The Complexities of Story

There are occasions in my life where I become completely immersed in a book or a TV show to the extent where I’m almost drowning in it – I think about the storylines between episodes or chapters, dream about the characters, and so on. I remember Stephen King saying about a favourite novel of his that the feeling was akin to being married to the book, which I can relate to.

Currently, I’m feeling this with Breaking Bad. I’m currently midway through Season 4 and I’m stunned by the quality of the writing and the constant edge-of-the-seat cliffhangers that happen in every episode.  My girlfriend and I spend more time discussing theories on future developments in the show than we do about important stuff like bills and in my case, finding employment!

And we rarely find common ground in our conversations, either. Which I think highlights the sheer complexity of the plotlines in the show. I marvel at how the writer on Breaking Bad manage to keep a handle on what’s going on, where the stories have developed from and how they are going to be resolved.  I felt the same when watching The Wire, too.  The creative stimulation that these shows give me is like a shot of adrenalin. And it does help to inspire.  But the overriding feeling I get is that this type of complex storylines are beyond me as a writer. Such feelings should act as a spur to try, but for me it isn’t currently working that way. I don’t think my imagination could cope with multiple storylines that criss-cross each other constantly. Just having to remember who said what 50,000 words earlier. Or having to sort out what a character knows at a certain point in time, and what they think they know. Juggling so many balls in the air is something I’ve never felt I’ve been able to do in my own writing, which is another segment of the fear that stops me putting pen to paper again.

I know I shouldn’t let it dishearten me. It has been said that Raymond Chandler, a master of fiendish and labyrinthine plots, once forgot about an entire character when writing The Big Sleep. He admitted that he forgot about the butler (although Chandler was a fan of the sauce which may explain things). Another story I read somewhere concerning Alfred Hitchcock: After the first private screening of Psycho, Hitchcock’s wife Alma Reville said to him, ‘You can’t send it out like that’.  There was stunned silence. When Hitch asked why not, she responded, ‘Janet Leigh swallows when she is supposed to be dead.’ And it was true.

So it can happen to the best of them. And if I’m being honest, there is more than one writing voice on a show like Breaking Bad. Having a team of writers all contributing ideas to the show must make it easy to spark the creative juices and come up with imaginative storyboards for future episodes.  Besides, big holes in the plot of a manuscript is what the rewrite is for. Once I had a character send a text message in 1985! And I never saw it until the rewrite.

So I know that anyone, even the greatest writers, can have problems with the complexities of story.  But it’s another layer that is holding me back.

Oh well, might be time to watch another episode…


A Message From Your Sponsor

Being an Englishman, the cricket summer here in Australia hasn’t been the most successful (master of understatement there!). As I’m currently unemployed and have a fair amount of time on my hands I have watched a lot of the cricket on TV in the last couple of months. And one thing that has caught my attention is the amount of advertising they have on there, particularly in the Big Bash League. Everything is sponsored. The drinks break – sponsored. The instant replays – sponsored. The graphics – sponsored.

Watch an instant replay. Buy a barbecue.

Why is it necessary for every fragment of the game to have a sponsor? I’m no expert but I find it hard to believe that this sort of blatant product placement works. Who watches a ‘Bunnings Warehouse instant replay’ and immediately decides to head to Bunnings and buy a trowel or whatever? I would imagine most people would be concentrating on the action rather than their next trip to the garden centre. The Gatorade sponsorship of the drinks break makes me laugh too. If I fancy a drink after any type of workout there isn’t really much of a choice. Gatorade or Powerade I would say. Now I doubt I would specifically buy a Gatorade just because they sponsored a drinks break in the BBL. You can tell the commentators find it a bit embarrassing. On a number of occasions Gilchrist or Fleming or whoever are in the middle of their analysis and then at the end have to quickly blurt out the name of the sponsor to save face. They must have the producers in their ear all the time reminding them that they must mention the sponsor, must mention the sponsor! It may just be me, but this sort of stuff puts me off using any of these companies in the future. Advertising for me should be low-key, non-intrusive and imaginative rather than constant and in your face. Still, once England have lost the last two T20 matches I won’t have to worry about it any more!