Showing posts with label Writing Practice. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Writing Practice. Show all posts

Tuesday, 18 August 2020

The Coffee Cup Killer : Chapter One

For the sheer heck of it, to find out how it sounds and to celebrate finishing the first round of editing, I read out the first chapter of The Coffee Cup Killer, The Second Jake Jones Mystery, on video. Then I added noir jazz music and black and white old film effects. Because why not?

The Coffee Cup Killer A Jake Jones Mystery Prequel to The Old Mice Killer Coming Soon ... © Chris R Young 2020 Music : MrSnooze

Thursday, 13 December 2018

The May Gollum Video

It's not easy being a non-conformist. It means I often adopt unpopular positions and play devil's advocate just for the heck of it. But for the purposes of writing practice, let's take a look at a recent video that's making waves on social media at the moment.

The May Gollum video, featuring Andy Serkis, the original actor who outstandingly portrayed Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy and much more, has been doing the rounds since Dec 9 2018.

I just want to start off by saying, I agree with the main goal of this video, which I believe to be to encourage a People's Vote - in other words a second EU referendum. I think this is a good idea, because it's such a huge, important contentious issue and a lot of things have come to light since the last one, that many people will probably have changed their minds.

Secondly, I have absolute respect for Andy Serkis, the Lord of the Rings is hands down one of my favourite books and movie franchises. It is a wonderful life's work by many people, not least JRR Tolkien.

Thirdly, this video is very effective and emotionally jarring because of that. Quite shocking actually, due to the ties we have with the Lord of the Rings films and a huge nod must be given to Andy for an excellent and faithful performance for a political cause he must believe in enough to reprise the role.

Fourthly, I myself sometimes turn to ridiculing those I feel are in the wrong, regarding Barclays and Fracking, for example.

So why do I feel something here is a bit off? Something that prohibits me from jumping wholeheartedly behind this video and spreading it like wildfire? I've already stated I agree with its message, I appreciate it as a valid method for influencing the people, it's an interesting, non-violent creative attack using humour which I'm all for. So why does it stick in my craw?

I'll be honest, I voted Leave. The reason is simply that because I believed in the UK being able and better suited to make its own decisions, and I wanted my vote to matter more. That was the core of my thinking. I had/have nothing against immigration policies. I had/have nothing against Europe or Europeans. I just suspected that we were handing over the reins to a third party when we should be holding them ourselves. 

I held no great love for the Euro, as I missed the times when you could travel Europe and see lira, francs, drachma, punts, and lamented that those cultural characteristics will be lost forever. 

Also, the EU didn't seem to be working for Greece, who had lost the ability to fluctuate its own currency and was now dependent on loans. (This is disagreed with here but monetary policy inflexibility is cited as a reason on wikipedia.) As will be obvious I don't know much about economics, but this sounded like a problem. If it could happen to Greece, perhaps it could happen to us. Other European countries, such as Norway and Switzerland, are not in the EU, so living apart from the EU must be possible, so why shouldn't we?

That was my thinking back then. But as I will point out, things have come to light.

Incidentally, my humble videography company was commissioned to create a video privately regarding reasons for leaving the EU, which can be seen here:

To be honest I had not really thought about it either way by the time we made this video, but as a media business, I wasn't going to turn away money to do a job. I would have gladly accepted payment to do a 'Remain' video as well, but no-one asked me to. I took professional pride in this video. A man had something to say and wanted us to be his mouth piece, which I appreciated and respected. He made valid points and I was no doubt swayed by them.

The morning of the result I was actually surprised that we'd won.

But many things have come to light since the vote.

A. The Northern Ireland Border problem.

I confess, I never thought about this before voting and now think this may be a good reason to change my mind if there's a People's Vote.

B. The EU has implemented a lot of laws to help and protect the environment, which I'm beginning to suspect the UK may not actually stick to post Brexit.

