Monthly Archives: June 2007

Tastes like ash

I would like to have smoking on bridges banned. I know smoking in all enclosed public places has been banned now and that’s obviously a good thing but what about smoking in windy spots like bridges. Most people would think that all the smoke will be blown away and so there’s not a problem, but having just had a lump of ash blown into my mouth I can tell you that I think it is.

Snakebite McMuffin – Part 4

[This is the final part of episode one of Snakebite McMuffin. If you feel lost and confused you may want to check out parts One, Two and Three].

“Well,” said Felicity, “it’s like this…”

The words hung in the air, for what seemed to Snakebite like just short of a week.

“Like what,” he said.
“I don’t know… I don’t know how to say it.”
“Well just speak, you know, in English. I’m sure I’ll understand.”
“I’m trying to, Mr McMuffin… Snakebite. I’m trying, but it’s hard. Haven’t you had anything that you’ve found hard to say?”
“Yeah, sure, for a while I found it hard to admit that I was addicted to eating terrapins”.
“That’s awful. How did your family react?”
“It was a turtle disaster. My sister’s still shell shocked. See sometimes something sacred seems strange. Secret’s so seriously secret. So she seemed strange. Sis sensed some sincerity somewhere surrounding Snakebite. Snakebite seemed sound so suddenly she suggested some strawberry sundae.”
“Strawberry Sundae?”
“Surprised?”
“Certainly.”
“Yeah, it was a bit weird. But it is something I find hard to say.”

McMuffin looked her up, and to a certain extent down, and noticed something on her leg.
“Is that,” he asked, “a tattoo?”

There was a small tattoo nestling on her right ankle. Snakebite admonished himself for not having spotted it earlier.

“No.” Felicity moved her leg backwards as though that would stop Snakebite from being able to see it.

“Yes it is,” Snakebite moved forward as thought that would help.

“It’s not a tattoo it’s a birthmark.”

“But it can’t be a birthmark. Are you sure it’s not a tattoo or mud or something.”

“Mr McMuffin, I do not have mud on my leg.”

“But… But… It simply can’t be a birthmark.”

“Why ever not?”

“Because I was at your birth and you didn’t have one then.”

“What? You were at my birth? My father must have trusted you!”

“Well, actually you were born in a pizza restaurant. You were very early. I just happened to be another customer. But I drove you and your family to the hospital. I remember what your father said, ‘For a large man you were surprisingly willing to give up the rest of your pizza’. I never had the heart to tell him that I was planning on sending back that pizza anyway, they’d put anchovies on it when I’d expressly said, ‘no fish’ when ordering. But I think it made your father trust me.”

“Well that’s quite a story.”

“Yes it is, but it isn’t as fascinating as the story I now want to find out. I need to know how you got that birthmark. That’s what I must find out. I’m sorry I must know this before I accept your case.”

“Don’t worry Mr McMuffin, we’re investigating the same thing. That was what I was hear to find out as well.”

And with that McMuffin and Trousers shook hands and walked off to get a coffee to celebrate the beginning of a rather unusual friendship.

[Snakebite McMuffin will return… At some point.]

A couple are lying in bed

The man says, “I’m going to make you the happiest woman alive.”

The woman replies, “I’ll miss you.”

Sensible Ensemble

Nick has raised an interesting point over at his film blog in a post about “Who are we“. He asks a question about what writers should do when writing a scene. Writers should always know who the focus of a scene is. There should always be a protagonist per scene (even in an ensemble performance). There should also although not touched on in the post always be a clear “want” or “reason for the protagonist to take part in the scene” and a conclusion, eg. Did the protagonist get what they wanted or not.

But on the particular point about protagonists there is a very clear argument that you should always have one protagonist. Most people don’t notice it, but there always is one in good drama. Things aren’t wishy washy. You must have a focus. In sitcoms its usually obvious, Seinfeld and Frasier are about the person in the title and the family around them. But what about the modern archetype of Friends. All of the actors had the same salary, all of them were given equal screen time and none of them were famous first (essentially). But in reality Rachel was the protagonist of the series. She was the most normal character so people could instantly identify with her, she didn’t really have any massive idiosyncrasies (Ross – Nerd, Chandler – Joker, Joey – Sex / Food, Monica – Obsessive Compulsive, Phoebe – Kooky). Rachel was the fish out of water. All of the other characters know each other before the first episode starts, and Rachel is the one who makes the decision to end the series by going and then not going to Paris, she hooks up with Ross at the end and then the premise set up in the first episode is sealed. As was said originally by Blake Snyder it was the promise of the premise. The side line that Monica and Chandler were moving isn’t the key that’s the writers ratcheting up the ticking clock of the ending, it isn’t even mooted as a concern in the first episode so can’t be considered. Most times in an ensemble the protagonist is the fish out of water, they help us understand the group. They draw us in, usually are near repulsed or excluded at the beginning and through the film or series learn to love the group as do we.

