Day 443 – Embracing the Void.

I’ve just read a great article by Gwenna Laithland advising writers to use ‘white noise’.

Basically, white noise is the void – the bits you leave out which the reader then projects their own thoughts and imagination onto.

Laithland uses the example of a Harry Potter stage show casting Hermione Grainger with a black actress. J.K. Rowling admits that she never specified her heroine’s skin colour.

I often get caught up in feeling the need to give more detail in description and narration – partly because I write dialogue much more easily and my pages can quickly resemble a play script.

I like writers at both ends of the spectrum. The very precise and detailed, and the void.

So which is best?

I suppose the answer is write with detail when you need to manouveur the reader into a specific place and embrace the void where it really doesn’t matter.

I am still working on this.

Beginning On Episode Four.

The advent of Catch-up and Box-Sets, has removed one of life’s most frustrating pleasures. Missing the first couple of episodes of a tv series which suddenly becomes unmissable.

You didn’t watch those first couple of episodes because you have more important things to do in life than tv, or the trailer didn’t look very good, or you were out at the gym and forgot to set it to record just in case it was any good. The end result is the same, however, you didn’t catch the start of the show.

And this didn’t matter, until your friends and co-workers started asking you if you have seen it, because it is awesome.

And now you are the outsider.

In our modern times, we can immediately pull out a smartphone of our choice and download the missed episodes and catch up to where everyone else is.

In the olden days, about eighteen months ago, you just had to suck it up and pick up at the next episode.

And here the frustrating pleasure of beginning on episode three or four kicks in. You are now part of the story and the conversation, but there are loads of references and plot points you don’t quite get. You have to work them out, and everything suddenly seems important.

You got straight on your phone, not to watch the missed episodes, but to contact your friends, peppering them with questions until everything made sense.

Great writers discovered this secret long ago.

J.R.R. Tolkein, set The Fellowship of the Ring in a history of a long running conflict between forces of good and evil. All of his characters had a back story which began to be pieced together throughout the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings.

J.K. Rowling, seemed to have begun at the beginning with Harry Potter, but you quickly come to the realisation that Harry is unwittingly in the middle of a much bigger story. This was no accident. Rowling planned out the wider picture to begin with.

George Lucas began his Star Wars saga on Episode 4. But he knew what had happened in episode 1-3, and what was going to happen in episode 5 onwards. All of these story points were referenced in some form or another in Episode 4.

So, take a leaf out of the playbook of three of literature/film’s most successful and commercial writers – begin after the beginning of where you think the story should begin.

Start on Episode 4 and allow your readers to relive the old days when you had to work it all out from where they started.

At least, that is, until you decide to write the episodes 1-3.

Meeting With Your Characters.

I mean a literal meeting with your characters.

You know, sat on chairs around a table, kind of meeting.

I’ve spent most of the day involved in those kind of meetings and at some point, when I am certain I was supposed to be paying close attention, I thought about writers having meetings.

Not with their agents or editors. Not even with the press in an interview about the stellar success of their latest novel. But a meeting with the main characters, possibly even some of the minor characters, of their latest work.

TV shows have read throughs in the Writer’s Room or with the actors before filming, so why not the protagonists of your latest work?

Are they happy with their roles? Does the dialogue feel realistic to them? Do they understand where the plot is leading them?

Maybe they aren’t happy with their latest date? Or they would have definitely defended themselves with the pencil and not the rolled up magazine. Or why they need to wear a mixed wool blend in their pullover despite their allergies.

I’m not even going to get into the woeful way I accessorise my female characters and or why they didn’t get to use the pencil!

I apologise unreservedly.

Imagine if James Bond had demanded of Ian Fleming why every woman he meets turns out to be working for the opposition or is killed fifteen pages after he meets them? Harry Potter arguing with J.K. Rowling about wanting a bigger wand? Or Rebus asking Ian Rankin for a transfer to Exeter.

So, how do you think you would fair with your characters in a face to face meeting?

Give it a try. Make an agenda. And make sure there is plenty of coffee.

P.s. Make notes!