Wednesday, December 20, 2006

'Block' for Christmas

I sometimes feel like stamping my feet and screaming ‘I want to be a writer’ as loudly and as whiny as possible, because I feel so frustrated. At the moment, I’m feeling tired and ‘blocked’ creatively. I just can’t envisage the world I’m trying to write about. I sit, staring at a blank computer screen and can’t seem to connect with what I’m doing. I’m battling two instincts – the first to have a break and try not to write anything until I feel ‘better’, and the second to just keep going, and write anything, even if it is dire, in the hope that something will eventually click into place.

I’ve been doing some research into great writers, and, of course, all of them had to do other occupations before they got their first book published. But what it doesn’t tell you in these biographies is when they found the time to write their masterpieces in between being court transcribers, ministers, journalists, shoe polishers and the like. But then, I guess Dickens et al didn’t have the distractions of television and computer games when they came home from work, and only had their own stories to escape into. I read an article about a fairly new contemporary novelist who is working on her second novel and has to get up at 4am to write for a couple of hours before commuting to her full-time ‘day’ job. I don’t think I could do that, I really couldn’t. I remember when I was in the sixth form, and I’d get home at 3pm and go straight upstairs and write for a couple of hours… I really need to stop reminiscing and work out a way to do that now without having to get up before the birds do.

On a separate note, I found this website that contains free e-books of pretty much everything that is no longer in copyright in the USA. So far I’ve downloaded a couple of Charles Dickens novels, Daniel Deronda by George Eliot and The Woman in White by Wilkie Collins. So if you want to catch up with your favourite Victorian novelists, go to:

This will most certainly be my last blog entry before the holiday, so I just wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! I will be back soon though, full of turkey and gluten-free minced pies!
Lucy :-)

Monday, December 18, 2006

The Festive Season

I am in good spirits right now (no, I'm not bathing in brandy), as it is almost Christmas and I have almost finished work for the holidays. I've got no plans really for the next few weeks, so I am really hoping to turn my attentions to my writing (and possibly learning my lines for Company) rather than sitting on the sofa watching endless TV.

There's a writing competition called 'Green and (un)pleasant Lands' that I am going to try hard to enter, for which I have to write a proposal of the story I want to write about English folklore for 31st December. I've been researching English myths today, and I'm trying to decide how to tackle my story - to contemporise something or to create my own myth about a place or a building. I'm still not sure, but when I start thinking about it, I start remembering Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and then start plagiarising that instead.

I keep forgetting about deadlines for competitions until the last minute. Wish I had a BlackBerry, that would be superb. I know it's still a little bit early, but one of my new year's resolutions is to be more organised and enter more stories into competitions, magazines, etc. 2007 IS going to be the year that I finish my novel too. I really need to stay motivated and keep writing. Hopefully 2007 will be a successful year.

Friday, December 15, 2006

The New 'Jazz Age'

I have decided to write a novella or short story about a stripper. I know that Seb is currently writing/has written a story about a woman who works in a strip club/is a stripper, but my story is going to be a bit different (though I thought they could possibly both work in the same club, if Seb liked the idea!).

Anyway, the plot is a little vague at the moment. I've been heavily inspired by 1920s New York and the 'Jazz Age', and I think it's not such a far stretch to imagine that we are living in the new Jazz Age - many defining features are the same, such as concern with technological advances, individualism, and hedonism. I'm going to try to take my inspiration from the writings of F. Scott and Zelda Fizgerald, and Joseph Moncure March and write a modernist account of the life of this girl in contemporary society. By modernist, I mean being more concerned about the character's 'life force' rather than a realistic representation of the world. Modernism was also a feature of the Jazz Age, so fits in nicely with the style and tone I'm aiming for.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Blogger in Beta

This is what the Blogger help page says under: "Why is Blogger switching to Google Accounts".

"Google Accounts are better protected against fraud, impersonation, and abuse. In addition, by switching your Blogger account to a Google Account, it will be easier to use other Google services like AdWords, Google Groups, Google Alerts, Froogle Shopping List, Personalized Search, your Personalized Homepage, Google Answers, and many future Google services."

What I read from this is that Blogger have come up with a load of things that normal people don't actually ever use (AdWords, Froogle shopping list anyone?) and tried to put a positive spin on it, as they don't like or don't want to disclose the real answer. Surely the simple and honest explanation would be "Google is offering us loads of money, so screw you guys, we're rich!", rather than this load of crap?

I don't want to change. If I wanted to use those services, I would. But I don't. And one thing I've noticed that I don't like about Beta is that unless your email/account address is the name of your Blog alias, there seems no way to alter it (perhaps I'm wrong?).