I’m writing an ensemble drama at the moment. I must say it is one of the hardest things to write for because of this particular difficulty. I think the essence is that you want at the beginning to leave things free and easy. Let the protagonist emerge or rather the balance emerge. I particularly want, like Friends, for it not to be obvious who the protagonist in the series is. But I have learnt through writing it that it is vital at the very least to have a protagonist per scene. And as I start getting into re-writes I’m going to have to do far more work to reshape the first episode because of an inability to commit to what effectively boils down to your “in”. The vessel through which the audience accesses your drama.

It doesn’t have to be the ing’enue who is the “in” to your drama but in many ways it better be if the series doesn’t have a clear main character. The only successful ensemble drama I can think of which has neither is “The West Wing”. Who is the protagonist? Charlie is the ing’enue so to speak, and the President is the most obvious main character. But actually Charlie doesn’t even appear until episode three, and the president isn’t the most on screen character at all. In many ways Sam Seaborn’s character is the protagonist because he is the one who is still learning the most. But could you guess that character who is in the most episodes? It’s CJ. It almost by default makes her the winner, but I think this has happened perhaps because Rob Lowe quit. CJ did have a transformative character arc but then almost everyone did. In fact in some ways Toby Ziegler is the only character who doesn’t change at any point and therefore should qualify for some kind of accolade – maybe not changing at all makes you special. Bradley Whitford’s character Josh Lyman (one less episode than CJ) is probably the most likely protagonist because he is the only one going on at the end whereas everyone else stops. But it’s pretty clear that the West Wing is one of the least clear cases of protagonist that there is.

Well I have tried to hide it in my series, but who knows if I will be successful. I think that whatever happens the key is that the author knows what is going on. That’s what the audience picks up on. They can tell instantly if the author hasn’t thought about it, if the author isn’t sure. If the author is sure but holding it back that creates a very different sensation for the viewer.

Why did the skeleton burp?

Because he didn’t have the guts to fart.

It’s late

It’s late, or at least it’s late for you. It’s past your bedtime. The room seems more alive in the dark, than in the light. You get up, turn the light on, and then get back into bed and look around. That’s the curtains that are swaying, that’s the door to your wardrobe that’s casting a shadow over your bed from the light above the door. You try and remember it so that when you turn the light off it will all seem normal. You get back up and turn the light off. You jump back to your bed just in case there is something hiding underneath there. It’s okay when you get off quickly because then whatever it is as surprised as you are and the lights on. But when you’re making your way back the thing will know you need to get back into bed. You jump back in and look around. It’s okay now. You can make out what is the curtain, you can make out what is the wardrobe door. It’s all okay.

But jumping back onto the bed has had repercussions. They’ve heard you downstairs. One of them comes up to check on you. You can hear the steps approaching. You close your eyes tight and pull the covers up and try hard to lie really still. One of them, it sounds like dad from the footsteps, comes in. He notices the window is open and goes over and closes it and re-arranges the curtains. He walks over to the wardrobe and closes the door. He murmurs “Goodnight” under his breath, and then walks out of the room.

You sit bolt upright, look around the room, and again everything seems to be moving towards you. It all seems a lot closer than it would in the light. If the window is closed, surely the curtains wouldn’t be moving so what is that coming towards you? Something shimmering and hissing coming towards you like a sheet. If the window is closed it can’t be the curtains! What is it? You leap out of bed and run towards the light switch hitting it just in time to see… Nothing… There was nothing there. The window just wasn’t closed properly, it was just the curtain. You can hear your mother calling up from downstairs. Urging you to go back to bed. But will you turn off the light? You know you’re just being silly. But… But… But… You can’t help it, tears leak down your face and run salty into your open mouth that’s already whimpering and the heat of your cheeks heats your tears and makes your skin tighten. A lump in your throat rises, you know it shouldn’t your big and grown up, but it comes and once it reaches your mouth your bawling and all you want is your mother to come and rescue you. From what? From what it doesn’t matter, you just want to be reassured, you just want a night light in your room.

On a rainy Sunday

What’s the ideal thing to do?

