Plus a Can’t Fail Writing Tip and More Daily Prompts
On my usual morning dog walk the other day, I took a different path. It was rough, muddy and overgrown – but there was this big, barky dog on the other path and I was in no mood for canine fisticuffs. And even though my dog promised to be on his best behaviour and that butter wouldn’t melt in his little spotty mouth (he’s a Dalmatian in case you think I’m getting personal) I didn’t really believe him. Or at least, I wasn’t prepared to take that chance.
But taking the more difficult path had its rewards, one of which was it took me somewhere I’d never been before and afforded a stunning view of the lovely Wells Cathedral, seen from a slightly different angle.
Back home, as I scraped the mud of the dog (and quizzed him as to how he managed to get some on the back of his head) I started thinking how good it is for life in general but my writing life in particular to move out of my comfort zone occasionally.
(And to pay him back for all that mud, here’s a rather inelegant shot of Duke looking totally in his comfort zone.)
But, dog walking aside, this is the time of the year when I move so far out of my comfort zone I go completely off piste.
So what am I doing? Can you guess from the last three items on my internet browsing history?
- Italian processed meats
- Witch name generator
- The Addams Family
I’m writing a pantomime. Oh, yes I am!
For the benefit of overseas readers, a pantomime is a peculiarly British form of entertainment, put on around Christmas and the New Year and tells a story (usually a well known fairy story, such as Cinderella or Jack and the Beanstalk) where men dress as women, women dress as men, there’s lots of singing and silliness and the audience is encouraged to be very rowdy.
I live in a small Somerset village where for the last five years we’ve put on a pantomime. And every year, at about this time, I say I’m never, ever going to write another one. That’s it’s not my thing. That I write anything from short stories to full length novels; from magazine serials to a monthly column; from this blog to angry letters to my local paper complaining about the threat to our library service.
BUT I do not write pantomimes. Never again.
Then she-who-makes-things-happen comes to see me about 48 hours after the final curtain on the final performance of the last pantomime I will ever write and she says:
“I’ve been thinking, Paula. How do you fancy…..?”
Last year she reeled me in with Calamity Jane. And yes, I know I said pantomimes are usually fairy stories, but we do things differently in our small corner of Somerset. In my hands (because I can never write anything straightforward) Calamity Jane became Calamity Wayne and involved a man dressed as a woman who dressed as a man until ‘her’ transformation scene when he/she dressed as a woman.
Are you still following? It was complicated.
Where to start?
Once I’ve finished moaning (like I am now) about how I can’t write what she-who-makes-things-happen wants me to write and that it will never work, I start with the list of available cast members which gives me an idea of how many parts to write.
And yes, I know that’s probably not the way the Alans Ayckbourn or Bennett start writing their plays. But they’re not writing for a small village theatre group where everyone wants to be in the pantomime and the men’s ‘dressing room’ is a very small, very old caravan parked outside the village hall. It’s a bit of a challenge for the man dressed as a woman dressed as a man when he has to wriggle into a hooped crinoline for the final scene! But our members are nothing if not resourceful.
Once I know how many I’m writing for (and the numbers increase every year) I then start thinking about the characters’ names. This year, the ‘how do you fancy having a go at….? question was followed by… The Addams Family.
My answer was, not really. But here I am, after binge watching black and white episodes of the Addams Family on YouTube and I’ve got the title. “The Fladdams Family – the Panto.” This at least warns the audience that things might not be quite what they’re expecting. In fact, it’s going to be a sort of Addams Family meets the Sound of Music, with maybe a little bit of Downton Abbey thrown in. Oh, and lots of rude noises.
My ‘can’t fail’ tip for writing pantomimes.
If the script is dragging and you’re in need of a laugh, have Sound Effects make a rude noise. (He’s very big on rude noises, is our Sound Effects guy). Or say something rude about the people in the next village.
