a Death in the making


A few years ago, I had no desire to be a writer. I envied people who could but didn’t think I had it in me. I’m certainly not one of those people who always wanted to write. I may have loved reading since before I started school but always had the assumption I was neither original or insightful enough to write anything that anyone else might want to read. That all changed in early March 2007, when, as hackneyed as it sounds, I had a dream.

I’m not one of these people who applies mystical significance to dreams. I know it’s all connected to the complex way that brains process and store memories and experiences. Ever since my teens, I regularly wake up with music in my head which, to the best of my knowledge doesn’t exist anywhere else. Famously, that’s how Paul McCartney came up with the melody for ‘Yesterday’, but having discussed this with a few people, it would appear that Macca and I are in the minority with this. 

Those with an overactive god gene may believe they are hearing the voices of angels, and a quick google reveals plenty prepared to believe that, but I know it’s just my brain making things up. I’ll wake up with a fully formed new song in my head at least once a month. Over the years, entire albums worth of material have been washed down the plughole with the shower water and forgotten about by the time the first coffee of the morning is brewed.

When I’m asleep, the niggling self doubt of my concious mind is silenced. I don’t talk myself out of creating something before I even start, on the basis that it might not be any good. When my subconcious mind gets left to come up with stuff, more often than not, it tends to do quite well. On this night in March 2007 though, I didn’t just wake up with a song in my head.

As dawn showed the first signs of breaking, and the blackbird which lived on the tree outside my bedroom window began it’s morning ritual of singing its unique song (a song which, unlikely as it seems, consisted of the first 5 notes of Rudolph the red nosed reindeer), I had already been awake for hours. I had awakened in the middle of the night  having just viewed the first 20 minutes of a film in my head. The film I had to write the script for.

I wake up with ideas and thoughts often enough to keep my phone at the side of the bed. It’s a touchscreen so I just scribble my idea down and go back to sleep. This time was different. The movie in my dream was so fully formed, I couldn’t hope to scribble everything down without missing some crucial detail or waking up my partner and have to explain to her why the hell I was playing with my phone at two in the morning. Instead, I  just kept playing the idea over and over again in my head, elaborating some details here and there. Loosely, it’s about the Grim Reaper. It goes off on some unusual tangents, on which I’ll elaborate in future posts.

I made an attempt a few months later to start writing the script but my concious mind switched back to it’s usual role of telling me what I was writing wasn’t good enough and I didn’t get very far. I stopped writing but the idea didn’t leave me. Real life wen’t a bit crazy at that point. Over the next year and a bit, my Fiancee moved in, we moved house, got married, I got a new job doing what I’ve always wanted to do. The script idea languished low on the priority list but was most definitely not forgotten. 

Eventually, in August 2008, I made the decision that I was going to take part in Nanowrimo and write the story as a novel. Nanowrimo is an annual event where, every november, thousands of amateur, and some professional, writers sit down to write a 50,000 word novel in just 30 days. I hadn’t written before but neither had thousands of others that had all pledged to do it. As it turned out, I couldn’t have done it without them. The motivation of thousands of enthusiastic amateurs was inspiring and, in the end, I turned in ‘a Death in the making’, a novel of just over 50,000 words, in just 26 days.

Because I only had 30 days to write a novel, I had to write at speed. This fed into the idea of allowing my subconcious mind to take over. I didn’t have time to rewrite something if I wasn’t happy with it so I had to keep pushing forward. 

As you might expect, the end results weren’t exactly going to be keeping the Man Booker  judges occupied. When I re-read it, it was far better than I expected, but still needed work.  I had a good story, I just hadn’t told it as well as I could yet. That’s where it’s stalled ever since.

In an attempt to kickstart things again, I’ve decided to return to the original concept and adapt the story into a screenplay. I’m hoping that by doing this as a part of Script Frenzy, (Similar to Nanowrimo, but the goal is to write a 100 page screenplay in the month of April), I can feed off the same collective energy that motivated me to finish the novel in the first place. I’m also hoping that the restrictions of a script format will allow me to really polish the dialogue, so that, when I do return to the novel, a lot of the groundwork has already been done.

Unfortunately, there is the added restriction of probably only getting to write on my lunchbreaks, since real life hasn’t really got much less crazy. I like a challenge.

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