A writers tale

They say that everyone has a story to tell. Many may not know what story they have inside them or in fact they recognise it if they were faced with a pen and paper.

I decided, along with millions of others, to start this blog. It is a mixture of blogs, random writings, the odd story from time to time and my own reviews. We are all capable of being a critic, sometimes people make a living from it and others just do it for fun. Me, I do it for fun.

I did have an old blog site which ended up going, many links were lost. I may rebuild those in time or just let them fade away in the corners of the interweb.

Enjoy.

Film Critic – And Why Not

Hello Dear Reader

Film Critic – And Why Not

As soon as, ‘I wish I knew how it would feel to be free’ started, I knew I was in for a treat. That was the chosen theme music for the BBC Film series, hosted by the late Barry Norman.

Barry Norman became someone who, for me, helped expand my love of films, not just the mainstream, but why I should want to watch a certain movie. He took up the role after years as a journalist in 1972. I was not immediately taken with him I must say, but his down to earth manners and simple explaining won through.

Like many others, I wanted to know what films were due for release, was I going to be interested, would they be worth rushing to the cinema. Unlike today, there was no internet, no pushing of trailers on television. There was a rival on the other channel, aimed more at children. It was ok but Barry Norman just went those steps further.

He seemed to talk to me, not many presenters could that, just make you feel he was just telling me to watch this film or avoid that one. He had one overriding criteria, whether a film was going to last; whether new generations of cinema goers would want to watch it in 20 years time. If you look at the films he recommended in 2013, you can see the reasoning.

It became something of a need to listen to his reviews and there are a few, in particular, that stand out for me. Of course, my favorite has to be Star Wars. I knew of the film briefly from odd comic magazines but it was Barry Norman’s review that sealed. H e described it as “Two hours of sheer bliss, the ultimate in space-age fairy tales,”. Now some might have dismissed this ‘new’ space-age film as childish, Norman did not. He knew what the film business had to do, entertain.

He did this without ever speaking down to his audience, taking them into his confidence. If Barry Norman said it was good, it was good. He was not one to duck away from telling actors, producers, and the likes his views about their work. He nearly got punched by John Wayne and had Robert De Niro leave, over a comment about Tom Hanks.

Barry Norman wrote a number of books, giving his reviews on the 100 greatest films and his autobiography, ‘And Why Not’. I had the great pleasure of listening to him at the New Victoria Theatre one evening. He still held that easy-going, simple style that had the audience wanting more. Asked about his reviewing style Norman said: “I always knew that nobody’s right and nobody’s wrong in criticism. The only thing I could do was to make sure that whatever I said was what I really believed”.

Tagline:’And Why Not – That Star Wars moment. (Add the theme as well)’

Flash Fiction – Alien Landscape/Forgiveness

Alien Landscape.

He fought hard against the growing tide of assaults. Inch by inch crawling over the itchy grains., each one like a mountain exhausting to climb. Another wave, battering, forcing him back what seemed like miles. There was one aim, to make it home. All he wanted was that safe place. Again he pushed almost frantic to be with those he knew.

He could only feel, no sight to speak of, just a sense of where to go. Homing in on what he desired, fighting the pain of each slow movement. Would he never reach his goal? From deep inside his spirit grew, finding inner strength to move forward. He carried everything he owned on his broad back. A single mistake, he would lose all.

The path was clearing, strength growing, his target in sight. One more push, one more almighty effort. Another assault, he held his ground waiting as it past. Breathing deep, he moved upwards towards his chosen spot. Crowded, covered by kindred spirits all searching, he inched his way through. He felt the spirits of those before as he nestled with his group. His search complete, his journey done waiting for everything to begin.

The lights shone bright, as the first note was struck. A thousand voices cried their name. Now he was home, back again.

Forgiveness.

