Tuesday, 26 February 2008

Getting Stuck in to the Short Story, or just getting stuck...

Having asked for a fortnight to write my short story for Radio Kent’s Writers’ Room, I proceeded to forget about it whilst I was away last week, deciding that if I was going to hide myself away and work for a couple of hours each day while I was staying with my parents, it would be better to concentrate on the work in progress, thus saving me a couple of days and much depression at the beginning of this week whilst I shoehorned my way back into a narrative upon which I had, yet again, lost my grip.
It worked. I managed to get significantly into one of those set piece chapters that you know from the beginning of the book are going to be there. I had three abortive attempts to tackle it and finally found my way in via the pov character’s camera, hence yesterday’s cryptic remarks about single lens reflex cameras (SLRs).

Anyway, the short story. I went in to the Canterbury studio last Monday to do a brief slot on Dominic King’s show to talk about the ideas which had been sent in by Radio Kent listeners and to discuss how I was going to approach the write-up. Except we couldn’t get a decent line in to the studio where he broadcasts from – the sounds on the line between Maidstone and Canterbury were those of a good-sized symphany orchestra falling down a very long set of stairs. Repeatedly. Fortunately for me, a radio journalist happened to be at the studio sorting some stuff out on his own account and he saved my bacon by suggesting – when I was on the phone in a panic to Dom’s producer, Steve – that we do the interview from his car where he has a whole – well, set of kit for tapping into radio stations and doing live interviews on a microphone instead of a telephone which was my other option. So we stood in the carpark at Canterbury Christchurch University, with this very nice man – Graham Cooke – holding the microphone whilst I juggled my pieces of paper and spoke fairly coherently, given the circumstances, to a man sitting in a studio thirty miles away. Thank goodness it was neither windy nor raining.

People can be very nice and, just in case Graham Cooke or anybody who knows him reads this blog, I would like to say thanks to him for being very nice indeed.

Anyway, Dominic King’s parting shot was – How long do you need to write the short story? Give me a fortnight, I said and… well, I think that’s where we came in at the top of this blog.

I rather rashly said I’d write the story up in futuristic mode as the suggestions which had come in along those lines seemed the strongest to me. There were a few historical pitches too but, somehow, they just didn’t grab me as much, despite my penchant for writing historical stuff generally.

Maybe it was the opening I’d used – although it doesn’t pin anything down as to time or place (apart from the Garden of England – the brief was to have a story set in Kent, after all) I know what that opening scene really represents. Now the truth comes out. You see, I was struggling horribly to come up with an opening few lines for this story until I thought ‘Kent – Garden of England’. And then I remembered watching the Ultimate Frisbee Freak and his fellow players doing their warm-up before a match. It’s pretty much as described – the field they were on was a v. tired university playing field at the back end of last summer and the sky was an I-might-rain-on-you-any-minute grey. They are a fit bunch, the Kent Open Ultimate Frisbee squad, muscles and sinews everywhere and, of course, they were all dressed alike, in their Kent Ultimate kit. But the ‘Garden of England’ at the end of the piece which, I imagine, everybody reads (and I certainly did, on air) with a note of defiance was actually spoken – in totally camp tongue-in-cheek spoof – as if your maiden aunt had breathed it as she was going down with an attack of the vapours. By, I might add, the tallest and sinewey-est of the young men. After a really testosterone-hyped, adrenalin-pumping chant, hearing him end with a fluffy pink ‘Garden of England’ was hilarious.

So, as you might imagine, historical references are hard to graft on to what is, in my mind, a very contemporary scene.

But I think I need to try. Because, on today’s showing, I haven’t a hope of producing anything sensibly futuristic. And certainly not in 750 words….

Perhaps I should give Aliya a ring...

1 comment:

Terry Finley said...

It's hard for me to write
fiction based on reality's
facts. Therefore, I write no
historical fiction (so far).

Terry Finley