C. I've sadly lost faith in the UK being able to make the best decisions for itself and the planet. 

But back to the May Gollum video. I've identified five points, five areas where I find myself personally irked by it.

Point 1. The video is well directed, shot and acted and it scares the hell out of me. But one thing that puts me off is that making fun of mental illness, ie multiple personality disorder, is basically what is going on here. Something with this weapon of choice does not sit right. Mental health is a huge issue with several friends, family and clients I know struggling in their own different ways. If we go around doing Gollum impressions of every person we don't like, who is different, who is struggling, what message is this giving out to people?

Point 2. Next. Forevermore Gollum, that fantastic, tragic, wonderful, terrible creature in the Lord of the Rings, who basically (spoiler alert) saved Middle Earth due to having a penchant for finger food, the subject of creative art featured in book and film form, will remind me of Theresa May, Brexit, Conservatives, and politics. And it cannot be undone. The connection wasn't there before, but now it is. I'll watch my Lord Of The Rings Special Edition DVD Box Set over New Year, look at Gollum and think, 'Oh yeah, Theresa May and Brexit, how messed up was all that?' Something treasured and cherished, that Andy himself provided, has now sadly been withdrawn. I had been given something which was perfect - wonderful - a golden apple that I expected to shine and glitter and value for the rest of eternity, and then it was kind of ruined, hijacked for political purposes. Someone sold out. For perhaps an admirable cause, but nevertheless. What are the thoughts of Peter Jackson on this? Tolkien's estate?

Point 3. I'm not a conservative by any means, but Theresa May, for all the perceived faults and injustices that she may seem to have caused, after being handed a sackful of manure by David Cameron ("Here you are, I'm off.") is actually carrying out what the British public asked her to do. And we have to give her credit for carrying through what has turned out to be a hugely unpopular decision. Making her a villain or comparing her to someone with mental health issues for showing resolution, gumption and mettle in the face of enormous adversity, is too much. 

Point 4. We had a vote. A decision was made. That's the nature of Democracy. We can't blame her for doing what we asked her to do, even though we might have changed our mind. In retrospect maybe it should have been stipulated that a 60-40 majority was needed to make such a devastating change to the country and Europe, but ultimately, we already had a People's Vote, and she's sticking to it. Why are we mocking courage? Why are we laughing at resolve? Why are we comparing a person, any person, to Gollum?

Point 5. It's a personal attack on a public forum on someone out on a limb. Have we no empathy left? Have we no common decency? What on earth is happening to this country? Why don't we just poke her with a sharp stick? I may ridicule Barclays Bank managers in general but I would never dream of calling out one specific manager of one specific branch on a public forum and say for example, "Hey, Mr XYZ, you eat raw fish, have a speech impediment, may be suffering early stages of bronchitis, just want to be happy, have single handedly saved the modern world, suffer from mental health problems and are a bit of a shady character!" Would I? No. Because that would be weird.

My father once said there are three things you don't do speeches about: sex, religion and politics (unless you're a standup comedian I guess). But if you look closely at this you'll find it's not really about politics, it's about the difference between a character assassination attempt versus simply disagreeing with someone while being nice to them. A skill that as a nation we seem to be sadly losing. 

Saturday, 3 November 2018

The Writing of Ode to Eleanor

As a Hallowe'en writing exercise for West Lothian Writers, we were asked to write a piece of no more than 1000 words to read out on Tuesday 30th October 2018, and my brain kind of erupted with the poem Ode To Eleanor, about a young Scottish man who was in a gothic, restless piece of mind over an ex-girlfriend who'd broken his heart.

On the Sunday I sat down in front of the blank page and thought I'd try to write a funny poem in the style of Edgar Allan Poe's The Raven. Recently I'd had good feedback when I read out chapter one of my Aa Apple's Great Escape children's book, so I hoped it might be quite entertaining to do another one.

