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...
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Kites and Violence: my head in the wood-chipper

On Tuesday 30th April, I will contemplate my own mortality as I face that most savage of foes: screenwriters. This month's Kites and Violence features a reading from "A Modern Age of Murder", known on this blog as Steampunk Assasins. I am very nervous about this, not least because I've seen what wounds this lunacy of wolves has inflicted on other people with their acid tongues and their copies of Story. I'm also anxious because this is my baby, my first script - the one I've been toiling over for almost four years. And it's about to be eviscerated. But that's how we learn and grow, what doesn't kill you, etc. If you want to join in with this pillory of writerly humiliation, come to the Horse Bar at 7pm on Tuesday!...
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An octopus in a pie factory

You remember that New Years Resolution to concentrate on one thing at a time? Yeah, guess how well that's going. Still reeling from my Laughing Stock second round status (unbelievable squee), I ran straight into a horror short about the Tube. Which is perfect for creepiness. Oh, and I'm working on a webcomic idea with an incredibly talented artist. More on that when we've decided on Strip #1. For now, I'll say three words: Victoriana. Spirits. Steaaaaam. And there's that other horror short? Why am I so in love with horror shorts? Horror films make me freak out. I should probably actually finish Steampunk Assassins off, yeah? Also, sticking my nose into my friends' script will probably just end up in more work for me - though there may be a whiff of a credit. I need to make like squash and CONCENTRATE....
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One to one-hundred-and-ten pages

I went on an excursion to Bristol to visit a friend. From Pads, it's about ninety minutes, so I left the laptop at home and took the hard drive (for TV catch-up) and the iPhone. I do my best writing on trains. But would that hold true without keys beneath my fingers and the ability to do more than one thing at a time? Turned out pretty well. I opened up my scripts in Celtx and fiddled about with them - the major downside was not being able to copy and paste long sequences, as I overhauled my final fight scene in Steampunk Assassins. I also looked up an old draft of the script using Dropbox to see if I still had an old scene that may get reworked into the finale sequence. The other project I worked on was my entry for the Laugh A Minute competition, which is inspired by Lucy V's call for sex. Unfortunately, nobody actually has sex, but...
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A million different doors

Firstly, congratulations to the exceptionally talented team at Realm Pictures for winning the Pepsi Max It competition. You can see their award-winning entry here and the production blog for their next project here. So, with all this talent exploding just down the road, surely I should be drawing some inspiration and cracking on with my Next Big Thing? Obviously. Which is why I'm updating my blog. I finished my entry for Laughing Stock and then...what? There's my Baking Lawyer rom com feature that I started to plot - then realised it was only half-baked (*groan*). I struggle with the "Fun and Games" parts of the scripts - the fun, trailer set pieces. I much prefer my turning points and my dark times. Then there are a couple of short to medium length shorts that I have brewing in my brain. I wonder if they might be a better use of my time - and have a little more flesh to them already. There's also a...
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Plot on the go

Inspiration is unpredictable. And often inconvenient in timing. I've gone through phases on how I record my lightning-bolt moments. Until recently, I used to carry a notebook in my bag to scrawl down whatever came into my head - the "rewrite" of Steampunk Assassins took place on a train (naturally) with a bunch of papers tied together with red ribbon. When I was younger, I had a Dictaphone. I would write poetry and flash-fiction on it, record random plot ideas and sing songs into it. My co-writer and I once sat down all afternoon with it and recorded a lengthy discussion on how best to play out our magnum opus (as yet unwritten - ah, teen spirits!). I also had a mini-computer, which did me very well - until I tried to use in on a coach and it careered into the window, smashing the screen. My PDA was bought for work purposes but was also appropriated for plotting and writing. Now, I have...
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Along the byway

Of course, it's the time of year for summaries and conclusions, personal achievement counting and reflection. I have finished Steampunk Assassins. By which I mean it's with my beloved director and editor friends and I suppose there might be One Final Draft to complete. I have made a start on The Greenwich Problem for Laughing Stack 2011. I ran the logline past my director, extrapolated the plot of the pilot and shaded in the main characters' traits and tics. He was very enthusiastic - and, as I trust his tastes, this pleases me greatly. I'm also going to try my hand at a Rom Com feature spec - we'll term it Baking Lawyer. That has a beat sheet but nothing else at the moment. Military Monster needs a complete overhaul before it can have anything going for it. I need to take a step back on Asylum and write a beat sheet for the pilot before I sink further into the intricacies of plotting...
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Tis the season

A belated Merry Christmas and an anticipatory Happy New Year! Well, Steampunk Assassins isn't yet at its final draft, but let's extend the deadline to New Year and see how it goes. I'm thinking through my entry to Laughing Stock 2011, which we will call The Greenwich Problem. My current dilemma is sub-genre: do I go for Science Fiction or Science Fact? That will determine the content of the comedy and the overall series direction, though the characters and setting are fairly fixed in my mind. And I'm waiting to hear where I could slot into this year's Persona schedule. While we wait, here's a teaser for us all: ...
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Sotto voce

After flailing at Danny Stack earlier in the week about original voice, I decided to concentrate my efforts on this "final" draft of Steampunk Assassins. By far, my biggest self-criticism is that this reads like a court reporter's transcript: flat, lifeless, tab A into slot B, thank you kindly. Edward races along the dock front towards the Royal Navy and East India Company ships. The seaman stumbles ahead, looking over his shoulder in terror. The gem in his hand flashes in the lamplight. Some average use of word diversity but nothing special. But, with spit and polish: Edward races along the dock front, the Royal Navy's sails fluttering like the flags of the finish line. The seaman stumbles ahead, glancing back with wide eyes. A flash from his hand - gold-blue light, magpie bait. Maybe now, however, I'm in danger of writing a Harlequin romance novel instead of an action-adventure screenplay? So far, only four scenes have been rendered in this light, so the overall tone is not as...
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December Deadlines

Happy Advent! Today, I change job description and work hours - hence, why I'm awake at this time of the morning. Ugh. It's also a month until my self-imposed deadlines kick in: two polished specs. As TBSR reminded us yesterday, it's all too easy to miss those targets. And I am two spec scripts down. One needs another draft and polish, and the other needs an overhaul draft. I need a Nano-style to get those done - but the holiday season also brings train journeys! (One day, I'll set up a carriage in my living room). Anyone else falling short on their deadlines?...
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