From the Archives – Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

I was looking back through some of the older posts and I thought that this one was worthy of dusting off. I’ve altered a few little bits to update it, but it is mostly what I originally wrote. I hope you enjoy it.

Recently I revisited one of my favourite Ray Bradbury novels in Fahrenheit 451, with a great audio version narrated by Tim Robbins.

One of the many things which struck me this time around was just how quickly Bradbury gets the story moving.

After a quick page or so of describing the Fireman Guy Montag doing his job and returning to the Fire Station we – along with the protagonist – are confronted with young woman Clarisse McClellan.

I wondered if this was where Thomas Harris got his inspiration for Clarice Starling in The Silence of the Lambs.

I also couldn’t shift the image of Julie Christie as Clarisse in Truffaut’s cinematic version from 1966.

But back to the novel and Clarisse starts to question Guy Montag about his profession as a Fireman, musing on the possibility that Firemen used to put out fires not start them.

Bradbury moves so fast here.

How did she pick him out? Was she waiting for him? What made her think that he was different?

The strong opening imagery of Montag and his profession are now confronted with an alternative possibility in only six pages.

Montag returns home to find his wife has attempted suicide and we become aware that his life, and the life of the society we have been dropped into, is not positive or healthy.

Like Hamlet we realise that something is rotten in the state of Denmark.

Is Montag mad?

Suffering from a disease spread by the very things he burns?

Or like Hamlet, is he the only sane person in a cast of the mad or those who do not even realise they are just as trapped as he is?

Within fourteen pages, pretty much everything is set for the rest of the story.

Within a further nine pages we have met the Mechanical Hound, which Montag is convinced doesn’t like him. We meet his boss, Captain Beatty, who explains that the Hound is a machine. It doesn’t doesn’t think anything that ‘they’ don’t want it too.

Apart from a bookish mentor later on in the story, we have the cast of characters and the conflict which we will see play out.

We learn more about this futuristic society as we turn through the pages, but it is often only like the passing of the countryside looked at from the window of a car. If you concentrate on the outside though, there is plenty to see and learn from.

Genius.

Farenheit 451 and Something Wicked This Way Comes are the two novels I read over and over again in my teens. I have read each over a hundred times.

Part of Bradbury’s short story genius comes through both of these novels. You don’t need lots of exposition to get a story going. Plunge your reader straight into the action and blend in more necessary information as we follow the characters through their conflict.

Day 425 – What’s Your Next Project?

There should always be a next project.

What is it?

Still finishing up on a current project? It doesn’t matter.

There should already be another project.

How far through planning and scheduling it are you? Get on with it!

I’ll admit it is a fine line between dividing your creative focus between finishing your current project and the next one.

I find it difficult myself. It is easy to lose the flow and feeling in the words of the current idea when the next one is in my mind.

Here’s where a notebook comes in useful. Take a little extra time and get some of the ideas out of your head and down on paper. I prefer to do this with physically – pen and paper. Release some of that creative pressure in a positive way.

So what’s your next project?

I’ve had novels like H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine, Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, George Orwell’s 1984, and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World, going around in my head for a few weeks now, so I am thinking that a story in that direction might be my next focus.

A Strong Supporting Cast.

I was brought up on a healthy diet of science fiction. Both my father and grandfather loved the genre, and any tv series, film, or book, was readily devoured.

One of the stand out features of the original Star Trek series was the anticipation of seeing the bridge for the first time in each episode. If Mr. Sulu and Mr. Chekov were in the driving seats then nothing much was going to happen. However, if there was an unknown crew member sat next to one or the other, then you knew something dramatic was going to happen and they would soon be dispatched.

If the crew members had a name you knew they were safe. If they didn’t they died. Simple. Throughout the series all of the supporting characters featured in episodes with stories based upon them.

How are your supporting characters doing?

Are the just a name? Is there purpose just to be dispatched, so your main characters can get on with the story?

If so, maybe you should reconsider them.

Any successful business or sports personality will be quick to praise those around them, their teams which support them. Even actors receiving accolades usually reel off an impressive list of people to thank who have supported them.

Your main characters will be stronger and more impressive if you put more care and attention into their supporting cast.

Given them a more solid back story. Give them more of a role than just to be the guy who accompanies the protagonist and then takes the bullet which saves them in the ambush, or the female character more to do than run around in the wake of the hero.

The more real you make your supporting cast, the stronger performance they are allowed to give, the stronger your story will be, and the better your protagonist will look.

I don’t mean giving them a fuller set of biography notes, but make them more realistic in their presence and contribution in your story. Let them do things which are important to your plot. Let them say things which contribute.

(There is always a place for the unknown guy/girl who is going to make it past page twelve though!)