Moral of the story

The moral of the story is one of the most essential parts of a story.

I’m going to save you the reading. I’ll tell you that if you have a story that you like to tell but it’s got no ending just add “the moral is this” then tell them.

You don’t have to read on but thank you in advance for doing so.

Let’s get on with it.

It took me a few years to understand adding a moral to a story.

Every story, whether you like it or not has a moral. It may not be a good one, it may not be a needed one, but hey, every story has one.

What’s your favourite story that you like to tell?

You probably have a few stories that you like to tell. They either make you a secret genius, or you’re comfortable enough that you don’t mind coming off as a bit of an arse. I bet that as you’re reading this right now, you imagine a few of those stories.

I am too.

There are a couple of stories that I like to tell over and over again. There’s the time I pulled in Brussels and almost ended up stranded in Europe. There was the fancy dress party where I made everyone cry. There’s also inside stories that my sister and I love reliving. Claire if you’re reading this, the goat on the road, “he has asthma he might die”. Oh and something to do with a wig that scared granny.

Now you might think that these stories don’t sound too great but you have them, and I have them. These stories have clear beginnings middles and ends. There is a message that doesn’t need overtly stated. You know a good story when you experience it.

What about the other stories?

You mean the ones that aren’t so good. The ones that have a beginning and a middle but no real ending.

Those are the stories that I want to talk about.

I have a couple of stories like that. I like telling them but they just kind of fizzle out rather than come to a definite end. Also I love telling them because they have enough detail and suspense present that they’re enjoyed. That is until I get to the end zone.

You know what it’s like you tell the story, and it’s over, but it has no end. You can see their faces can’t you? They’re looking at you expectant.

“Then what happened?”

“Well then I left”

“Did anyone say anything?”

“No”

“You just walked out of there?”

“Yeah, I thought the commissioner recognised me.”

“Oh.”

“But she didn’t”

“Oh”

Why do people keep asking questions

When people ask you questions like that what they’re doing is looking for some kind of closure to the story. If people ask what happens next, it’s because they are expecting some sort of conclusion. You didn’t provide them with one, you told an incomplete story. If people ask for details “What were they wearing”, “How did they react” it’s because they want to fully see the story in their head. You told a good story.

These incomplete stories, I’m going to tell you how to complete them.

It’s simple, you say “The moral of the story is” and then sum it up.

As an example, I’m going to tell you a story that I like to tell but has no end. Then I’ll give you the moral, and you’ll see that it’s an improvement.

Before you start reading let me give you advance warning that this will not be the best story of all time. With or without moral it’s not the best. Let’s manage our expectations accordingly, shall we?

Good.

Donegal Story

Back in school, before I’d turned 18, I spent a few weeks during summer out in Donegal. Four of us from school went. A friend invited us to his holiday house, and merrily we went.

There was a local pub that we went to. It was local by Donegal standards, in this case, a 45-minute walk on a country lane with no lighting. None of us could drive, and so my friend’s parents dropped us off.

The group of us sat in the pub and drank. I remember looking at some of the local men who sat in stoic silence at the bar not talking to each other. I told my friends that if I lived out in the wilds of the country, I’d try heroin. Only because what was the worst that could happen?

As the night went on, there was a band that was playing traditional music. Was never much of a fan but a friend asked me to request some song that I never heard of and can’t remember the name of. The singer gave me a historical lecture as to why they no longer sang that song.

The night grew longer. At some point, we’re all a little worse for wear now, the “boyos” arrived. They were loud and spotted us immediately. They crowded around our table. The boyos knocked into us on a few occasions sending precious booze spilling. They were doing it deliberately. I may have been drunk, but I wasn’t blind drunk. I saw them smirking and winking to one another.

The pub shut and we made our way out into the windy Donegal night and began the walk home. It was a 45-minute walk sober, God knows how long when pissed.

We walked, talked and stopped for toilet breaks. We passed a school that Padraig Pearse had taught at. Down the hill around the curve.

As we were walking, we noticed behind us lights getting closer in the distance. We kept walking.

The lights were closer, and we could hear an engine rattling getting louder. We all stood in close to the side of the road. Is it with or against traffic?

The vehicle passed, it was a bus. It pulled over and idled. My friends and I stopped in our tracks, the door of the bus opened, and several of the “boyos” appeared.

“Are you going to Seaview?” the largest of a large bunch asked.

It took us a moment before my friend who organised the trip offered, “No we’re having an early one tonight.”

“Fair enough,” says he before disappearing back inside the bus. The bus pulled off. In my drunken haze, feeling brave I shout at the bus pulling away, “Aye, fucking drive on you wankers”.

The bus stopped, and I returned to my natural cowardly disposition. The large one emerged from the smoke and the light.

“Did ye say something there lad.”

“Ehh, have a nice night,” I said. He nodded, disappeared and short after that so did the bus. The four of us left us alone, in the cold and dark with further to walk.

The moral is

Now that is where the story ends. If you liked the story, thank you but let’s add a moral. Imagine I’ve finished telling that story. Instead now right after the last line, I say “So the moral is if someone asks you are you going to Seaview you say yes”.

Might not be the best but it’s an improvement over the original.

Try it yourself.

So remember, the moral of this post is that you add a moral at the end.

Advertisements

Dublin System: Now you can improve your word count

Why do you call it the Dublin System?

Because it keeps on Dublin and Dublin.

You should know that now it’s much easier to write loads in a short space of time.

For years as a writer, I have been doing it wrong. I was always concerned about page counts. You could see me worrying about how many pages a piece of writing was.

Do you want to know what the problem is?