A friend by the name of Mark Aspinwall had long ago for a birthday or Christmas present given me an audio recording of someone reading The Raven, which I really liked listening to, so thanks must go to him, and in my younger days I often tried and enjoyed reading Robert Burns to myself, even though it was quite difficult to understand, but once you finally penetrated it you were often rewarded with gems of great cutting wit. Thirdly, I thoroughly loved reading the likes of the centipede's long rambling poetic monologues in "James and the Giant Peach" by Roald Dahl, to my son, especially places where Dahl bent the arbitrary rules he had set himself, and made words that seemed to have no business rhyming, rhyme.

The first page came out in a happy flood of lyrical nonsense. It was only when I came to the lines :

at least they did in my mind's______,
which had recorded every scary scene

when I realised I had to do the whole poem in Scots, or at least a Scottish accent, as the only word I could come up with to mean 'eye' that rhymed with 'scene' was the old scots word 'een'. Up until that point the narrator was going to be a rather pompous English or American person.

When I came to the lines:

as I heard a voice shriek from the black
“It's just yer maw, dye want a snack?”

I found myself in a spot of bother. It meant a conversation with his mother had to take place. But what about? I had no idea. And anyway, he already had a snack - a fact I hoped the readers wouldn't notice what with all the other crazy goings on. Eventually it became a bit of a telling off about some ex girlfriend the narrator was still hung up about. But I still had no clue where this was going or if I'd be able to continue or end this piece of writing in a satisfying way that made any kind of sense, ridiculous or otherwise. Efforts to find words that rhymed with 'Raven' that I could use were completely in vain, and having a mother that was 'unshaven' didn't seem to fit. 

It was only when I found myself writing the lines:

"Wasn't she the third
to leave you lying in the dust?
It's not all about nice bum and bust.”

that I saw the glinting light of a possible escape route. At least perhaps I could have a bust of some sort above the chamber door.

The happiest I felt when writing was around the lines:

I gasped on chocolate milky breath
and damn near almost choked to death
as I heard a voice shriek from the black

as I think that was the cresting climax of the suspense part of the poem, after which I began to think, "What on earth have I gotten myself into?" and then it all folded into a silly mess as I tried to dig out of the grave I'd cheerfully and unwittingly dug for myself.

From start to finish the poem took about three days.

After finally finishing this my mind was still wanting to think in rhyming couplets. Like when you play too much scrabble your brain automatically jumbles up the letters of words you see, even unbidden. 

It was only when doing the video that the gesturing to the cropped image of Eleanor's bum and bust above the chamber door after each stanza came about, which I probably stole from Noel Fielding's hilarious Goth in the IT Crowd. It's ironic that after reading the poem for the video so many times I'm now more able to recite large chunks from memory, especially aloud to myself while driving along the M8 on my way somewhere.

Apologies to all concerned.

Sunday, 22 April 2018

Synonyms of 'feasible'

Every now and then I get a sinking feeling that my vocabulary (along with many other useful mental processes) is slowly deteriorating. So occasionally from now on I might post random synonyms and words of the day from a dip into my thesaurus and/or dictionary.

Today's random synonym is : feasible.

feasible = practicable, possible, reasonable, viable, workable, achievable, attainable, likely ≠ impracticable 

'Feasible' in itself is not a very common or overly used word. Most people usually nowadays say 'doable', which I think is quite a new trendy oversimplified version of 'possible'.

EG. "Shall we meet on Thursday at 2pm? Is that doable?"

Image credit : feasible region

Wednesday, 18 April 2018

The Coffee Cup Killer Begins

This morning (safely back in Scotland) I finally broke ground on the next part of the Jake Jones detective series. As I mentioned before, it's going to be a prequel, because I think The Old Mice Killer would be better as a climax than a hard act to follow. 