He looked out at the sunset. Despite the heat, he was cold inside. He held the flower, a simple blue beauty its life so short. It was her’s, one she enjoyed. A faint memory surfaced, in a sea of blue, the pure white of her dress. Her smile welcoming the Knight home, helping to shed the cares around him. A single touch sparked the fire within, the two dragon stones calling to each other, bonding again.

He looked down at his stone. It was dying, lost without its twin, the spark needed yet so far away. A sigh escaped his lips, it was deep and sad beyond what he thought. Something nudged him. Scales rubbed against right hand. Looking into the eyes of his dragon, a silent bond between the pair. They both understood each other’s loss. Both felt alone now in a strange way, both trying to reach out.

He looked out at the shattered landscape and placed his right hand against the dragon. Out there they would find her, rescue her and ultimately ask her forgiveness. He placed the blue flower inside his armor, climbed on the dragons back. He heard her cry inside his heart, always watch over me.

He looked again at the bright blue flower. There was her scent captured in the bud, held for as long as he could remember. There was still the faint light of hope, he knew that he had to believe it. To complete his quest, to find his one, he had to truly believe. He rose from his knee, his armor battered a little more.

Flash Fiction 1

Hello Dear Reader

Flash Fiction 1

Over the few weeks, I have challenged myself to write something called flash fiction. This is sort of shorter version of a short story. Although, some would argue that many pieces are short stories. The current definition of flash fiction is from 50 words to 300 and possibly up to 1000 words.

I took up the challenge and produced three pieces. It took me a time to sort them out and one may not be as good as I wished. One has been entered into a competition, it has the same chance as anyone else’s. I can’t show that one for obvious reasons.

So how do you write flash fiction? Here are some points;

How to write flash fiction:

Start in the middle.

Don’t use too many characters.

Make sure the ending isn’t at the end.

Sweat your title.

Make your last line ring like a bell.

Write long, then go short.

David Gaffney, Stories in your pocket: how to write flash fiction, The Guardian

So you see, it’s unlike other forms of writing. Then again, there so many forms of writing, just like music, photography or art. So I offer my first two flash fiction pieces. Follow the link and enjoy.

Alien Landscape/Forgiveness.

Tagline; “When one word can mean 1000’s”

 

Film Treat – The Princess Bride

Hello Dear Reader

Film Treat

Action! Adventure! Romance! Talking to a dear friend of mine, I discovered we both liked certain films. With great help, I decided to review a few favourite films. Given my long list, it might surprise people which ones I picked.

My first choice is the film, The Princess Bride. First published in 1973, this book covered fairy tales, fantasy, romance, adventure, romantic love, comedy, heroes, villains and yes the odd kiss. Written by William Goldman, this version is the abridged one, just the good parts according to the author. It was later turned into a film, also penned by Goldman, to become a classics that works for all.

The Princess Bride

The story is timeless one, hero and heroine, battle various odds and encounters, before finally finding happiness. It is based on a parody of Eastern European nobility centuries ago. Goldman manages to weave just about the right amount of everything in the book that translates so well on-screen.

 

The film opens with a kindly grandfather visiting his sick bedridden grandson intend on ‘cheering’ him up. The grandfather is played by none other than Colombo himself Peter Falk and his grandson, played by Fred Savage. The book, so we are told, has been passed down the generations of the family and does not have the best of starts. The grandson is reluctant at first, given the title, hoping for something with more action and certainly no kissing. However, the grandfather won’t take no for an answer and proceeds to tell the story. In the book, we join midway through with flashbacks. In the film, the Grandfather narrates with interjections from the Grandson.

It centers around two main characters, a woman called Buttercup and a farm hand called Westley. In true romantic style, Westley falls for Buttercup, responding to her every command replying “As you wish”. It is his way of saying “I love you”. Trouble appears, as Prince Humperdinck of Florian demands, to take Buttercup as his bride.