I’m a lazy person. I’m an even lazier writer.

This style impacted my work. In the struggle to get pieces to the right page count, I would start adding in filler words. You would have characters that would chime in with redundant “Yups” and “Ok”. They killed the pacing of the work, but hey we’re getting to the 90-page mark using the least amount of energy.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear this, but this would lead to trouble in practice. Scripts and writing would look the right amount, but there would be something missing. The work would seem a little, empty.

That was until I took a course on productivity for writers on Udemy. In it, there was a spreadsheet that was all about tracking your daily word count.

I’m not a fan of counting the words because first of all, it made me realise how few words I would actually write. Second of all, I like to write everything out with pen and paper first. Counting the words would just add on time that I didn’t want to spend.

I decided to humour the course and did the word counts. You know what, doing them actually turned out to be a turning point.

At the same time, I was also providing a script editing service on Fiverr. Most of the jobs had involved spelling adjustments and making some notes.

That all changed when I got hired by a crazy guy.

Let me tell you about the crazy guy.

The crazy guy showed up saying that he just needed a quick editing job. It started inauspiciously, as these things often do. Then the red flags began to fly not long after that. He hired me on Friday and needed it done for Sunday. For an editing job, where you’re just doing spell checking that is fine.

Here’s the thing though, he wasn’t able to send me an editable document. That was worrisome. He was able to send me a photocopy of the script. That was useless because I wasn’t able to upload it to my screenwriting software.

The only way that I was going to get it finished on time was by typing out the whole script myself and editing as I go. The script was 20,000 words long. It took me 24 hours approx across the Friday, Saturday and Sunda to get the work finished.

The crazy guy kept saying that it wasn’t right.

He kept niggling with me. It was always about the alignment. He kept asking for specific sentences to appear at certain points of the page. I asked him to make a list of changes that he wanted and would do it the next day. Keep in mind that this whole time over the weekend he asks for updates on the progress. I keep asking for an editable document to which he replies that he will send one when he gets back in. The editable script is never sent. I’m firing on through with the typing and am enjoying the restrictions that I have.

Here’s the essence of that correspondence

Him: “On page three can you move the introduction of the character to the top.”

Me: “I’ll have to space things out a little more, you OK with that?”

Him: “It needs to be at the top.”

Me: Check your inbox.

Him: Got it. Page four could you change the semicolon to a comma.

Me: Yeah, look it’s late here, and I’m up early tomorrow/today. Read through the script and make a list of any further changes you want made and I’ll do that for you for free tomorrow. Hold off on sending it to this producer guy OK?

Him: I’m going to send it through to him now. Hope there aren’t any mistakes.

Me: Don’t send it, please. Read through the script and send me a list of the changes you want. I’ll speak to you tomorrow.

I go to sleep, wake up to the following message.

Him: YOU FUCKED ME! YOU FUCKED ME! YOU HAVE FUCKED ME! I sent the script through and then noticed that there are loads more that I want changed. This was my big chance, and you have fucked me.

Moral of the story: If you enter a relationship with someone and more than one red flag starts to fly, walk away.

In crazy guys defence, this was all my fault.

I saw the red flags, but I kept on sailing into the storm. I am thankful for the experience though as it gave me a unique insight into my own writing and writing in general. The experience got me fired up.

Length o’ things

The experience gave me a baseline on how long it would take to write a certain amount of words in a certain amount of time.

This lead to my development of what I called the Dublin system.

It takes me 24 hours of pure typing to write 20,000 words.

Therefore it would take 12 hours to write 10,000. 6 hours to write 5000, 3 to write 2500 and so on down the line.

You probably think that is slow that’s just fine. I’m not competing with you I’m competing with me, and now I’ve found a gauge by which to measure my writing speed.

For my and your future reference here’s

Kieran Majury’s rough guide to an average length of things.

Film script: 20k words

Play (One-hour length): 10k

200-page book: 60k words.

 

These are approximations, don’t treat them as gospel.

There’s a handy website called reading length that you should check out.

Screenwriting software Celtx has several blog posts about how elements of screenplays breakdown. They’re worth a read.

Dublin system

This helped me develop the Dublin system.

If you’re a writer how do you tackle a piece of writing?

I’m still working on the answer to that question. I’ve gone through various methods. Trying to get the mental images translated into words. It has happened with varying degrees of success.

I realised that what you might need to do is break the task down into smaller bits. I need to know roughly where I am going. If I don’t have a rough idea of what I’m doing, I tend to go off in massive tangents. The last thing I wrote without a set route went way off course.

I hated it, resented writing it as I went but I stuck it out, and once I finished it I never looked at it again. The script went so off course. I didn’t have a clear direction for it to go in so trying to restructure it wasn’t worth the hassle.

The Dublin system works me up to do a full draft on a project. You start with a low word count, like 320 words. Write a synopsis of what is going to happen through the course of the script. You then write 625 words adding more detail. Then 1250 words before doubling it to 2500 words before 5000 words.

If you’re like me and you’re writing a play, then the next step is the 10k word count.

Beware the Dublin system.

The Dublin system is good for getting out that initial draft. That first draft, like many a first draft, will be shit.

There are other factors that you need to take into consideration. Factors like structure and if you structure your script well, then the rewriting will be less of a head melt.

I mean it will still be head melt, but you’ll know what you need to do now.

At some point I’m going to talk about structure, but not here.

If you’re a writer, I hope that you found this useful. If you’re interested in writing, I hope that this helped declutter some of the myths that surround the craft.

Be warned that I’m no expert nor will I ever be one. If this helps you write easier, thank you for reading. If you read this and thought I was talking out my hoop also thank you.

