The year isn't quite so new now is it? But Happy New Year nevertheless and it's great to see Ceri at Writers Academy blogging here this year!
The tail end of 2008 had me battling with my ISP, I was reduced to a dial up internet connection for almost 6 weeks with only intermittent broadband. This made sending and receiving files like some sort of covert spooks operation - my editor would txt me to say she's pinging something across, I would plug in the laptop and dial up then wait half an hour for the doc to land in my in box. Surfing became impossible - it all felt quite weird, like living in a sort of vacuum that I felt aught to be filled with book reading, outings, crafting more stuff. Lord knows there's always stuff to do instead of searching for 'Tretchikoff Style Kitsch Lamp' on eBay.
It's all sorted now. New ISP, fully connected with a new Mac to boot.
My Xmas Casualty came and went - the Narcolepsy storyline plus the incident with the golf club and the missing teeth. For the first time ever, I wasn't at home watching when the episode was broadcast, I'd got a prior engagement - it being the Christmas season. I left my family dutifully poised in front of the TV to watch the drama unfold, whilst I went out dancing. It was a bittersweet experience, not unlike standing up a good friend.
At 8.05pm I felt incredibly twitchy and narked at all the people I was with - why weren't they at home watching my Casualty? I got a raft of texts from family and friends 50 minutes later, 'Well done' etc. The episode had been watched, been and gone - I could finally relax.
I have just submitted some Guest Pitches for my next Holby. These story ideas will have to 'signed off' in the next couple of days by the Series Producer, assuming they are original enough to be rubber stamped. The stories/characters I'm pitching may be too similar to other recent storylines, not 'medical enough' or simply not right for the show. This is a frustrating time because although my head says "wait" the writer in me has already moved these characters in, lock stock and barrel. I tried to avoid thinking about 'lad with Narcolepsy' before the story pitch was signed off for Casualty, but dammit I already knew his name and what he'd eat for breakfast most days - I was fleshing him out.
Narcolepsy boy was allowed to live, but the petty thief with one leg I'd dreamt up for one Holby episode had to put into the deep freeze - maybe I'll be able thaw him out for some other story.
As a writer on Continuing Drama, the ability to get the regular characters' voices right is often touted as the Holy Grail. Your own characters will naturally live and breathe your words, but the knack of knowing Elliot, Connie or Donna and understanding how each would react in any given situation is fundamental. This of course has to do with familiarity and knowing the shows. Fortunately I am a sponge. I am a 'good listener'. I am the quiet observer.
Thinking about how best to encourage this familiarity fell into place when I read about 'Thin Slicing' in Malcolm Gladwell's book "Blink" a year or so ago (you'll have to read it, far too much to go into for this little blog).
As an Academy graduate I was awed by the amount of backstory I imagined I would have to get under my belt in order to write for these shows. But as Gladwell expounds - a little bit of knowledge goes a long way. As does observation and trusting your instincts.
So I am instinctively writing the treatment for my next Holby episode. I have my 'mood board' of images for the story on the wall - it is broadcast in August, a nice summer story. I have my writing music of choice for this ep on the turntable - "Meet you at the Moon" by Imelda May. And I have my character cards lined up on the windowsill behind of my laptop.