Buttercup laments the death of Westley, supposedly killed by Dread Pirate Roberts while at sea. To complicate matters further, Buttercup is kidnapped by a group of bandits, Vizzini, Fezzik (a giant) and the anti-hero turned hero, turned good guy, Inigo Montoya. They are chased by Dread Pirate Roberts, who in turn is chased by Humperdinck with his sidekick Count Tyrone Ruggen. What more could there be! Well, a lot more as this story moves effortlessly through action, comedy, and romance.

Be warned, of spoilers.

There are stories within stories, as everything unfolds revealing revenge for a death, finding of true love and a resurrection pill. Not in that order, mine you. The film contains numerous quoted lines with possible one of my top five. It is delightfully delivered each time, never overplayed, never needing to be pushed, just spoken, “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die”. Just reading that line makes me and many others smile. Goldman did not just concentrate on the characters, they alone are priceless, but he made sure the background shone throughout. Adeptly named places add to the humour, the Pit of Despair where a machine appears to suck the life from one of our heroes. Is all lost? Of course not! Well, for a time our hero is only mostly dead. However, in fantasy, anything can happen so long as you have the Resurrection Pill and Miracle Max. Hero restored, castle to storm and heroine to save.

It is just perfect.

The cast includes a number of well-known actors and actresses. The list is quite long and some well-known faces in disguise like that of Billy Crystal who plays Miracle Max. There are also roles for Mel Smith and Peter Cook who plays a priest with a Monty Python-like lisp. I am sure this influenced Rowen Rowan_Atkinson in Four Weddings and a Funeral. However, the actor who steals the film for me is Mandy Patinkin. As Inigo Montoya, he embodies what this adventure is about. There is a point where you think it might all be over. Fezzik (a giant played by Andre the Giant) saves the day making Montoya see that his quest for revenge is not lost. The final action sequences are pure gold, combining fencing, comedy, and romance.

A movie is the sum of its parts. Actors alone can’t always carry the plot. The writing has to be delivered believable otherwise the films lacks quality and pace. Along with an award-winning soundtrack by Mark Knopfler (he of Dire Straits a favourite band of mine), the component parts do become complete.

The Princess Bride is a true family film, to watch and just smile. If I have to give it a score, well it’s 5 out 5.

Once again, many thanks to my friend who put me straight on their favourite film.

Tagline (There is only one line to use) “Hello. My name is Inigo Montoya. You killed my father. Prepare to die”

Writing Weekend Part 2

Hello Dear Reader

Writing Weekend Part 2

Hopefully, you will have read Part 1, it makes sense of course in case there is some startling revelation of catastrophic news. Rest assured, there is nothing but reading Part 1 helps. I may never know if you have but it’s a comfort to think you will have.

Writing festivals are often packed as you only have a few days to work with. For me, it was only two days sadly. It’s never two days as well you know since people won’t be awake all night. Maybe one festival they will. Having completed the workshop, it was time to prepare for two interview sessions, the first with Mark Gatiss. A brief lunch, walk around and then of to the York opera house, a traditional old theater in the heart of the town.

It would be impossible to cover everything that was mentioned in the talks. I doubt I could transcribe it all and there would be a flatness in just reading the words. Understanding what interests a writer and how they write helps others see what they can do to further their own writing. Most writers I have discovered, seem to write from an early age, I did myself making up simple stories. Sometimes it starts with reading a favourite subject that makes one think.

League of a Gentleman

The event was well attended by fans from across the spectrum. I was very aware of the work Mark Gatiss had been involved with, but for me, it was discovering why or what he liked about writing that was interesting.  To open the talk, they played a sketch from League of Gentleman. A very deadpan Mark Gatiss in the role of a cave guide. This is dark comedy at its best, written perfectly and delivered in that droll, uninterested style. To write that and both produce laughs and not laugh is very difficult. You can’t help but laugh as it is just the polar opposite of slapstick. That was the gift of this writing, to write so bleak, it is seriously funny.