Sometimes going the wrong way helps you see the right way that much better.

Ideas: How you can have more now

Ideas are odd. You think they come from one specific spot and you can just go there and “get” ideas.

You would think that would be foolproof, wouldn’t you?

Never underestimate the genius of fools.

It’s funny how you hear people ask the question, “Where do you get your ideas from?” The belief that ideas are friends who need to be picked up from the airport.

David Mamet had a pithy response when asked where does he get his ideas from, “I think of them”.

I look back at some of my old writing books from time to time. It’s insane how many ideas I had. It’s even more surprising that a small fraction of them weren’t downright terrible.

When you were young, you were full of energy and ready to take on the world. All ideas were valid, and everything was going to get done at some point. It was exhausting to be young.

Thank heavens for getting older.

When it comes to ideas, there is a hard pill to swallow. That pill is realising that you only have a certain amount of time to get things done.

You’re young, and your brain can’t stop ejaculating thoughts into your mind.

A production of the Trojan Women wherein the audience is taken prisoner during pre-show. An adaptation of The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch done as a horror. A buddy cop film that begins with the sequel. A fake spirit medium show that has actors in the audience and has demonic possession.

All these ideas, still kindle me with excitement but I know that in my heart they’ll just remain mental movies for me. It’s sad but inevitable.

You realise that not every sperm will become a baby.

I don’t know where I get my ideas but then how you think of ideas is wrong.

You don’t get ideas, they come to you.

An idea, rather than a friend you have to collect, is more a friend coming to visit.

How do you act when you know that a friend is coming to your house?

You prepare the house. You make sure it’s clean. Refreshments ready and you make sure that you are dressed. You don’t even have to put that much effort in the preparation. You can buy buns from the store, but if you want them to feel special, you make the buns yourself.

I like cooking for my friends. I hope that it entices them to come round again. They get to eat something that I have made, and I get to share in their company for an evening. It’s a good deal. Ideas are similar, you have to make it a welcoming environment.

You know what it’s like, it’s coming to the time that they said they would arrive and they’ve yet to visit. You hang about for a while longer whenever the thought hits you. There is something you could quickly do some sorting upstairs while you’re sitting around.

The moment you get started you know what happens?

That’s right, there’s a knock on the door.

That’s how you prepare yourself for ideas. You do everything you can to have the place ready, but in the end, the idea will arrive when it wants.

You almost have to give up on getting ideas.

Einstein worked at trying to figure out the theory of relativity. He gave up on it and only then did he realise what to do.

Think back to your friend arriving, do you ring them asking if they’re on their way. One call is fine but if you make any more than that you’re going to stir up resentment.

How can you improve the arrival rate of ideas?

You have to prepare your house for the arrival of ideas.

How do you go about doing that?

Like most things, the first step to getting what you want is asking.

Keep a notepad on you at all times. I’ve done this for many years. If something comes up, no matter how stupid I write it down. The idea isn’t the most important part it’s getting into the habit of welcoming the ideas.

Decluttering your mind helps ideas too.

There is a war for your attention going on. You’re at a disadvantage when you open your phone. A phone is necessarily a baby that’s useful and can fit in your pocket. As soon as it makes any kind of noise or movement there, you are to check on the device. Even if it doesn’ move or make a sound, you’ll still make sure that it’s OK.

Letting yourself be sucked in by your phone puts you in reactionary mode. If you want to generate ideas you got to do what you can to keep yourself in a blank state. This means that you need to avoid your phone for the first part of the day.

It’s not easy, believe me, I still struggle. My phone is almost part of me when it’s not nearby. It’s that phantom limb sensation. At least that’s what I think it would be like. If you steer clear of your phone for long enough, then you can engage in the next stage.

Free writing

Just take a page, time yourself for twenty minutes and just write. Don’t use a computer. You’ll be tempted to check in online. Worse you’ll always go back and forth deleting, rewriting, making sure that it’s just right. Don’t worry about that.

Use a pen and paper. Connect with the physical world. Start writing and do not stop. Write for twenty minutes, you should be able to do three hundred words. Take a ten-minute break do another twenty minutes. Another three hundred words and then read over your work. This won’t be an ideas generator, but it’ll help you realise how much more creative you are.

Do this exercise every morning. You’re telling your brain that ideas are right, you appreciate them and that you can keep sending them.

Do this, and you’ll realise that you have way more good ideas than you knew you had.

Louis C.K: A return

Louis article, a failed audition

Louis C.K was the subject of an article I did as an audition piece for a satire site. They politely passed, so I decided to share it with you here, enjoy.

Louis C.K audience annoyed he didn’t masturbate in front of them.

Louis C.K returned to stand up in New York much to the delight of some of his fans. However, there were some in the audience who felt that the 50-year-old comedian came up short.

We spoke to some of those in attendance.

“I wasn’t expecting much that night. I heard rumours that Louis was about, I thought he just came to watch. Boy was I wrong.” said one audience member, “I’d never seen Louis’ act before. I mean I’d seen him do stand up, but I was excited for this.”

“When Louis got on stage, I thought, aw yeah, this is it,” said another audience member. That elation soon turned to disappointment, “I was pumped to see him perform, but then he started telling jokes, lame.”

Other audience members were also confused, “He showed up unannounced, it was such a surprise. My husband and I are thinking, no way, we’re going to see a short fat guy masturbate. One time we watched Danny DeVito taking a piss in Central Park but this would be much better, or so we thought”.

