audio commentaries

Finally my Merlin season 5 DVD set has arrived and I can watch it and listen to the commentaries. I love hearing the actors argue and chat over the episodes, but even better are the episodes where the writers and directors get their say. You hear all sorts of stories about the writing and filming of the episodes, what tricks they had to use, what worked and what didn’t, inside stories – like how they hard-boiled 120 eggs for the juggling scene instead of realising they could use wooden or rubber eggs – and generally get a really interesting view of life on the other side of the screen.

It’s even more enjoyable now I’ve finally figured out to turn on the subtitles, so I can follow the storyline of the episode properly while listening!

I just wish that the DVD producers would realise that the loud repetitive music and flashy sequences in the menu section are entertaining for the first two minutes/first viewing and thereafter simply become totally irritating and off-putting.

The first disk, containing the first three episodes of the season, all have commentaries on them – I hope my luck continues and there are lots of episodes with commentaries throughout all 13 episodes. And that I get a chance to get through them in the near future. Mind you, I’ve come to quite enjoy my Sunday mornings ironing in front of the little TV in the kitchen.



And so that was Christmas…

…and what have I done?

I started out this holiday with certain intentions. I was going to run, paint, draw and maybe even write, and generally concentrate on unwinding and resting.

I’m pleased that I managed to keep up the running, so that I’ve at least maintained fitness if not improved it over the holidays. I’ve done a couple of 6k runs, as well as parkruns, and been to the gym a couple of times.

Drawing – well no. I’ve done a few sketches on the ipad, but haven’t actually put real pencil to paper, let alone got the paints out, although I did find my painting bag and was sorely tempted. In the end, though, there was just not the time.

What I did do was start writing again. Over the past few days I’ve written over 15,000 words of a fanfiction story, of which I’ve posted a new chapter each day for over a week. The final episode of Merlin on Christmas eve was so good in some ways and so irritating in others that it tormented me into reaching for the keyboard and writing my own version, which is still ongoing. I’m just hoping I can maintain at least some momentum on it over the next days and weeks.

The other thing I’ve done, linked to this, is rewatch very nearly the whole series of Merlin, all five seasons (65 episodes!), to remind myself of storylines and characters and background research for my writing. Thankfully, most of the time it’s been a case of working on one screen while watching the other with half an eye 😉 I’ve also been reading Merlin-related books, to get the general feel of the mythology and the era.

I’ve slept fairly well, mostly, so can only assume that I’m well rested. So now it’s time to sort myself out and tackle the term ahead with energy and determination, reminding myself of all that’s best about my job and tackling and taming the negative elements.

And hope that I can find a way to maintain creative and relaxing time throughout the term rather than having to crowd it all in to the holidays.

Here’s hoping for a good 2013!


Time to develop a plan

Image of my timeline planningThree chapters posted of the story already, and I’m only just starting to plan? Well, truth be told, so far most of what I’d done was just novelization of the episode, including an extra scene or two that was missing from the original. It’s interesting to note the differences between stories that are told in images and stories that are told in words, and the different techniques used and messages conveyed. Now, with the characters starting to take over and direct me, it was time for me to draw a rough map of my intended route through the story.

The trouble with fanfiction is that like nanowrimo, there’s little time to go back and revise. With chapters posted as they are written, it’s easy to write yourself into a corner and find that you’ve set up situations in earlier chapters that given hindsight you would have rearranged.

And so I set out to plan the events and timeline that the story needs to follow.

First I went through the original episode, which I had already transcribed (it drops off iplayer tonight and my DVD set isn’t released for another three weeks) and wrote down the order of scenes, categorising them into Merlin/Arthur, Camelot and elsewhere. This enabled me to see the flow of the episode and how the three areas of activity intertwined.

I numbered these, giving each a multiple of 10, following original computer programming convention. This served two purposes: first I could easily tell which were the original scenes, and second I could add in other scenes, with the intervening numbers, and had enough numbers between original scenes to allot to them. I also needed to work out which extra characters I would need to develop to carry the story through, tying it with previous episodes where I could and trying to stick to the style and structure of the original characters and storylines.

I then had a rough list of events, and the order they needed to occur in.  The next job was to colour code these to show who would narrate them, as my story is written in first person but jumping from character to character for each section, each clearly prefaced with who is speaking. The challenge is to work out who in each scene would tell the story best. Sometimes there is an overlap between chapters, as the same scene is told from the POV of two different characters, but only where I feel the second POV adds something to the storyline, or where I need to paraphrase to skip past a bit we’ve learnt about from someone else already.

I’m finding generally that my way of writing changes a little with each character, as I hear their voices in my head and picture them on screen. Even the vocabulary can change. This gives more interest to the story, but I still need to learn how to get deeper into their heads and I know one weakness of my writing is lack of description.

Ah well, I can’t guarantee a story update every day, but now I know where it’s going things seem to be going fairly smoothly.

The story is over 6000 words so far, by the way, with each chapter over 1000 and the longest chapter so far being 2250.


They escaped…

My story was going to be a roadtrip story, with Arthur and Merlin telling the story alternately. The trouble is, they had other ideas.

I was trying to work out how the next chapter would go. It should be Arthur’s turn next, but he wasn’t completely sure he could tell it right.  Merlin was willing to go again, but then a quiet voice spoke up: the third character who was present, who kindly offered to tell the next part from his point of view.

And so just three chapters into my story the characters have taken me hostage and are starting to write their own story. It’s hard to describe what’s going on when that happens: it feels like I’m not writing the story but channeling it.  Like the story already exists and it’s telling itself to me, for me to write down. I might feel like I’m in charge, and I might be able to influence it, but if it feels hard it’s because I’m heading the wrong way, or telling the story from the wrong POV, or just not listening properly.

That’s the magic of storytelling for me, and the feeling I’ve been chasing without knowing how to find it. Now it feels like I’ve pulled a loose thread and my brain has come unravelled, throwing up story ideas so fast that I can hardly recognise them as such, let alone deal with writing them down. As though they’ve always been there, lurking in the corner, but now the light has been turned on I can see them, and they’re clamouring for attention.

Apologies for the mixed metaphors; the stories may present themselves to me, but it’s my responsibility to vocalise them. This is where I need to call on and develop my storytelling skills, so that I tell the story in a way that others can follow, my description skills so that others can picture the story as I picture it, my vocabulary so that I can find the right word to conjure up the sensations reactions effect I want.

I think this is part of why I’ve avoided writing for a while: this feeling that my life has been taken over, that I’m a slave to the story, that there is either me or the words, and no place where the two can exist comfortably side by side.

Or I’m just a melodramatic idiot who likes to pretend these things 😉