Location, Location, Location: Choosing Settings for Fiction

Location - every writer's delight and every producer's bane: ME: "I've written a thrilling chase scene set in Paddington Station at rush hour!" PRODUCER: "Could it be Gunnersbury at 3am?" In this blog post, I'm going to talk about the use of location in novels, low/no budget screenplays and stageplays - and how to make the right choices for your project. First, what is a location? This may seem like a stupid question, but I want to emphasise that locations are not just externals - fields, castles, deserts, mountains. Locations are office buildings, hotel rooms, toilet cubicles. Anything you would put after EXT/INT in a screenplay. Locations are also towns, countries - or planets. Space, The Final Frontier. A hotel room may look the same in London, Paris and Dubai, but the context of being in that country may determine the action of the scene - in fact, I would argue that it should. Locations are not incidental. Setting your film in Australia for the...
Read More

#scriptchat 30th June – Multi-Platform Writing

I am honoured and delighted to be guesting on #scriptchat this Sunday @ 8pm to talk about Multi-Platform Writing - specifically, my work with Realm Pictures on The Underwater Realm universe. For those unfamiliar with the concept, show up at Twitter on Sunday 30th June @ 20:00 BST and search for #scriptchat. Writerly folks will then appear as if summoned by ancient incantations and bombard me with questions. *gulp* Look forward to seeing you there!...
Read More

Writers’ Tools: Tactile Spreadsheet

While waiting for various co-written projects to make their way back to my inbox and anxiously querying literary agents, I have decided to distract myself by remembering to update my blog. (I apologise in advance if this makes as much sense as monkeys attempting Shakespeare - I am full of lurgy) The contents of this post will be obvious to many of you. Writers love index cards. They love that they come in lots of different colours and can be written on with a variety of coloured pens. They love them so much that they peruse stationary shops looking for the perfect bulldog clips to safely secure them. However, beating out a plot is only one way to utilise those tantalisingly blank rectangles. I am going to present a more complicated system that some of you may seize as vital to screenplay composition, and which others will love because it adds another few hours of procrastination before actually having to write the damn...
Read More

2012 in review

This time last year, I looked back at 2011 and made some resolutions: "So, in 2012, I will: - Final FINAL draft Steampunk Assassins and send it to producers - Edit my Cyber Crime Sleuth (NaNoWriMo) novel and send to publishers - Finish my Asylum pilot, enter it in Red Planet Prize, and send it to producers - Make a short film - Get an agent - See Realm Pictures take Raindance 2012 by storm - Get married XD" Let's see how I got on: In January, I was given the opportunity to write for Persona and started developing my story. In February, I started developing a short film (which unfortunately came to nothing) and learned that I can take notes. In April, I adapted a screenplay into a stage play with Jack Ayers for the Brighton Fringe Festival, and I signed my first professional contract (for a project that went nowhere). In May, Persona aired, Small Chances was performed in Brighton, and I heard that Bryn Celli Ddu was being made...
Read More

Writing is 90% Thinking

Getting back on the writing horse after a long hiatus is every bit as difficult as one would expect. It would probably be easier without the tonsillitis and the feeling that my brain is talking a walk on a muggy day in June, but only marginally. I have a one-pager to write before the weekend. I thought it would be relatively simple, as I thought I had a comprehensive set of notes from which to work - but it turns out I thought wrong. It seems that I wrote some notes, and then I wrote a second set of notes, in which I made several leaps of logic, merged two characters and invented a few bits of backstory. Without writing down the intermediate stages of that thought process. But this afternoon, I just about picked up the thrust of my argument and set to work. It was about half an hour later that I zoned back into the room and realised that my cursor...
Read More