The disgruntled attendee went on, “We thought that it would be a build up, a few jokes and then he would start but as he went on we realised that it wasn’t going be the case. My husband was devastated, he was like a child who didn’t get what he wanted for Christmas. Imagine not getting to see Santa masturbate”.

Someone in the front row also expressed sadness at the comedian’s half-cocked return. “I was sitting there watching his crotch intently. Not only did his penis stay in his pants the whole time but he was flaccid too. There may have been signs of life at one point, but it could have been how his jeans bunched up.”

A Louis veteran spoke up

One veteran of the New York comedy circuit still holds out hope, “I knew Louis was going to crack wise instead of cracking one off on his first time back. You got to give him room to blossom. At the minute he’s shy but give him time, and everyone will know what’s Louis’ Louis looks like. They’re going to add a D.I to his initials.”.

When asked to divulge more information the comic, who wished to remain anonymous went on “When he first started out it was his party trick. Some people could juggle, some did impressions. Louis could crank one out like nobodies business, beautiful. He’s the YoYo Ma of jerking off. It was like Louis, and the cock are one. His penis was an extension of himself, and soon he is going to extend his dick for all to see”.

Stand up: 5 aspects that I need to keep in mind

I got myself another stand up gig.

You may have read about the last time that I did stand up and how it did not go well.

Somehow, you may be surprised to hear that I have got myself on another stand-up bill. This time I will be travelling all the way to lovely Derry to, hopefully, entertain an audience. More specifically the Cellar bar. I’m excited and am thankful to Danny Kelly for agreeing to have me.

This will also be the first time that I will be performing outside of Belfast. It will be the first time I don’t know anyone there.

Frankly, that makes me excited because I like going somewhere that I don’t know anyone. When no one knows who you are you almost have permission to become a new person. You have nothing to lose, so you are allowed to do whatever you like.

You’re probably thinking that I haven’t learned anything from last time but here is where you’re wrong.

I have five things to keep in mind. I’m going to share them with you. This is also a reminder for myself so that I don’t repeat the same mistakes again.

5: Don’t apologise

I’m not a big fan of apologising. If you apologise for one thing, then you tend to apologise for everything. I try to apologise for things that I am genuinely sorry for, which can suck for those around me because I tend to not be sorry. If you apologise too much then you get a reputation for having no integrity and being insincere.

I forgot all about that guiding principle the last time I did stand up. I kept apologising when I shouldn’t have done so. I kept going “Sorry I haven’t prepared”. This is a big no-no. Stand up audiences are savvy. Stand up audiences are more akin to sharks, a drop of blood in the water will lead to a feeding frenzy. When you perform stand up, you have to project yourself as being low status yet entirely in charge.

Alex told me that I should have phrased it differently. Instead of saying “I didn’t prepare” I should have said, “I like to keep it loose and see where I go”. Both are true, but one sounds better to an audience.

I won’t need that line because…

4: Prepare to stand up

This time is different. I have a script ready this time. I’m a bit strange in that I don’t just like things go well, I like to veer from one extreme to the other. I’m trying to get myself more on board with the idea of consistency. There is this part of the brain that says to me “Why be good when you can frustrate everyone and pull it out of nowhere?”. There have been times when I have been able to do this. Other times when trying to get by on sheer swagger has been a disaster.

This time I’m going to be half ready. I have a 2000 word script that I’m going to familiarise myself with.

When I was first starting out, I used to remember every word verbatim. This led to delivery being stiff. What was worse, the slightest deviation in syllable meant that I would get lost and have to retrace my steps.

Now I am a bit more lose in my approach. There are several points that I want to hit but if I miss some of the minor ones, which is to know.

This is advice I would give to you if you ever find yourself having to make a speech. Know the framework. Familiarise yourself with the essential beats and wing the bits in between.

You could do it like me and go in the complete opposite direction. Do the whole thing by ear and hope the inspiration comes to you. I don’t advise it.

3: Be more physical

I’m a big gangly freak at 6ft4. I’m also quite nimble. My childhood hero was Jim Carrey, and I tried to mimic him when I could. Alex told me that I need to cut loose and be more physical. This is going to take time because here is the thing about stand-ups that I have noticed and I am no different. Some stand-ups want to be the clown, but they also want to have your respect as well. These stand-ups make sure you know that they are smart and cool. I have to let go of this. I have to be the lowest status person in the room.

Uncontrolled movement is a sign of low status. Think about Daniel Craig being James Bond. Part of James Bond’s appeal is that he is always in control. Bond doesn’t move often, but when he does, it is with precision and economy. People are not going to stand up to see James Bond. I’m not James Bond.

2: Don’t mention the other acts

Jesus Kieran, remember when you thought this was a good idea. Never again, you may be trying to make the whole thing more inclusive. At stand up the tone is entirely different. When you were doing Mental Deficiency gigs that was fine. Music is different from comedy. When you mention other acts at stand up, it sounds like your slagging them off. Don’t mention anyone while you’re up there. You are Robinson Crusoe, the stage is an island.

1: Get off sooner rather than later

One of my favourite stand-ups, Harry Hill, gave this advice “If it’s going bad, get off, if it’s going well, get off”. You really can’t get off the stage soon enough with stand up. Better to leave them saying, “I wish he stayed on longer” rather than “We sure got our money’s worth”.

Last time, because I didn’t prepare it meant that I overran. In general, no matter what you’re doing it’s better not to overrun. It’s rude, I know that you know all this. Sometimes I need to remind myself, and this is the reminder to future me “Kieran, get off the stage sweetheart.”

Mountain Climb: Kill Phrase Engage Part 2

The knights needed to get up the mountain as fast as possible.