So I'm not changing. Serves them right for not answering the question: "What if I don't want to switch?" properly in their help section.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Tidy House, Tidy Mind

I had a really nice weekend. For once I wasn't working, so I spent both days relaxing and doing jobs around the house. I did everything on the list I set myself, and I feel proud of my accomplishments. Yes, I only did the washing up - it wasn't like I made some sort of scientific breakthrough or solved the Middle East crisis - but I still felt satisfied that I had done something. And it got me thinking that even doing something small and managable, like the washing up, can have an impact on your life. Would it be possible to stage a play wherein someone has a life-altering experience simply because they did the washing up? Probably not (who would go to watch it?), but I think its important to note that it doesn't have to be all car-explosions and anal rape to be 'dramatic'.
Anyway, my cleaning my house - and myself - up has pulled me out of my mean blues, at least for the short-term. I had a think about my novel over the weekend, and I think it's best to progress 'NaNoWriMo' -style until I complete the first draft, meaning that I should just plough on, and if I feel blocked or bored then just skip to the bit that I want to write a little bit further on. I'm not rehearsing this week either, so I'm going to try to give myself some writing time, perhaps at lunchtimes at work. Am going to try really hard to be productive and motivated, at least until my house gets messy again...

Thursday, December 07, 2006

'Inter Vivos' and Gunman story

I have been thinking about my NaNoWriMo novel, Inter Vivos. I know that the month is over, but I really liked the characters and story premise that I created, so I'm going to continue on with it, in the hope of completing a first draft by April. When writing prose, I always get stuck at the point when my characters need to travel from one place to another. I find it really hard to get them from point A to point B. I want my characters to go from the mental institution to one of my other characters' house, but I feel like I need to document the journey there. So they are now stuck, having just escaped from the asylum, and are standing there, tapping their feet impatiently at me (like Sonic the Hedgehog used to do if you made him stand still too long). I think that as I'm currently writing it in first person, I can skim all the boring details and have my narrator be retrospective on the trip so, "before we knew it we were there". It's annoying, because I know pretty much how the whole story is going to be mapped out, apart from the 'travelling' bits. Grr!

Have just written my Momentum homework, for which we had to take a news story and come up with a couple of scenes and some characters. I've taken a story about a man in Germany who went back to his old school, shot some kids and then killed himself. I've called the gun man Shaun (taken from Shaun of the Dead there folks!), and have given him a love affair with his former teacher, Jess. When things start to go wrong, he finds himself losing control and the only way he feels he can regain some control is to go into the school with a gun. When he accidentally kills one of the students, he then kills himself (leaving poor old Jess to deal with the mess). I'm not sure if I will try to develop this into a full-blown play (I actually see it in my head as a TV drama), but I quite liked my character Jess - she's a very strong woman, very moralistic, very sensible, but incredible lonely, and she does really connect with Shaun. So we'll see where it goes.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Response to article below

I really despise Desdemona and Ophelia and Juliet. They are pathetic. All of them could have taken their fates in their own hands and said 'No thank you, I think I can do better' and rode off into the sunset. Instead they die tragic deaths because, ultimately, they do what they are told. Desdemona just lies there and lets her husband strangle her (as you do), Ophelia goes insane and kills herself because Hamlet doesn't love her anymore (teen angst if ever there was some), and Juliet kills herself because she didn't have sense to run off with Romeo when he got banished. The only reason I wanted any one of those parts when I was acting at University was because those parts (thoses types of role) always go to the skinny pretty girls who don't necessarily act very well, but who look the part. So basically, being cast as 'Juliet' is like some male director going 'yeah, you're pretty', and I know a lot of girls needed that self-esteem boost (I know I did at the time).
Now, I like this article, because what it's saying is that this sort of stereotype works the other way. The only interesting strong women in theatre (or at least the main contenders for the title) are murderers. In other words, only by acting 'anti-feminine' can a female role be considered equal to a man's. I know this is an age-old feminist argument, but I think it proves the point here. You get anti-heros all the time for male actors, characters who aren't kings or soldiers but everyday Joes who go through something tragic. No one cares about Willy Loman's wife (for example), who also goes through tragedy. Sure, if she'd have killed her husband then she'd be one of the all time greatest female roles in history, but she doesn't.
I'm trying to come up with my 'point', and it's difficult because obviously being a woman, and acting on occasion, I would love to create a role (or even better several roles) for women where they weren't passive but at the same time they didn't have to pull the trigger, stab someone through the heart or poision anyone to be considered meaty roles. How to do that though seems trickier than it should be.

Sympathy for the She-devils

Thought this article was really interesting about women characters in theatre. I've cut and paste the article as often links don't work once the article has been archived (I've found).

"Sympathy for the she-devils
From Lady Macbeth to Thérèse Raquin, the stage has always adored a brutal murderess. So what do these parts tell us about women? Not much, writes Lyn Gardner - but they speak volumes about the male writers who created them.