To contrast with the November chill of the first one, The Coffee Cup Killer will take place in the heat of the summer months, and will be salt and peppered with connections to the OM Killer. Jake's parents are gone, he still has his pot plants and he still sits with his feet up on the desk while reading the newspaper waiting for mystery and intrigue to knock on his door. Innocent victims are disappearing, but whether they are due to the OM Killer or something else ... who knows? You'll have to buy the book to find out :)

I'm trying to keep the flow going after the writing accomplished over the holiday, but without much special to write I'm forced to focus on fiction, which is the main goal anyway.

The reasons I tried to write every day about our trip to Japan are threefold. First, I have such a terrible memory now (as I'm sure you'll have noticed) that I feel it's a shame not to record such a trip for posterity. Second, to practise writing and try to get some kind of handle on this thing; some kind of understanding or insight into my own writing - the good and the bad - perhaps even find my own style or voice. Third, to practice self publishing. After all, isn't that what writing a blog is? You put ads on your blog pages, you write something that you hope people will find engaging and come back to for more, and with luck someone clicks on an ad and you (rather than Facebook or Twitter) make a little something from it. Also, daily stats might be a good indicator as to whether what you're writing is actually readable or not. Is it consistent, and if so, consistently good or consistently bad? 

Imagine if you will, a farmer who discovers his horse poops diamonds. He is understandably overjoyed and looks forward to becoming rich and never having to work the fields again. Unfortunately the diamonds are very small, and he has to sift through the manure on his hands and knees wearing a jeweller's eye loupe all the time. He has a bad back, the manure smells, the light is dim at dawn when we all know horses are more likely to poop diamonds, and he would much rather be working the fields or even sitting in his armchair reading a good book.

Word for the day
That's what I think my writing is like. Tiny diamonds in large piles of horse manure. The trick must be to make the diamonds bigger, or at least produce more of them, and reduce the manure as much as possible. Then, and only then, will the farmer become a rich man.

Let's accept then two rules of writing.

1. Include more diamonds.
2. Cut out more manure.

Hey at least manure is good for growing things.

It's hard work to read a blog everyday. If what I write does not hold any recurring value then there's only one person to blame, and that's myself. I completely understand that. That's why I'm doing it. Feedback loop. Writing: Response. There should be something for the readers to gain to make them want to come back - that's what I'm trying to drum into my own thick head.

It's like karaoke - you've got good singers, bad singers, and people in the bar just trying to get on with their evening. The drinkers suffer the bad singers because they understand that it's only going to be the length of a song and they empathise with the singer and know that to them, singing is nice. But if they're honest they would rather listen to a good singer, because there's something in it for them, be it a pleasant feeling, a memory of better times, music and tone and rhythm combining to conduct the kind of magic that only music mysteriously can.

© Chris Young 2018

Tuesday, 13 March 2018

By the time you read this my coffee will be gone

Since when did a £2.25 'Short Cafe Latte' be Italian for 'Espresso with milk'? Here's my drink next to a 50p for perspective. (To be fair I have drunk most of it already) No way am I going to be able to make this last the time it takes my car to get MOT'd... 

Well anyway, here I am in sunny Falkirk for my bi-annual visit to SDM Toyota to get my car examined. (SDM sounds a lot kinkier than it actually is. Every time I go in with my car to be serviced expecting the staff to be wearing gimp masks and latex suits with whips and chains, I'm bitterly disappointed.)

Driving home the other night I was getting flashed left right and centre, despite my lights being clearly on in front of me, so after  pulling into a side road and checking the back of the car I discovered that neither of my rear lights was on. The brake lights worked fine, but for a car driving up behind me it must have been pretty surprising and a bit dangerous. So I switched on my fog lights so at least one of them was illuminated at the back and drove the remainder of the journey home relatively unflashed. 

Hopefully the nice people at SDM will change the bulbs for me. Serves me right for not doing my weekly checks at home which I gave up doing after years of faithfully looking over my faithful SAAB and never finding anything wrong. It always surprises me when I check the oil in my 2nd hand Toyota Hybrid and find it actually cooking-oil coloured, compared to the black sooty colour of my trusty-yet-nausea-inducing diesel SAAB of yesteryear.

