Friday, 12 October 2012

Trigger's broom, and other concepts in writing

I've been tinkering with a script today. I'm entering it into a competition so this is the last ditch attempt to polish this jewel. You may think that writing consists of hanging around all day waiting for moments of pure genius to strike followed by frenzied activity as the script that will change the history of dramatic literature is hastily written. Of course I'm attempting (and I use the word attempting very advisedly) to write a comedy script as well, so it maybe all of the above with the added bonus of me chuckling away at my hilarious jokes as well. Well that's what I thought... until I actually started to seriously write.

The reality is indeed far from the truth, and so I return to one of my favourite themes, putting inspiration into action. First off I very rarely make myself laugh when I write a script. I mean I know what I'm going to say for a start. I know there's a good chance that the writing is good if it surprises me, but those moments seem rare as well. Writing is, on the whole, mundane but I'm willing to go through that because I love the results. One of my favourite quotes on the subject of writing comes from American satirist Peter De Vries, he once said, "I love being a writer. What I can't stand is the paperwork." This pithy quote seems to sum the whole process up. For me writing is not a case of inspired genius, but more one of endless rewrites, lots of fretting and constant tinkering. I enjoy the tinkering and editing bit. In fact it's at this time that I can come up with a lot of really good stuff. To get to that stage however, I have to do the hard work of making draft after draft. It's a strange thing, just writing whatever comes into your head. In fact this is what I try to do for this blog, although the section I'm writing at the moment is an insert. (Wow! this is turning into a blog within a blog, how surreal.) Usually I'll put it to one side for a while so I can truly see what is good about it, and what needs changing, but quite often I'm thinking that what I'm writing is rubbish as I actually write it. But you just keep going, wading through treacle until you get to the good stuff again.

The script I'm working on has had so many rewrites that I've lost count of the exact number, but from it's humble beginnings three years or so ago I think its double figures. A scene from Only Fools and Horses springs to mind here. Road sweeper Trigger has a party to celebrate the fact that he's used the same broom on his job for twenty years... and it's only had seven new handles and twelve new heads. Obviously it's not the same broom that he started with, but in a way it is. (there, that's a bit Zen, isn't it?) I feel that about this script. The central character has been the only really constant factor in it. The situation and the characters that circle around her have all completely changed from the early drafts. I'm about to submit it to the BBC writers room and they have a rule that you cannot submit the same script twice. Unlike Trigger's broom I'm hoping that they'll see it as a different one. It's funny but I wrote a short cabaret piece earlier this year called The Conductor and I found it very quick and painless to put down on paper. I've realised, however, that the uncomfortable early drafts were done, on the hoof as it were, in front of a live audience. That was instant feedback for sure.

I'm dying to get back to the script as I'm thinking of making what will be the last major change. I may change the profession of one of the major antagonists from holistic life coach to bikram yoga teacher. Trigger would be proud of me and I hope that, like his broom, the script, although much changed will still do it's job. So I finish today. I confess I'm tempted to just run today's blog through the spell checker and then just give it to you raw and unedited, but I know I won't. Now comes the fun bit.

When he's not sweating over scripts Mike Raffone is the co founder of the production company howhow along with his fiancĂ© Grisel Tarifa. They are opening a new performance club The Royal National Theatre of Fools at clf Art Cafe, Peckham on December 4th.  It will be dedicated to the clown, the absurd and the eccentric. His script is called Instant Karma and, from the outset all those years ago, has followed the fortunes of Susanna Lewis Parr, a meditation healer with anger issues. For more info go to

Here are a few resources if you want to write a film, TV or radio script:

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