Glimpses of The Underwater Realm – part two

Okay, so it's now January (Happy New Year and all that), but I've finally put together some more Underwater Realm backstory. So, Dave sold me on five short scripts and we had a brainmelting session on possible ideas for the stories. I lost track of the project for a bit (my day job unfortunately takes a lot of my attention) while Dave and Jon developed the scripts for the shorts from those five initial ideas. The next milestone in the project was the Production Meeting at the end of April 2011. This brought together the core Realm Pictures team with the talented heads of department needed to make these films a reality. Oh, and I was there. Mostly to drink wine. Alongside the practical business of how to build a Spanish galleon, we spent a great deal of time working through what makes Atlantean culture and how it could fit in with the actual history and mythology of the Mediterranean. A large potion...
Read More

2011: My year with writing

This time last year, I reviewed where I was in my writing career. I thought I had written the penultimate draft of Steampunk Assassins. I was writing the first draft of The Greenwich Problem. I was planning to write a romantic comedy termed Baking Lawyer (which I abandoned due to fatal flaws). I determined that Military Monster needed a complete overall (which is still awaited.) And I put everything else on hold. And then 2011 happened. In January, I finished the first draft of The Greenwich Problem for the BBC's Laughing Stock competition. In February, Realm Pictures won the Raindance/Pepsi Max competition. This started them on the road to The Underwater Realm. In March, I was longlisted for Laughing Stock, which caused much excitement. In April, I attended the London Comedy Writers Festival, got some great advice and met some awesome creatives. I also wrote another feature script for Script Frenzy. In May, Realm House hosted the first UWR big production meeting. In July, Dave, Jon...
Read More

Glimpses of The Underwater Realm – part one

As the Kickstarter campaign continues for The Underwater Realm project, I thought I would take you through some of the development from my writer's perspective. When Realm Pictures won the Raindance/Pepsi Max MAX IT competition in 2010 (with this moving short), they were given the opportunity to première a short at Raindance 2012. Initially, we were talking about a ten-minute film concerning this Roman soldier who drowns in battle and wakes up able to breathe underwater. We went through various iterations of the idea, involving everything from a bleak journey across the ocean to that first wondrous glimpse of the city of Atlantis. I have e-mails from Dave, charismatic director (you can see him talk enthusiastically here on a weekly basis). They go: "stuck with where to go - thoughts?" accompanied by beats/outline/script to which I reply: "How about something more like this:" ...with a completely different thing that bears some relation to the original, with a follow-up note like "The major point is that I...
Read More

The Underwater Realm – Kickstarter

The ocean. Vast. Unforgiving. Beautiful. Hostile. Imagine that this untamed place is home to a tribe of people known to the Surface dwellers as Atlanteans. They have touched humanity but five times - this the story of those encounters. Five short films premièring at Raindance 2012. Shot on RED Epic on location from the Egyptian Red sea to Tintagel clifftops, huge water tank sets to dry-for-wet studio wirework. The gateway to a world ripe for exploration in a feature-length fantasy trilogy. I can personally attest to the dedication, talent and perseverance of the guys at Realm Pictures. They're some of my oldest friends and I've watched them make an action-packed Zombies B-movie on a shoestring budget, win the Raindance/Pepsi Max competition with an inspiring, hopeful short, and now embark on an ambitious, revolutionary series of shorts. You can see for yourselves that these guys can deliver and deliver big. So when I heard that they were launching a Kickstarter campaign, I was delighted that...
Read More

Writers’ Tools: Wikis

Say you're a writer. And you live in North Wales (not the worst place to be right now). And your favourite production company is based in South Devon. And their producer is based in London. You could meet for the odd script retreat, of course. And there's phones, e-mail, texts, Facebook, Twitter, etc. - but what if you want to work on something together? Simultaneously, recorded, organised and categorised? Enter The Wiki. What's a wiki? The most famous example is, of course, Wikipedia. It's a set of webpages available for editing by anyone with a username and providing an ever-changing information resource. The name comes from the Hawaiian word for quick, and if you've ever witnessed the speed of vandalism following an England football loss, you'll understand why. Wikipedia in itself is an excellent resource for writers. While old media snobs may doubt its reliability because it's "on-line", it's actually fantastically reliable - because it requires notability and is policed by its members. However, this post...
Read More