Monday, 17 February 2014


Last week I got the mark for my Screenwriting module, a good mark of 63. I'm very happy with it because I feared I was going to fail the course.

As things stand at present all three of my marks have been in the 60s; unless I crash and burn horribly with the Final Project and Reading into Writing I think I should be leaving the MA with a commendation.

Getting back into studying in a classroom has been fun and frustrating at the same time. It's great to be surrounded by fellow students but the need to break off and hurry to class has been tough. So far we've had
a few sessions on Gawain and the Green Knight and I'm aiming to do something quite punk for the creative piece of the Reading into Writing assessment. I love the image of a punk with a big green mohican and arms covered with golden and green tattoos. Doing a punk focused urban fantasy story would also allow me to do something with the idea of 'losing your head' - I wonder if the whole thing could be a drug trip which for the most part suggests the quest part of the whole affair takes place in the protagonist's head. At which point I need to look at the drugs that were taken by Punks and what their effects were. Perhaps lazily, I associate Punk with 'closing down' drugs like cocaine and speed rather than more psychedelic, 'opening up' drugs like marajuana. This could prove a problem in that my protagonist will suddenly not be having visions but experiencing other effects, getting tough and mean and not feeling at all (though I'm taking my impressions from fiction, I've never even smoked a spliff). I guess something like magic mushrooms might be a better plan and would tie in nicely with the Faerie origins of the Green Knight (who surely is anything but a local).

This would leave my other piece, the research essay, to be based on Possession. I'm worried that its reaching but I've asked if something about Victorian time travel is possible, because of the comments Christabel Lamotte makes in the novel about the honest toil of the artist, a sentiment that to me feels very like the philosophy espoused by William Morris and which was explored in News from Nowhere. So it seems like a good place to start and hopefully its not too tangential.

Update (as this is is a work in progress) the tutor's said that's fine because I can show the leap in my thinking. Yay, go brains!

I had my first meeting with my tutor for the Final Project (the Forest Brides) and have started working out the beats of the various stories and what they're all about. Part of the challenge is to find a way to write stories that are grounded in the low fantasy or sword and sorcery tradition and at the same time tap into the creations of Neil Gaiman or Angela Carter. Also, as I'm tapping into myth, I'm struck that in many respects I need to consider what Joseph Campbell said, ‘Women don’t need to make the journey, they are the place that everyone is trying to get to.'

This seems a bit false (and creepy) to me, and also denies the power of goddess and heroine archetypes across the world. One book I have, the Heroine's Journey by Maureen Murdock, sets out to address the journeys that women face but does unfortunately come across as a bit New Age, though that may be a symptom of the general area we're talking about rather than anything specific about the arc she's laid out. The issue for me is, can I use it to tell compelling stories about the women in the Forest Brides or would I be better off using another structure? Only time will tell.

The stories I have are attempting to address ideas like women as tamers of savage beasts, women as the arbiters of death and journeying into the underworld (literally). I also want to write about women in war, which is a dicey area but at the same time lets me tap into modern sword and sorcery characters like Red Sonja and Jirel of Joirey.

There are a lot of strands for me to play with. In addition to myth, sword and sorcery and other types of fantasy, I want to touch on African and Mesopatamian legend and it's hard to deny that Princess Mononoke is a big influence (not just on my Final Project but in general). On top of that, as I was working out the arcs of the stories I realised that Lovecraft was going to influence at least one of the stories; as ever its impossible to escape the Mythos.

One thing I am looking for is a female trickster archetype. Most, if not all, are male, and one of the stories is about deception and illusion (as well as death) so I'd like to twist the archetype if I can. I could use Loki but that feels like a cop out so I'm looking for something else, which seems to mean looking outside European myth and legend.

The thing that's really playing on my mind is what I do after the MA. I don't mind the job I'm in now but it's not what I really want to do long term as I'm growing increasingly distrustful of authority and I want to use the MA as a springboard to... something. I'm just not sure what. Obviously my main interest is getting novels and so on written but perilous few authors make a living from their work so I feel I need something else in the pot, just help make ends meet (and at this point I'm incredibly glad I have cats not children).  I'm pondering trying to go freelance but that seems like a hard way to make a living. A PhD might be an option but the cost seems prohibitive and I'm still working out what a thesis for a Creative Writing PhD might look like (really I need to get my butt to Birmingham University and have look there). I have what's essentially a novel plan but not the other side of it; the critical element, so that's not much help to be honest. The other thing that gives me pause is that even with a PhD under my belt I may not be able to find a good job... Whilst Creative Writing is a growth area I'm still concerned that I might end up just wasting my time.

I've set myself up on Ideas Tap and Autharium and have Skills Pages and LinkedIn to complete or, in the case of the latter, rebuild, in the hopes they'll help me get some commercial work and I can start building up my pieces and contacts a bit more.

One thing I'd like to do is start getting a couple of new blogs set up to write about specific subjects after seeing the guidelines for getting work with the Guardian, but I'm not sure where to begin or what to focus on. The obvious place would be politics, but I'm very much a theoretician and there's a slight problem with any sort of politics writing: it's so damn tribal. Other options would be history, Forteana, a more subculture based blog, gaming, comics and so on. At the moment I just don't know - the only things I know I don't want to write about are sex and zombies.

So that's the view from the mountain at the moment. I feel like I've got up to the next stage, even though it feels like I have a load more stuff to juggle with. If I can keep going, I'm hopeful that things will shape up okay. Either way there's only one way to go: onward.

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