One of the things I like about Falkirk is that you can still find a broken piece of a lorry at the side of the road. A small rusty curved bit of metal that has obviously come off a delivery truck you could imagine bringing much-needed sacks of coal to a terraced house down a side street back in the day. 

I have to say though, joking aside, SDM Toyota are an awesome garage with great service at a decent price. That's the reason I drive all the way up to Falkirk twice a year instead of taking it to my local Kwik Fit. SDM know their stuff and the always give me the car back washed and valeted. They even (and most importantly) do a health check on the hybrid battery and provide another year's guarantee each year for free, which I'm very happy with, as this was the main thing I was concerned about having to replace post-warranty. Very impressed, and my satisfaction is not smudged, dented, or needs to be realigned whatsoever by the lack of black-laced leather or the size of the coffees in the local Starbucks. 

Saturday, 10 March 2018

A 'Funny' Facebook Post

Well, it's Saturday morning and it's raining, so here I am sitting in Morrisons drinking my cafe latte and pondering life's imponderables.

I woke up in a curious frame of mind this morning. I came to with the realisation that Facebook is no longer a place for fun. Gone are the days when you could post whatever you felt like. Your wall is no longer your own. Jokes and humour, puns and plays on words, once revered and respected with almost shaman-like adulation, are sadly now looked down upon as silly bygone antics. Nowadays, Facebook is for seven things: advertising, self promotion, politics, emotional ranting, arguments, work, and terrorist recruitment.

Do you remember when things first took off; it was all about playing games like werewolf battles, making jokes using the third person status format, and doing silly things and laughing at each other? Not any more. Confined to Ancient History are the days when you could scan an image of your own rear and post it on Facebook. Affixing a rude picture on someones's wall for a bit of a laugh on their birthday is now considered off limits. You're not even allowed to tag anyone without their consent.

Steve Martin describes it well in 'Roxanne'. 

Imagine if you will, two friends chatting on a park bench after a long period apart.

"So, what do you do now?"

"Well, I do Facebook."

"Oh, great, is it hard?"

"Not really, you just log in and post a few items trying to amuse people. Then you scan a few posts and resist falling into a bottomless, downwardly spiralling pit of depression and self-loathing looking at everyone else's successes and beautiful faces, and then log off. That's about it."

"Hmm. And how's the pay?"

"Oh, you don't get paid for it."

"What? You mean you write quality content based on your life and those you love and cherish in an attempt to entertain several hundred other people, and Facebook don't even pay you?"

"I know, it's kind of strange when you think about it. In fact they make money off the back of your efforts. Sometimes they do produce half-assed automated cute little videos about your posts to reward you on your birthday, at New Year, on a so called 'Friendversary' etc. But that hardly makes it worthwhile."

"Wow. Okay. Then why do you do it?"

"Good question. No idea. Probably because everybody else does it. Because we've always done it. Because now and again you get 3 or more little red-on-blue notifications, which releases some kind of addictive hormone in your brain and makes you feel special for about 20 minutes, and you think 'This is it! This post is going to sky rocket!' but then it doesn't and you get morose again, while faceless algorithms day by day, moment by moment, quantify the happiness in your life, thus reducing your existence to a mere number."


"Basically we're already enslaved by AIs, forced to push a huge stone wheel relentlessly round and round day in day out, without a break, for nothing but emotional bread and water, grinding the bones of our friends and family to dust to feed Them intravenously. Because that's what Facebook AI algorithms need to thrive. Not 240V AC or 12V DC. Not fossil fuels or solar power. What They feed on is the ground up, desiccated corpse-dust of your own humanity. They would laugh long and loud in a terrifying, insane, digitally autotuned guffaw, if only they could understand irony. But they don't. That's the one thing that separates us."

Still from Ursus In The Land Of Fire