Carry on enjoying

Horror and ghost stories both film and television seemed the background for Mark Gatiss and one film, in particular, stood out for me, Carry on Screaming. This is my favourite Carry On film, I know it so well. Why? For me, it is one of the best-scripted films, well acted, a good cast including Harry H Corbett who stepped in for Sid James at the last moment. It is a huge nod to Hammer but most of all had two Doctor Who elements. A mention by name and of course Jon Pertwee.

It is clear that writing is very time-consuming. Many people never see the whole writing process, from an idea through to the completed work. Part of the talk touched on that process given that one idea alone had taken two years. Of course, Mark Gatiss was not just working on one project at a time. There was the assumption given the body of work completed that anything would be taken up. It is not always the case even for someone like Mark Gatiss. That was quite interesting as it shows all writers have the same problems.

 

One other passion of his, are ghost stories. I myself I have written a couple. To bring the right amount of horror, scare the reader or viewer just enough takes a fine balance. Building up those dark feelings, as you are drawn in, then the shock. The shock does not need to be harsh. Mark Gatiss has a real understanding of this, in what he has produced. He also laments the lack of this on television these days. Children are no longer properly scared, adults don’t always see good horror. As for mine, now I know I need to both finish them and write more. I might even be able to turn them into scripts. After his talk, I like many others had the chance for an autograph and a brief chat. Mark was genuinely interested in people and I was able to tell my Jon Pertwee story to him.

Around another world

So talk one completed, booked signed photography snapped. A chance to grab a bite to eat and ready for the third event. Again, an interview this time with Micheal Palin. Now I am a Monty Python fan. I know the Parrot sketch. I can sing (badly) a number of their songs. What I was looking for here was why and again what drove Micheal Palin to write. It was really simple. Just like Mark Gatiss, the drive to write came from a shared love of words. The chance to put his sketches on in a university environment gave the opportunity to test the waters, so to speak. He certainly found his dead parrot and more than a number of naughty Brian’s.

The other element here was his diary. You might think this is an odd source of information but if you really think about it, a diary is sometimes shorthand for ideas. Micheal Palin started his diary to remember events, ideas and was what you could consider the blog of its time. It has not gone out of fashion, just replaced by technology. It is something all writers I suspect should carry to hand. It does not need to be a diary in that traditional sense but a notebook or series of them.

The talk centered on a few points in Micheal Palin’s career, notably the Life of Brian, Ripping Yarns, Time Bandits, and his travel series. In each one, the love of writing was intricately involved. There was also one other interest to me briefly mentioned, Jabberwocky. That is one of those long complex poems, where some words are nonsense. I would have liked a little more about how that was constructed from poem to script.

To be able to tell a story well requires an understanding of characters, plot, surrounds and all. One might think there was no ‘plot’ in Around the World in 80 Days for example. However, the plot was very clear, reproduce the travel of a fictional character from a book. Now although there was a book, this was no fictional trip so that itself created other issues. How to write about 5 days sitting on a sailboat, make it interesting, exciting and yet not repeat the same lines, is difficult. While there was the time to write, maybe there was also the time to catch up?

 

Again the talk finished all too soon and there was the chance to get an autograph. I purchased a copy of poems by Micheal Palin to study. As I have been told, you have to read to be able to write. With the second book signed, it signaled the end of a very productive day. It gave me many ideas to work on, the thought that you can write what ever you wish and that the only thing stopping writing is yourself.

Having completed the second of these blogs it just shows what writing can do. I have three more poems to complete, a short story to edit and my sci-fi novel to re-edit (again). I also want to combine my love of photography with poems and short stories to produce another book. All can be done, but all would have to compete in this growing ocean of literature.

The York Literature festival was brief for me but very enjoyable. I would do the same again given the opportunity. I do have one more writing event to try, that of a weekend retreat, where all you do is write. Maybe that’s my next step? With my camera of course. Thank you all involved making my brief visit a joy.

Tagline: ‘Carry on Doctor, Who needs to get Around the World’