Despite being exhausted, the knights ascended the mountain. It was a steep climb. Remi could hear his young mind saying that it was not possible but that voice was faint a whisper.

The wind was gaining strength and speed the higher the three knights rose. Remi had never been this far west. He was born in the south-east, a small village that was surrounded by flat farmland. Remi struggled to believe that this part of the land was still in his country. He would remind himself that he was from Veromirel, but he had seldom been there. He had seen foreign shores to wage brutal wars. The blue sands of Balsino had been dyed red by whenever he left there. The narrow streets of Keruct clogged with the dead. The people of Keruct known for their diminutive stature. Affter he and his fellow knights of Gohla had cut them down they were shorter still.

The higher Remi climbed the further back he was taken by the beauty of his surroundings. A valley of mountains clumped together. Smoke rising from little towns that were somewhere out there.

As Remi looked out, he realised that he was looking eastward. East was where they had come from. The journey, the other four who started with them, his horse Hixen. It felt like a forever ago. They had covered so much ground in such a short space of time. The days stretched out, his perception had become distorted. Now he was here, barely a quarter way up a mountain. Climbing with the speed of someone wishing to escape a pursuing conflagration.

When Remi felt his spirit flag all that he would have to do was look up to see Falrod bounding.

It was as if some invisible harness aided Falrod. While personal details were forbidden, Remi suspected that Falrod was from somewhere near. Falrod had a rough face, descended from hill folk. It would explain his natural ability when it came to the scaling of the cliff face.

At the next admission ceremony, he would admit to having a certain amount of respect for Falrod. Here Remi was, getting ahead of himself. This journey had cost them several allies, and he might be another extension of the price.

There appeared to be an area of flat just above them. Remi figured to himself that if the other two were to stop for a rest, then he too could rest otherwise, it was upwards.

When Remi arrived at the level as his companions, he found that they were not alone. There was an encampment of twenty men. They were not expecting the intrusion. By their tents, there were casks of gold and jewellery. One of the men stood and immediately drew his sword.

“Oi, we stole this fair and square”, he said.

“To steal is to be most unfair,” said Falrod.

“Either way this is ours.”

“I pass not to question the ownership of your ill-gotten gains. I am simply a traveller on my way upwards under the command of the queen. Our path lies ahead. All that I ask is you stand aside.”

“You’re not taking it.”

“I agree, I am not, however, our way is through that cave.”

“Pick another way.”

“But I have already decided.”

Vilko and Remi closed in behind Falrod. The other men and women at the encampment had drawn their swords. Falrod had not brandished his steel. This meant that there was still a possible peaceful resoloution to the scenario.

“All we ask is for passage. My travellers and I will put our hands behind our backs, our noses to the sky. If we so much as let them dip you may have them for recompense.”

“This way is barred.”

“We are under time constraints, as knights of Halmodar we have a certain pedigree to maintain. You know our rule. Never to sheath a blade that has not quenched the blood of enemies.”

“You’re a little far out of the way, wouldn’t you say.”

“No distance is too far for my queen.”

“You’re going to have to go a little further than.”

“This is a shame, there’s no talking.”

“No there isn’t”

“I wasn’t talking to you,” said Falrod.

The three knights unsheathed their blades.

After they surveyed the remains of the camp.

“Let’s put this gold to some good use,” said Falrod.

“The day grows short.”

“This will only take a moment.”

The three of them pushed the plunder to the precipice and with a final shove sent it over the edge.

The three stepped over the bodies and followed the cave in the back.

The howl of the wind grew louder.

There was more climbing ahead of them. Remi has lost track of time he thought that it would still be daytime, but it seemed to be getting darker as they rose. HE put this down to exhaustion, new land and a constant throbbing where there was once a finger.

Remi took deep breaths. It was not much of a consolation. The other two appeared to be flagging in their upwards ascent, and that made him feel less of a failure.

The climb went on into the early evening. Remi did not know if there was an end in sight. There was a voice inside him that told him to just let go and tumble down to the ground. Let all the worries of this world slip away and have a well-earned rest.

There were moments when that thought sustained him.

Remi climbed on.

The climbing continued for several more hours.

The three knights reached a plateau.

They looked around at the surrounding area. The knights could see a small campsite over at the other side of the flat area. There was a river that flowed past the tent and over the edge. Remi licked his lips but waited for Falrod to take the lead. He would not drink until the other two had. Remi would also get a chance to inspect his hand better. That was if this was the place that they were supposed to come to.

Mirwolves: Kill Phrase Engage Part 1

The mirwolves were getting closer. Now the three of them were nearing the mountain. The mountain’s shadow had left the surrounding area in early darkness. Visibility was low but for Falrod, Vilkon and Remi that was the least of their problems.

The three men were being pursued by mirwolves. The hope was that once they had entered into the darker territory, the wolves would give up on the chase. That was not the case. The shiny coats that gave them their names made them more accessible to spot at night. That did not make them any less dangerous.

The three knights happened upon an unusually narrow point of the forest. Falrod stopped in his tracks and turned to the other two.

“This is where we make our stand.”

“Yes sir” Vilkon replied. The three of them stopped, turned and waited. The denseness of the forest lowered visibility. However, they could see the reflection of the mirwolves through the branches. The mirwolves would be on them soon enough. Vilko and Remi sought to steady themselves by the trunks of trees. Falrod stood in the most open part of the area.

“Here they come,” Falrod said, “on my signal”. The mirwolves bore down on them they were so close their paws breaking sticks could be heard. Falrod gave the signal, Vilko and Remi sprung from their spots to engage the mirwolves.

