Friday, 27 July 2012

Should chapters have titles?

Work in progress... titles and all!
Here's an interesting question:- should a novel's chapters have titles or numbers? Do you notice chapter titles? Does it make a difference to the book?

The comic novel I'm writing - The UnDead Residents Association - does have chapter titles at the moment. I always liked the idea and it has helped me navigate around the story as I have written it (I think a lot of writers do this - see the NANOWRIMO forum on this) Does it help the reader too?

My titles are relevant to the story: Grave Undertakings, A Spell in the Library, The Stakeout and I even thought I might use bits of relevant local authority jargon as subtitles to the chapter titles ( 'post-preventative measures' 'co-terminus stakeholder agreement' etc)... or maybe just use a bit of that sort of thing as subtitles to the (un-named) three parts the book is also divided into.

There's an interesting view on the subject in the Gotham Writers Workshop which says chapter titles can add layers of meaning, like Quoyle's knots in The Shipping Forecast... kind of what I was going for with the jargon subtitles. And Nathan Blansford's many followers gave titles a general thumbs up too - though it might be different for kids' books.

But I already have 40 chapters, but because I use various points of view, they don't all have a new chapter, just extra spaces with a *** between. Maybe they should all have new chapters? But then there might be too many too reasonably have titles for.

Help!!  What do YOU think?

Thursday, 26 July 2012

The Pong of Poetry

I'm off poetry. I am. I've been in a few poetry-related situations recently which have made me think of hanging up my haikus and shoving my anapests up my assonance.

A couple of events where it was only poets performing to other poets, a shouty guest night and an under-publicised and rather forced 'workshop' involving table tennis, balls with things written on them have conspired to make me question what exactly I am trying to do, and why...

Poets empty rooms

In five minutes flat
Poets watch poets... because they're 'up' next
we clear whole tables in cafes and pubs,
causing a disorderly egress
from all kinds of event.

We open our mouths and it’s as if
someone in the back row
has shouted: ‘Fire!’ or ‘Free ice cream!’
the way they scamper for the exits
as though our very words are painful
pointed at them, poisoning their minds.
It’s true – I know poets who do.

Ah, the power of the poets’ words
'Darling, we're leaving. That's Broken Biro!'
to knee jerk you from your comfortable position,
have you running for cover,
covering your ears, refusing to hear.

Poets are faster and calmer
than riot police, less brutal... usually.
Stand us in front of the National Front
at crucial junctions of Tottenham orToxteth,
let us open our frightening mouths
and speak. See those hooded, would-be 
thugs put down their weapons,
look at their watches, mumble something
Batty about poetry... is just plain batty
about having to be somewhere else.

If you need a seat on a bus – ask one of us.
Stuck at the back of a crowd?  See how we
part the sea of people like the Moses of poesy.
How our audiences shrink not swell
at every clerihew and villanelle.

Bring us in at closing time to get the punters
draining glasses, or cafĂ©’s were pensioners
linger on and buy no drinks,
or parks where youths loiter at sundown
causing alarm by laughing and being young.
a load of balls
Summon us wherever people outstay
their welcome: traffic jams, complaints desks,
refugee camps. Let our self-indulgent sestinas
evacuate tall buildings, entire towns.

Poets clear fields and promenades,
empty the deckchairs around bandstands
faster than a sudden downpour.
Use us in wars: front line rhymesters
who send our enemies back to the bunkers;
or during dubious interrogations
extracting prompt confessions with
the drip drip drip
of our water torture words.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Slug Apocalypse

If you have delicate sensibilities, look away now... and not sluggishly!

I have so many slugs and snails in the garden I am pretty close to making a little boy. I've tried live and let live, I've tried physical barriers and organic deterrents...

...but my strawberries have been scoffed, my marigolds have all been munched to stumps, my lupins nibbled to twiggy skeletons... and those poor defenseless baby lettuces didn't stand a chance. The only thing in the garden without bite marks is the bird bath.

I have several friends who are organic gardeners, who work in sustainability, and/or who are Buddhists. I'm not proud of what I've done, but I'm trying to be sustainable by growing things for ME to eat! (OK, not the lupins, fair point). So on Sunday night I launched a new offensive... out came the little blue bullets. Am I Bad and Wrong?

As penance, today I cleared up the carnage*...

