Thursday, 31 March 2011

Equals and Sequels

I started writing a third flash this morning featuring the Sora Tanaka and Sergeant Browning characters. The first (This Pit) was posted to Missing Pieces last November, the second will appear soon, and I have a fourth in mind...

The difficulty is that although they feature the same characters they are not a serialised story. Even though this morning's (and the fourth) are direct sequels to the second. I mean I want them to stand alone as well as being sequels. Someone should be able to come to them fresh, but someone who has met the characters before should also enjoy reading more on them.

This presents a difficulty. I need to re-introduce the main characters (three, about the maximum you want in flash fiction), and I need to do it in a way that will still be interesting for people who have met them before. It needs to be both a reminder and a standalone.

Added to this is that it plays with both surreality and humour. The surreal I'm comfortable with, humour is a little out of my comfort zone (a good thing, of course, it's always good to push yourself).

And then there's the concept, which again, is established in the first part, but needs to be re-established quickly in this part too.

Oh yeah, and then I've actually got to fit the story in on top of that, all in under a thousand words... *phew*

I'm pleased with the way the first draft is shaping up, but I'm going to have to work hardest at the humour part, as I thought I might...

I'm also trying to put out of my mind a piece I was 'commissioned' to write (not for money...). Because I've written it, it's good (it actually might just be one of my best), but the turnaround on it is only a couple of weeks... So my normal editing cycle is to leave it for at least a month, usually more, and then come back to it... now I've got a few days to step away and then come back and edit it for next week... I'm just glad the first draft turned out so well...

Monday, 14 March 2011

revisiting old haunts...

Because I've been revisiting the old home (blog) from many years ago I thought I'd link an example of what I was talking about by remixes. Of course, with Hidden Tracks we were running with the whole music analogy already, but it's an appropriate term. Take some of the component elements and create something new, but with some of the flavour of the old track, the original piece of writing.

It's something you do on creative writing/ literature courses too, write a 'response' to an author's work. I once wrote a companion piece to Poe's Raven, told from the point of view of Lenore's shade, among other things.

So my old writing partner wrote a little slice of uncomfortableness called A Children's Poem...

Gangly Men get everywhere...
Curtain rails, cat's entrails,
Even in balls of rotten old hair.
Push in tight,
No need for the light,
Just sit and stare,
With a pale second sight.
Wrapped up small,
No shadow at all...
Gangly Men unfurl in the walls.

It works, I think, with a sense of the unheimlich (usually loosely (inadequately) translated as the 'uncanny'). Dee doesn't publish so much these days. But you can find his words here, when he does.

And here (originally published here) is my twist, Xero's insomnia remiX:

Only sheer necessity compels these paled people from their doors. Outside, they move too quickly, glancing always about themselves, stricken with fear's awkward puppetry. And when the light slides from the rooftops, they slink indoors. They lock themselves firmly within and anyone that steps outdoors after dark doesn't step inside again; but some slice of the night in their skin might.

Even the wind barely dares to blow here, timidly herding dry rubbish down streets empty of all but the fearful hush of anticipation. Then suddenly scattering and skittering away into cracks and corners as it comes all against a presence unexpected: the puppeteer's patron.

It seems a man, but in this place where men are afraid, he walks alone, calmly and comfortably. He wears his scuffed sable suit with ease, although it hangs a little loose from his long thin frame. He could carry a cane, and carry it well, yet he keeps company with nothing but his clothes and the clustering shadows.

If you weren't cramped in your bed with cold fear, you could watch him walk by; you could watch him trail his talon-like fingers teasingly along the walls, see the shadows of lost men curl about his touch and unfurl in his wake.

Which was, if you like, my idea of a more concrete gangly man. There is (I hope) a little of the feel of Dee's original in there, if it is also, obviously, something quite different.

Actually... copy/pasting that here I can feel the editing itch in my fingers... the desire to tweak and shift the piece. I wonder if editing is something like evolution. There is no 'perfect' goal, there is just progress, adapting for suitability, being as right as you can be for that moment...

Thursday, 10 March 2011

A Doorway to Temptation

A while ago I wrote a piece called Fishing for Xeroverse: 101. I'd been wandering through town and, on the same street that has inspired two other pieces, I thought about how often we are tempted. I don't mean tempted to do bad things, I'm not talking about Lucifer perched on our shoulder, whispering.

I just mean tempted in little ways. By a good shop window, a scent or a poster. People tempting people. I imagined demons sat on rooftops fishing for mortals in the same fashion. But I decided that Fishing was a dull title. Who would go look at a piece called that? Only maybe someone with an interest in the sport, and I didn't think they were the likeliest to enjoy my story...

So it became Lure. A more tempting title, no? ;) And it keeps the fishing reference, which I like.

101 has been an interesting experience. (continues to be). Sometimes I think of titles and write to them, titles I think will be interesting. I have the title Doom sitting unwritten on file. Other pieces, like the most recent, Doors, are written without a title.

Doors is one of the pieces I'm most proud of. And, having written it, it couldn't have been called anything else. Sometimes I feel able to play around with a title, a good title is just good, a great title begins the storytelling before the story has even begun. But sometimes when you strike on the right title you just know it.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The Future of the Xeroverse...

I've been a bit slack on the writing front recently... I think I burnt out a little, trying to read, comment and write in just a couple of early hours each morning. So I've been taking it a little easy, writing has crawled to a snail's pace. I've turned my hand instead to a little light editing, which I'd fallen behind on a bit, and a bit more reading.

Even so I can't not write... a scribble here and there, a jotted note, a patter of fingers over keyboard. Seeing a pair of gunships over on the concept ships blog inspired a few short paragraphs, the opening of a new flash (and I need new flashes, I'm still short for Torn Pages, although I do have a couple of months' worth in-hand, I'm not getting desperate, just approaching the limit of what I'm happy with).

This 'pressure', to write new and edit the old and everything else, has lead me to a decision... I'm going to take holidays between chapters.

It makes the chapters shorter, for one, just five months-worth of flash instead of six, which is more manageable. But not only that, it gives me a chance to have a break from everything except the writing. Which is the reason I do what I do. For the love of writing. So of course I'm not going to stop writing. The 'holiday' (I'll still have to do the day job, unfortunately ;) ) is a chance to relax and get some new things out without the added pressure of having to have a completely finished piece for a Sunday and Wednesday (I'll probably pause the 101, too).

And that's important to me, the 'finished' aspect. I can be happy with a first draught, but never will I think one draft is enough to call something finished. Time and space and a fresh mind are all things that need to be brought to bear on a piece of writing before it can be anything but unfinished.

On a side note... I'm amused by the concept of time and space being brought to bear on something, when what I mean is that I won't be paying it any kind of attention...

So June will see the end of Torn Pages. July will see the first anniversary of Missing Pieces (and I hope to have something special for that), and August will see the start of Chapter 3, Spare Parts.

I've even (because I can't help but have ideas) got a theme in mind for chapter 4. Yep, thinking about 2012 already, and I've just said I'm having enough trouble keeping up with the now... I know, I know!

Provisionally titled Mirror Shards, chapter 4 will mostly consist of remixes (or rewrites, maybe) of earlier work, particularly things from Hidden Tracks. In fact remixes were something me and Dee used to do with each other's work back on Hidden Tracks. It's partly because I'm still really proud of what we wrote back then, and I like re-visiting it, re-reading it, and I kind of want the opportunity to re-promote it... =)