The mirwolves thick coats meant that piercing the hide was a more trying experience.

Remi struggled to find an exposed area with his opponent. As he circled it taking swipes with the sword, he caught a glimpse of Falrod in the periphery of his vision.

Falrod had an arm thrust entirely down the throat of a wolf.

Falrod was able to do this because he was one of the few that still had kept his armour.

Remi didn’t know where Vilko was. Taking inspiration from Falrod, Remi threw himself at his wolf. He attempted to get his arm around the neck of the wolf.

The beast bucked, but Remi held tight. Taking a short knife, Remi began to thrust into the underside of the wolf. He felt the piercing of flesh and then hung in all the tighter for it. The wolf yelped in pain and bucked all the harder trying to dislodge Remi, but Remi held on tight.

The beasts jumping and kicking declined in both frequency and ferocity. It hit against trees as it circled an are before finally, its legs gave up, and the creature went to ground. With one final shudder, the beast sighed out the last of the life in its body.

Remi smiled, but his victory was short lived.

He realised that his arm was stuck.

Falrod still had an arm down a throat of a mirwolf and was attempting to dislodge something within the gut. The wolf was biting down on the shoulder plates of Falrod’s armour which as a result was becoming more mangled.

Falrod would have to achieve victory soon or else his arm maybe forfeit. He was also fending off the attack of two other wolves at the same time. Falrod was known for his love of challenges. As the wolves attempted to bite, Falrod fended them off with his sword. He used the wolf he had inserted himself into as a shield.

Vilko emerged from undergrowth with the head of a mirwolf in his hand.

Remi was using all his strength to free his hand which in the meantime had gone numb due to the weight pressing down. One of the wolves that was attacking Falrod had peeled off and set their eyes on the vulnerable Remi.

“Vilko help,” said Remi. Vilko turned to see Remi but did not move. Remi realised that he would have to fight this one on his own. The mirwolf was approaching. Remi knew that he would only have one chance at this so he stood as much as he could. The mirwolf lowered himself down ready to pounce. Remi looked directly into the eyes of his predator. A flicker, the mirwolf jumped. Remi dropped flat. The mirwolf hit into the body of the slain pack member with such force that it rolled freeing Remi’s hand. The beast was stunned. Remi pulled his knife from the fallen wolf’s body. He grabbed the dazed one by the tail and thrusting the blade into a part of the wolf that was particularly tender. The mirwolf collapsed dead from the pain and bleeding. Thick black blood stained all of Remi’s knife and arm all the way up to the elbow.

Remi turned to see his colleagues. He saw that Falrod had yanked the innards from one of the wolves. Falrod was now forcing them down the throat of the other causing it to choke.

Falrod could be heard taunting the suffocating animal, “C’mon I thought you were hungry”. He held the beast’s mouth shut as it shook violently before succumbing to Falrod. Falrod seized the opportunity and sliced the wolf from jaw to belly making sure that it would not wake up.

The three knights stood victorious.

“I dare say Glarman’s bow would have been useful in engagement such as this,” said Vilko.

“Ay but Glarman is dead, and we worked with what he had. Still were victorious. Remi I heard you call for help.”

“That you did sir, a moment of temporary loss of control but that is no excuse. May I offer my ring finger, for no woman should enter union with a coward.”

“A good choice, present it please.”

“Yes, sir,” said Remi taking off the glove on his left hand. He exposed his ring finger on a nearby stump. Vilko brought his small axe up and brought it down quickly, severing the digit. A brief moment of intense pain and it was over. The finger came off in one swipe. Remi tore some undershirt and used it as a makeshift bandage to curtail the bleeding. He put the glove back on.

Falrod walked on ahead before shouting. “Now to get up the mountain.”

5 things I learned bombing at stand-up

Stand-Up

Stand-up is one of those things that people tell me I should do.

While I appreciate, stand up I’ve never felt a burning desire to it or pursue it further than an infrequent hobby.

However, every so often I get the itch to get up on stage. On Monday the 4th of June 2018, I scratched.

I bombed big style.

Let me tell you what I learned from bombing, so you don’t have to.

 

Portrait of a man drowning

5: Prepare a little

First some context.

When I first did stand-up, I used to learn the lines so rigidly that if I was one word out it would throw me off completely.

When I last did stand up I didn’t prepare as much as I usually did and it went better than expected.

I thought that for Monday I would push it even further and freestyle the whole set.

I made a mistake.

The set wasn’t a complete write-off but I’m not going to tell you what went well. You didn’t come here for that.

What happened was that I bounced around from subject to subject without developing a through line. Some jokes came out of nowhere with no set up so they didn’t land as well as they could have.

When you don’t prepare, there is going to be several long pauses. Those pauses kill the timing.

You’re reading this thinking that something as fundamental as not preparing is not a lesson you need to learn. I’m not that smart.

From past performances of stand up, I’ve learned that you don’t want to lock yourself too tightly into the words. If you do any flub will send you flying off course.

On Monday I learned that winging it isn’t good either.

Next time I do stand up, I’ll be trying to find that sweet spot between over and under-preparing.

The point of preparation into to lock yourself in it’s to give your mind the freedom should something unexpected come up.

4: You’re on your own

Stand-up is strange. You get up in front of people, recite a couple of sentences and hope that they laugh.

Your goal is to change how people view things through comedy.

Now that you know what stand up is I can tell you first hand what it isn’t. It’s not acknowledging the other acts.

When I performed with my band, Mental Deficiency, I would mention the support acts and thank them.

You don’t do this in stand up. I found out the hard way.