Slug (and snail) apocalypse

"Now I am become Death, the destroyer of worlds."
J Robert Oppenheimer 

* Number one reason not to use slug pellets is that it can harm birds and frogs if they eat the pellets (that's why they're blue - to make them unattractive to birds) or the poisoned slugs or snails. More about this here.

Sunday, 15 July 2012

Slim Olympic Pickings

If you want to see the Games you're in for the high jump.
What do you think about the Olympic Games? Has anyone got tickets? Does anyone know how many seats are altogether for all the events over the weeks of the Games? I only seem to know one or two people that have a ticket to even one event - although I know plenty of English-speaking unemployed people who would be great security guards, if you're listening (to anybody!) G4S!

This has all been sparked by this post from Anne on The Day After Yesterday about the Olympic torch's journey through our land. The torch - which seems to have been going around longer than Steve Redgrave - came through Birkenhead Park, ooh, about a year ago, and although initially excited, the feeling faded fast when I thought about how sad it would be if that's the closest we got to being involved somehow, what 'seeing it' would actually add to my life. There's also a bad taste already over the whole ticket business with the hurdles of confusion, expense and frustration.

It's worth mentioning that the last time someone was sprinting through the streets of Birkenhead in a tracky with a burning torch they were setting fire to cars in 'the riots'.

What do YOU think? Is London 2012 a good thing for the UK? Will all go swimmingly and we should just be glad to host it even if we can still only see it relayed on telly? Or are we all being ripped off again by big corporate interests who are flogging high priced tickets to their mates and we will end up still having to pay for it ourselves?

Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Theatrical Manoeuvres in the Dark

I promise to stop going on about it after this, but just wanted to share some pics of the premiere of 'Enola Gay' on Sunday. The play, which I co-wrote, had various teething troubles but it really was all right on the night - we got a really positive response from the 80 or so people who came - including Andy McCluskey from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, who wrote the 1980 song of the same name and kindly allowed us to use it.
Writers Naomi Green (far left) and me with the cast,
producer John Gorman (far right) and Andy McClusky
Our Japanese star, Kana Nagashima with harpist
Keiko Sassa. The stage was split between an
apartment in Hiroshima and the front of the
American B29, 'Enola Gay' during its mission to
drop the world's first atomic bomb on the city.
Andy McCluskey said I'd written 'a great script' *blushes*
We're hoping to have a short run of it in the autumn, but meanwhile, here's the original video of the song from 1980:

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

The countdown continues

Eeek! The 'play what I (co)wrote' is premiering in just five days time here in Wirral as part of the Festival of Firsts.

We had the dress rehearsal for 'Enola Gay' at the weekend and for various reasons, it's the first time I've seen the whole thing together. The stage is split into two - half of it is the part I wrote which is set in the cockpit of the B29 bomber on it's fateful journey, and half of it is set in the new home of a young Japanese woman who has moved to Hiroshima to escape the fire-bombing of Tokyo.

I mentioned in an earlier post how John Gorman came up with the idea after meeting Andy McCluskey of Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark. What I haven't mentioned is that first we lost the original Japanese writer and then we lost two of the the three actors needed for the bomber crew (yes I know there were more than 3 crew on the Enola Gay, but this is theatre dahlink, we don't need to show everything). So there have been traumas along the way.

Also, it's being performed in St Luke's Church - a lovely venue but not equipped for the lighting we need.

But it's all systems go for the big night, the performers are all great (and I have very exciting news about one of them I'm not allowed to mention until the weekend for (his) contractual reasons). Fingers crossed your truly doesn't bugger up the sound effects!

Sneak preview at dress rehearsal

Monday, 2 July 2012

Where was I?

I just spent a week in Puerto Pollenca, Mallorca.
It's in the north west of the island, where it gets really lumpy
...and pointy - this is the Formentor peninsula,
and yes, I drove to the very end
... which involved a lot of roads like this one - and worse!
There are some lovely beaches for swimming - but the sea isn't
always quite so accessible... and my travelling companion
prefers route marches in 107F (43C) degree  heat to all that
lozzing around in the sun nonsense.

Some people had other things on their mind last week

... but meanwhile, at the restaurant at the end of the pier
my fish platter was about the size of the table when it came!
(But the pics are to gruesome to show!)
You are now entering the twilight zone