secret military base.

Or did I… writing now after the event its hard to remember what I thought at that time. I’ve always enjoyed stories about secret projects and while it is a bit strange it was this that seemed to come to mind.

I remember thinking …to boldly go. I also remembered a commentary on an SG-1 episode where scenes took place in the woods, some on Earth and some on another planet, but both were filmed in the same place. So like I said before my story could be set in Aberdare but only in a superficial way.

On the last night we all read out our stories. It was wonderful to see how different they all were. Different ideas formed by the same stimulus.

Death seemed to be a recurrent theme. I think there is a simple explanation for that. To get characters to a happy ever after can take time. If you kill them it can make for a neat ending.

So yes it was a good long weekend and I think I will go up to Aberdare again when my novel is a little further along.

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