One of the performers on before me didn’t get many laughs. They were young, and I thought it would be a good idea to, on stage, tell him he did well.

Now in my head, I thought I was coming across as “Hey kid we’ve all been through it”. It wasn’t until a friend told me after that it came across as “Hey kid listen to me the old pro”.

How condescending, I’m not a pro, I’m not even amateur. When I realised this I cringed so hard I castrated myself.

Stages are strange; they’re an elevated piece of ground that as soon as you step onto it, you’re a performer no matter what you think.

Keep in mind the context of what you are supposed to be doing on stage.

My mistake was that I thought I was coming across as helpful and inclusive. In a stand-up setting, it may have come across as, at best mocking or patronising at worst.

Don’t worry about anyone else focus on your own act first. Acknowledge no one.

3: Never admit that you are screwing up while screwing up

Your perception of time changes when you’re on stage. Seconds turn to minutes, minutes to hours etc.

A silence can last a lifetime. There are going to be silences. From onstage someone listening and someone unimpressed sounds the same.

What laughter there is you can’t hear. A feeling of dread rises from your gut, “I am bombing” it’s the only thought in your head. You’re arrogant and didn’t prepare. You don’t have anything to steer you through the vacuum, so you announce “I’m bombing”.

Big mistake, if you weren’t bombing before, you’re bombing now.

Friends who came to see me said that I wasn’t bombing until I announced that I was bombing. Whether I was or I wasn’t didn’t matter, I had sealed my fate.

In stand up as in life, people hate weakness. We’re sharks in that regard, any hint of blood in the water and there’s a feeding frenzy.

If you think you’re not doing well, don’t let on.

Admission plants doubt in the minds of others. There’s also the added bonus of it becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy.

2: Don’t attack the audience

Attacking the audience is the worst mistake I made. What was worse was that I didn’t realise that I had attacked them until after.

There was a group of improvisers in the front row. I performed in an improv group for several years. During my time in the group audiences offered us the same suggestions repeatedly, such as “Taxidermist”, “Sex-change” and “Meat factory”. It got a bit old.

I riffed on that saying how frustrated it was getting the same words all the time and how annoying improv audiences could be.

Again someone had to point out to me, an attack on one audience is an attack on all audiences.

It’s not even like I was unaware of this. Ghostbusters 2016 died on its arse because it attacked the audience before the film came out.

I was aware that attacking the audience is a no-no. Even though I believed that I was having a go at a entirely different audience the stand-up audience couldn’t tell the difference… because audiences are fucking stupid (;D).

This bears repeating, not for your sake but mine; DON’T ATTACK THE AUDIENCE.

1: Keep up the momentum

Before I went on the compere gave me an excellent introduction that was high energy.

The MC got the crowd going, he gave me the gift of a hyped audience, and I squandered it by not jumping straight in with a joke.

That’s going from 100mph in fifth gear to dropping down to first.

Dropping the momentum was not my biggest mistake. It was, however, the first thread that unravelled the stand-up sweater.

You have to keep the momentum going. Yes, there are going to be ebb and flow moments. You slow down to build up again, but you never stop.

It’s harder to start if you never stop.

Keeping up momentum applies to life. You have to keep up the momentum no matter what. Even if you are not good, you will get better through repeatedly doing. You may not make much progress, but you will make progress.

That’s what I need to do; I need to keep the momentum up. Before, I was never interested all that much in stand up, but now that I’m in the minus column, there has been a fire lit under me.

I have something to prove and I can’t wait to turn this defeat into a victory. Now that I have something to aim for and can’t wait for my next shot.

Stand up may have been in the background for me over the years but now it has my undivided attention.

The Zelda method will make you more productive

Zelda: A Link to the past

I loved Legend of Zelda: Twilight Princess. Never got into Ocarina of time and thought that Wind Waker looked great but was pretty simple. I was also reading The Uses of Enchantment by Bruno Bettelheim. The book explored Freudian Symbolism in Fairy Tales.

It appeared that Zelda: Twilight Princess had incorporated elements of this symbolism into its story. The hero transforming into a wolf, the horse that rears onto its hind legs when the hero kisses the princess. I could get into it if you want but I’m not here to talk about the deeper meanings of a Nintendo game.

What I am here to mention is the difficulty of the puzzles in the game. I found some of them challenging. I’m not a great gamer, so maybe that makes me a noob, but I remember several times just being unable to progress.

Not knowing what to do; I would play Viewtiful Joe instead.

Henshin a Go-Go baby

Viewtiful Joe was knock about beat ‘em up fun compared to the more strategic play. I would get my fill and then would go back to Zelda. I was able to find that I could progress a little further.

Zelda hadn’t changed in difficulty level. It was just that I was able to look at it with a fresh pair of eyes. Approach the game objectively.

This would go back and forth until eventually, I completed the Zelda game.

Words and Lyrics

I made a film a few years ago, Deadville.

When I was writing it, I had also started up a band called Mental Deficiency. Splitting the time between the two may not be the best practice, but for some reason, it worked with me.

At one point rewrites for Deadville needed to be completed by a specific date because we needed to start rehearsals.

At the same time, I was worried that Mental Deficiency wouldn’t have enough songs to play our headline gigs. You need about six-eight songs if you want to headline your concerts and they have to be your own. Covers are cheating.

Thoughts of needing songs were in the back of my head the whole way through rewrites the Deadville script.

Almost as soon as I finished the Deadville script lyrics and song ideas came pouring out of my head.

I don’t know why I was able to come up with lyrics so fast. Distracting myself from the songs by working on a script gave my conscious mind the distraction that it needed. It was so my subconscious could work on coming up with lyrics and ideas.

