Thursday 25 November 2010
Meet Petra and her family.
Petra was a singer back in the ’70s and ’80s, but these days she works at a bed and breakfast near Niagara Falls. This weekend her kids are dropping by: quietly neurotic Emma and bratty, flamboyant Dayle, as well as Emma’s boyfriend Bruce. And she’s got a couple other guests who might be giant bugs from outer space.
I’ve had a bunch of stories simmering on the back burner for a long while, mostly in the science fiction-comedy vein. As I’ve alluded to in previous years, I’ve been flirting with presenting them different forms, mostly radio plays, online video, and comics. As they’ve percolated, I’ve discovered I don’t have the patience for prose – I’m all about the dialogue. I can draw well enough that I don’t cringe at my own work, but I’m too slow at it to do more than a couple pages. And video – let’s not even go there.
So it’s back to audio plays, delivered via podcast or download. I’ve always loved the form, and had the chance to produce some during my time in campus radio, but until recently I really didn’t have a clue how to use it to tell a story – or to tell a story in any medium, for that matter. And now, it’s all starting to come together at last: plots, background, character arcs, dialogue. The first three-episode story is plotted out and this week some friends came by for a read-through of the first two draft episodes. The thought of actually recording and producing them is a bit daunting at this stage, but we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.
EMMA. (hushed) Bruce, there’s a… giant bug in the bathtub.
BRUCE. Ooo, scary. Do you want me to catch it for you?
EMMA. No, no, like giant. Man-sized.
BRUCE. Ouch! What did I ever do to you?
EMMA. Like, literally, the size of… in the bath. Taking a bath.
BRUCE. Well, let’s get a glass or something and scoop him out and then…
EMMA. No, no, we can’t go in there, he’s… I mean, he’s using the bathroom.
BRUCE. You know, for all your claims to be the sane one in the family…
EMMA. He spoke to me. It sounded like… I think it might be the guys. One of Mom’s guests, from the museum. No, don’t go in —
A couple of my favourite writing resources of late:
Jane Espenson: writer and/or exec on a dozen-plus shows including Buffy, Gilmore Girls and BSG. Her blog archive is a treasure trove of really useful advice, mostly geared to TV work but quite applicable to audio and other forms.
Writing Excuses: three genre writers and occasional guests chat each week about theme, structure and other topics. Lively, useful and to the point (“fifteen minutes long, because you’re in a hurry and we’re not that smart”), it’s one of the most consistently listenable indie podcasts out there.