And if you really want it to go with a bang, then make a rude noise while saying rude things about the people in the next village. I promise, it will bring the house down (which, given the state of the ceiling in our village hall would not be difficult).
And those internet searches?
I was looking for characters’ names. So far, I have got:
- Fernando Fladdams
- Mortadella, his wife
- Bugsy, their son
- Thursday, their daughter
- Evanora Crowe (Mortadella’s mother)
- Dowager Countess Grimley
- Pancetta Von Trip (Mortadella’s sister)
- Uncle Pesto (Fernando’s brother)
- Anti Pasta (his wife)
- Grunch, the butler….
- Albert Snaffles, international jewel thief
- Sidney Sniffles, his side kick.
- …… And assorted servants, villagers etc.
I could go on. But I’d better not. I’ve got a pantomime to write. Oh yes I have. (And this is where the audience shouts: Oh no you haven’t!)
Back to the sane world of blogging
I am very grateful to Helen Yendall for putting a link to this blog in hers. Helen’s blog (link to blog here) is a wonderful example of how to build and maintain an informative and entertaining blog. I am in awe of her!
I’m still finding my way around the blogging community and recently came across Helena Fairfax’s blog. ( link here) She’s writing about the inspiration behind and the writing process involved in her novel Felicity at the Cross Hotel (which I have read and very much enjoyed). Helena’s also included a list of writers in what she calls a ‘Round Robin’ who are also blogging about the same thing. It’s a fascinating list and I can’t wait to read them all. Yet more to add to my tottering TBR pile.
In the meantime, I’ve got to get back to the thing at the top of my even more tottering TBW (to be written) pile. So far, I’ve written:
Act 1, Scene 1. Front of curtain. Enter Albert Snaffles and Sidney Sniffles.
And that’s it. The rest of the page is a terrifying blank. Actually, that’s not strictly true. As I wrote in my last blog, Writers’ Prompts. A limitless supply of story inspiration sometimes sitting down and writing about not knowing what to write about is all it takes to unclog the log jam in your mind. I can now see exactly how that first scene is going to go now. Pity about the other five scenes though….
I hope you’re enjoying the prompts from my last post. (see above paragraph for link) In between my pantomime, I’m writing a crime short story based on the prompt ‘a host of golden daffodils’. (March 21st). I’ve almost finished the first draft and it seems to be working out ok. I’d love to hear how you’re getting on.
April prompts. 1st – 15th April.
These are the daily prompts for the first fifteen days of April.
- There is no fool like an old fool
- My father always told me….
- The kindness of strangers
- Cinderella, set in the present day… Or maybe even the future?
- She lived alone and few could know/When Lucy ceased to be/But she is in her grave and oh,/ the difference to me. (Wordsworth)
- These are the things you can trust.
- You are standing on one side of a closed door.
- Be careful what you wish for
- A compromise
- The first book of crossword puzzles was published this day in 1924. Write about a puzzle fanatic.
- ‘He that stays in the valley shall never get over the hill.’
- Hindsight is always twenty twenty.
- Broken promises
- Write about a person who knows the price of everything and the value of nothing
- First love
There are some interesting nuggets in there, don’t you think? Who knows, I may be able to work one into my current work in progress. There’s nowhere in my rules that says it has to be a completely new piece of work.
Thanks for dropping by – and happy writing.
7 thoughts on “The Path Less Travelled and why it (sometimes) pays to take it”
A lovely Dalmatian! I’ll bet he helps so much with the writing 🙂
He certainly does. He’s a rescue boy. Who knows what his story is? I often wonder. Maybe I’ll write it one day
Your pantomime sounds amazing! I’d love to do something like that. I work much better when I get asked to write something (like a magazine article) rather than just write for my own interest.
I know exactly what you mean, Georgie. There’s nothing like having a deadline to spur me on to put finger to keyboard. The pantomime is going really well now and I’m having great fun thinking up the food for an Addams Family style banquet.
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