Wednesday November 8, 2006The Guardian

Everyone loves a bad girl, particularly in the theatre. Our stages are littered with the corpses of deadly women, from Medea to Lady Macbeth, from Vittoria in the White Devil, to Oscar Wilde's sexy Salome. These are women who pass through men's lives like a curse, leaving only death and destruction behind. Even in pantomime, Snow White's wicked stepmother looms large, another example of the age-old appeal of female villains.
A couple of thousand years before the movies got in on the act with their smoky femmes fatales, and deadly women such as Catherine Trammell in Basic Instinct, theatre regularly offered up images of women who were allowed to take centre stage because their murderous actions meant they were no longer seen to be behaving like women, but more like men.
In drama, these unnatural creatures had to be caught, tamed and punished as a lesson to other women. That is, if they did not have the decency to go mad and kill themselves, like Lady Macbeth and Thérèse Raquin, the latter now showing in a new stage version at the National. Raquin, in Emile Zola's famous 19th-century novel, succumbs to the madness of love and murder, and is then driven mad by guilt.
When Euripides flouted theatrical tradition by allowing Medea, the child-killer, to escape unpunished, the playwright Aristophanes rebuked him in verse. The idea that women who kill do not behave like ideal women, but more like men is summed up not only by Lady Macbeth's line "unsex me here", but also by Dame Edith Evans' observation on being offered the role of the Scottish murderess: "It's absolutely out of the question. I could never impersonate a woman who had such a peculiar notion of hospitality." Lady Macbeth's sins, it seems, were not confined to regicide but extended to womanly failures of housekeeping and etiquette.
Goneril and Regan in King Lear, too, often seem shocking not for how they wage war and encourage torture, but for the fact they have so little patience - very much a female virtue - with quarrelsome old people. Similarly, the wicked queen in Snow White must be punished not just for her ingenious, if frankly unwholesome, way with apples, but for failing to play her assigned role as a substitute mother to the vapid Snow White, a young woman whose tedious obsession with housework sets her up as an icon of perfect femininity.
In theatre, it sometimes seems that the only way women can escape their gender roles and the terrible burden of femininity is by plunging a knife into a male breast or taking aim with a gun and making damn sure they don't miss. There's the avenging Clytemnestra, who takes a lover and kills her husband, in the Oresteia; Alice Arden, in the 1599 play Arden of Faversham, demonstrates a determination to dispatch her husband that outstrips the ludicrous attempts of her bungling male accomplices; and the lithe Beatrice-Joanna, in the 1622 revenge tragedy The Changeling, commits adultery and murder - and pays the price not just for killing but also for having found sexual satisfaction.
Like the later Victorian stories of villainous women and today's made-for-TV movie plots, many of these early plays were based on true-life crime stories. Arden of Faversham came from a circulating story about a brutal murder that struck horror into the Elizabethan breast, with its suggestion that death can lurk at home in the shape of an apparently dutiful wife.
The Changeling, too, had its roots not just in the exotic tales of faraway crimes, but also in the high-society scandal of Lady Frances Howard. Married in 1606, at the age 13, to the Earl of Essex, she became the mistress of the Earl of Somerset, with whom she eventually stood trial for murder.
Like their late 20th and 21st century movie counterparts, these women exert an allure that has little to do with the reasons why the majority of women kill - self-defence, domestic violence, mental abuse - and a great deal to do with an erotic fascination with female violence; these killers are depicted as lithe and lethal babes.
Not for nothing does the stage musical Chicago regularly advertise itself with teasing images of pouting, sexy young women dubbed as "natural blonde killers". One of these early advertisements even bore a passing resemblance to the infamous portrait of Myra Hindley, herself the subject of numerous TV dramas and stage plays - and a slew of one-woman shows without which no Edinburgh Fringe would be complete.
What these stage depictions of women as murderers conveniently forget is that, in real life, women are more likely to be the victims, not the perpetrators, of violence. The gory Theatre du Grand Guignol, founded in Paris in 1897, was undoubtedly lurid and sensational with its decapitations, blood and eyeballs rolling all over the stage. But it may have actually portrayed a more truthful reflection of the female experience of violence than our stages sometimes offer even today. One Guignol actress, Maxa, kept a tally of her demises there: she was murdered 10,000 times in more than 60 different ways. Whether or not female violence is on the rise, the reality is that women killers are still massively outnumbered by men.
Unsurprisingly, you'll find more actors queuing up to play Medea and Lady Macbeth than their more balanced sisters; both roles represent two of the peaks in any classical actress's career. Who wouldn't prefer playing a Salome or a Goneril over all those invisible good girls - a veritable army of Ophelias and Desdemonas, who, in plays written largely by men, stalk the stage like ghosts and dissolve before the play is done? These disappearances often pass virtually without comment, because these women were barely there in the first place - walk-on players in the dramas of men's lives.
The female killer, the passive woman turned predator, is a far more dazzling dramatic spectacle. Unlike the good girls who are so easily shoved into the wings and out of theatre history, the bad girls have been allowed to take their place centre stage and revel in it. In the theatre, if you're female, crime really does pay ..."