You’ve probably been told to focus on one and not to stop until it is done.

Does that work for you? If it does you can stop reading, what follows isn’t applicable. I’m talking to the people who struggle with focus. If you are a person who gets bogged down in the weeds of a project, I’m here to talk to you. If you’re a person who gets emotionally invested in a creative endeavour, then you and I have a few things to discuss.

My focus is a big problem. Trying to heed the advice of those who have done so and focus on one task until it’s completed is difficult. For the last few years, I have attempted to do that, and it hasn’t got me the results that I wanted.

While I’m still learning and trying to find a way that works for me I realise that the one task at a time approach does not work.

If this sounds like you then I may have a method that might help.

Zelda Method

You may not find this useful. You’re thinking “so what?” .

In fact the majority of you reading this won’t. You have proper focus, so I know that this post is aimed at the smallest minority like myself.

Trying for years to focus on one task has led me to frustration. The “one step at a time” method has not worked for me, and maybe it doesn’t work for you.

Try what I call the “Zelda Method”. Work on one project until you hit a wall then work on something similar yet different.

With Zelda and Viewtiful Joe they were both games, but they were a different genre.

With Deadville and Mental Deficiency, they were both word related projects.

I forget about the “Zelda Method” and have recently wasted time focusing on one project. In this case, it was a play that concerned Harvey Weinstein. Furthermore, it dealt with the complicity of actors, Meryl Streep and Oprah Winfrey.

I hit a wall and got frustrated, the project has halted. I went back to another player and started to restructure the piece. Low and behold I now know what restructures that I should make to the first play.

If I ever want to learn to play a musical instrument, it’s going to have to be piano and guitar at the same time.

I’m annoyed that I forgot that this is how I work, let this post be a reminder that one step at a time does not work for everyone.

Those who run before they can walk stumble more often but you’ll be surprised how much ground they cover.

Victim plays and how you write pop songs (Genre Cheat 3/3)

This post is the final part about genre. I’ve written about the cancer of modern drama that is the victim narrative. I’ll talk briefly about gangsters and rom-coms how they are two sides of the same coin. I also write briefly about the meta-narrative and how to write a pop song.

Victim Play

This is an extension of the drama but it’s toxic, and you should avoid deliberately writing one. I’ll tell you what to watch out for. The most mainstream example of the victim play is the film Philadelphia. When people mention Philadelphia, they talk about how groundbreaking it was. It helped bring discussing the plight of people with AIDS into the mainstream. No one ever talks about the film and whether or not it’s any good. The film isn’t.

A man gets fired for being gay/having AIDS because his bosses hate gay people. A man hires a homophobic lawyer. A homophobic lawyer learns that gay people are people too. Court rules that gay people are people also. Gay guy dies.

The audience realises that gay people exist. I want to make it clear that the makers of the victim play have good intentions it’s that practically it’s a big “and” at the end. The people who need to watch Philadelphia and take the lesson from it never will. The victim play reduces people to morally simple cyphers. Gay people are living saints; everyone else is Satan.

With the victim play, there is also a degree of fetishising the injustice. If you make a film about the domestic abuse, you will have to have a scene where the wife beats the husband.

In Philadelphia, there’s a scene the homophobic lawyer uses all the slurs that come to mind. It’s a case of having your cake and eating it too.

Rom-com/ Gangster

The rom-com and gangster film are two sides of the same coin only one is feminine and the other masculine. They both deal with rules of behaviour in society. The only difference is the consequences. In the rom-com, you are undateable and lose your chance at love. In the gangster film if you snitch they will kill you. Both end in similar ways. There is usually a wedding at the end of the rom-com, the heroine leaves the dating world behind. In the gangster film, the hero leaves the life of crime behind. They leave “the life” through the witness protection programme or death.

Meta-narrative

If you can find a way to make a commentary on the nature of storytelling or filmmaking, there is a chance that you are a master storyteller. The most popular means of doing this is through the framing device, the voice over. Many times it’s forced and can seem cheap. The best example is The Ponderosa Wedding Massacre from It’s Always Sunny.

The Lord of The Rings has a meta-narrative with Frodo writing the story of the Lord of The Rings.

If you can do it subtly, then you are a master. Inception is as much about film as it is about dreams. Look at the scene in the cafe; they are talking about screenwriting.

Arrival is also a good example too. It deals with the distortion of time and our perception. You think that you are watching a flashback when you’re watching a flash forward. It’s a magical manipulation of time.

Briefly about pop songs

There’s no real another place that I will get to put this in so I’ll talk about it here.

With pop songs, you take an old cliche and put your spin on it. Let’s assume for example “A stitch in time saves nine”. You recognise the expression OK, so now what, you look for a word that rhymes with nine. “A stitch in time saves nine/ How come I’m eighth in line?” Not great but not terrible for thirty seconds of work. Those lyrics don’t make literal sense, but that doesn’t matter. Pop songs are better left vague.

As for chorus’ something repetitive and simple.

If you’re a man: Make it about either saying that you screwed up and are heartbroken.

If you’re a woman: Make it about how he didn’t do enough, and you’re irreplaceable.

Pop is all about selling a comfortable lie.

Conclusion

Hope that these three parts helped you gain some clarity when it comes to genre. I enjoyed writing about this and hope that you enjoyed reading up on the subject. Feels like I’ve only scratched the surface. I will return to this subject later.

If you liked reading about what genre and want to know more would you mind leaving a comment because I want to help you. Unless you want to write a victim play.

Thank you.