Practice conquering the world of course…

Paris Hilton

I may as well jump on the bandwagon here of writing articles about how everyone else is writing articles about Paris Hilton. The funniest thing is the unknowingness that these articles have. Basically the gutter press have the balls to go and report the incident directly. The mainstream press want to talk about it but know they can’t directly because even they know it’s not really news. So what they instead do is talk knowingly about how everyone else is talking about it – seemingly ignoring the fact that they are part of everyone. And I’d like to make it clear at this point that I know I am part of everyone as well, but the simple fact that I acknowledge it makes me at least slightly different than the others.

Anyway even though she’s as dozy as anything I can’t help but feel she probably doesn’t deserve the treatment she’s getting. She was pretty much hamstrung from the moment her parents named her. I mean surely they realised that “Paris Hilton” is the name of one of their own hotels (well “Hilton Paris” is at any rate). Surely they must have known? And in case you don’t believe me here’s the link. Paris Hilton has 15 meeting rooms, an Executive Lounge, a business centre and wireless internet access.

Surely her parents should have been stopped at the stage that they tried to name her after a hotel? Or maybe they are just as stupid as she is? I mean old Conrad Hilton didn’t want to let his family have access to his Hotel Empire. Maybe this was the reason? He tried to donate the whole empire to the Catholic church but after his death his will was contested and overturned.

He was pretty kooky himself though, his final words on his deathbed were, “Please keep the shower curtain inside the tub”.

For a long time, I suppose, it has been imagined that this would be the greatest contribution of the Hilton family to the world. A comedy quote on his deathbed. But Paris has finally gazumped him by actually making an even more amazing quote this week. And it is this quote that I leave you with:

“In the future, I plan on taking more of an active role in the decisions I make”

Snakebite McMuffin – Part 3

Back to me writing for Part 3

[This is part 3 of the 4 part story, Snakebite McMuffin. Before reading part 3 you may want to check out Part 1 and Part 2.]

Snakebite had just mentioned how much he admired Felicity’s clothing, but that was simply him skirting round the issue.

“So what can you tell me about this case Miss Trousers?”
“I can’t tell you anything about the case until you agree to take it. I know the rules.”
“Well I don’t, Miss Trousers. I’ve never met a rule I wouldn’t break to break a case wide open. I’m wide open to breaking rules – you could say.”
“I’m not sure I could.”
“Really? It’s just a few words?”
“No I mean, I couldn’t say if those words applied to you Mr McMuffin.”
“Call me Snakebite.”
“Okay, I couldn’t say if those words applied to you Snake… No I really prefer Mr McMuffin.”
“Please yourself Ma’am.”
“Don’t call me Ma’am, I’m not a old lady.”
“Well don’t call me Mr McMuffin. Mr McMuffin was my uncle.”
“What was your father?”
“He was Mr McMuffin’s brother.”
“No, I mean what was he referred to as?”
“‘Mr McMuffin’s brother’, I just told you. His whole life he never once engaged anyone in direct conversation so people just referred to him indirectly.”
“What not even your mother?”
“No, she was a deaf, blind, mute, autistic son of a bitch – but I loved her, and so did he – not that he said.”
“You had quite an odd childhood.”
“By all accounts, so did you Miss Trousers.”
“What do you mean by that?”

Snakebite could see she was unsettled by this. Partly because she took a step backwards, but partly because she lost her balance and fell to the floor. Snakebite rushed forwards to help her up, but she was already getting up and they knocked heads.

“Sorry,” she said.
“No, it was my fault,” said Snakebite.
“I was taken aback.”
“Literally.”
“Yes, that’s why I said it.”
“Indeed.”
“I just wasn’t expecting you to know anything about my childhood.”
“Well I told you, your father trusted me.”
“But how much? How much did he trust you?”
“Well he let me borrow his 1st edition pressing of the White Album which had been signed by all of the fab four and rather bizarrely Elvis.”
“But father never let anyone borrow his 1st edition pressing of the White Album which had been signed by all of the fab four and rather bizarrely Elvis.”
“Well he didn’t let anyone but me borrow it.”
“He must have trusted you.”
“Yes. He did.”
“And you in turn returned his trust?”
“Well lets just put it this way, I returned his record.”

Miss Trousers visibly crumpled at this point. Snakebite knew that if he was going to press forward with this case then he was going to have to iron out some of the details.

“So, Miss Trousers. Your father trusted me. You can trust me. Please. Tell me what is the nature of this case?”
“Well,” said Felicity, “it’s like this…”

[What is it like? Tune in for the final part on Friday next week (or thereabouts)]