So, November 1st I embarked on NaNoWriMo 2015, which is a challenge to write a novel – beginning, middle and end – of at least 50,000 words between November 1-30. It’s only the 25th, but I’m calling it a day at roughly 22,000 words. And yet, I would say that this month has been a semi-success.
I wrote a poem. Well, some poems.
The old line “there’s plenty more fish in the sea” apparently bugs me a lot. I first wrote a short poem about it back in November 2012, thought it was pretty okay, and then earmarked it for a long-delayed fanzine, so it hasn’t really been seen much. (I then checked this website and realised it’s been here all this time, but I still consider it unshared up till now.)
Then I unwittingly harped on the theme in a poem I wrote this February, which I put up on World Poetry Day (March 21st). I think there’s something here, but I wouldn’t call it done. I put it up because…
…I figured I should either make it a trilogy/three-part poem/triumvirate on a theme/whatever, or a massive In Memoriam-style treatise on how much this one phrase bugs me, or stick my fingers in my ears and pretend I’m not a moron who keeps writing the same poems. I went for the first option this week, and so here they all are:
A post summarising what blogging means in 2014, and where I’m taking mine.
I’ve had a blog a while now, since mid-March 2012 (which is a while in Internet-time), so I’ve been asked a couple of times by people looking to get into blogging how on earth you do it. (I’ve given various garbled guidance dumps, but if you asked me today, I’d say get a free WordPress.com account, don’t worry about how the site looks, and just write at least 500 words every so often about something you’re interested in.) However, I’ve come to realise that in a sense, I’ve barely been blogging at all.
Hello again. Sorry the blog went quiet without warning. You know how it is, once you stop doing something, it becomes harder to start it up again. Plus, an awful lot of life seemed to be happening for a while there, so I didn’t really feel like doing much of anything. Still, cusp of a new year, so well worth clearing up the detritus of life since the last update, putting a bow round it, calling it a present, and then moving on to a more communicative 2013.
I last left you with two weeks to go before the first official Rebel Breed performance, and a vague promise to blog more and write more in general. Obviously, blogging more has not been a success. But what has been successful, you ask?
You’re probably owed an explanation of what else I’ve been up to creatively apart from Nando’s, but sadly the answer to that is not much. Rehearsing a musical somewhere you don’t live, setting up a multiplatform writing partnership, attempting to escape graduate unemployment, and readjusting to the family home and its pets and schedules, plus god knows what else, has very much taken up the available brain space that I would prefer to use for creativity. As such, not much is getting done, I’m afraid.
Tl;dr – making creative things in Leicester. Get involved.
Over three years of living in Leicester, I met a load of talented people, who just give away their time either through generosity or because they don’t quite realise how special they are. Also, I made friends with these people.
The other thing that happened is my confidence in writing, and my output, increased by a lot. (Also, directing is fun apparently.) (Also also, I like doing radio.) So, when I stopped pretending to a degree/graduated (ymmv) it seemed imperative to keep doing this sort of thing, because it’s what (all I’m) good at.
One project I did while in university has proved to be the catalyst for doing all of this. Basically, things got out of hand. William Breden came to me with an idea for a musical skit, taking the piss out of musicals and cheap dates with affection. This has snowballed into a full-length show at Dave’s Leicester Comedy Festival in February 2014. However, we needed to bill it under some sort of company name, rather than just vaguely go “here’s a show”. Also, through our collaboration, there proved to be a lot of common interest in doing a wide variety of stuff independent of any groups we’re associated with.
Enter Rebel Breed.
We had a read/singthrough of the whole play at the weekend. It’s all very exciting. And now, the second part of William Breden’s article on the funny. WARNING: contains many swears.
Part 2: Lowering the tone – rude words are big and clever
Last week I focused on a specific joke and used it to show something about the play as a whole. This time around I want to be a bit broader and talk about tone.
The tone for the original 5-10 minute version of Nando’s was pretty straightforward: silly. Because it was over a short space of time there was no desperate need for character development and/or a narrative arc. It started silly and got sillier. It was funny. All good.
Once the decision to go to an hour was reached then tone became a bit more of an issue. One level, one note of emotion, over such a period would be stupid and it would be boring. Boring is bad.
So instead there are ups and downs, laughs and sads, anger and calm. We achieve this through dialogue and song, and also through swearing.
Part 1: Why did the chicken change her name?
For the last couple of weeks (prior to the ominous death clock last week, I mean), James has held forth about the music in Nando’s, and how it evolved and why it does what it does. That’s fine, music is generally held to be of at least moderate importance in a musical after all. Whatever.
This week, I thought I’d focus on humour in Nando’s, how it’s evolved as the play developed and what purpose it serves.
A good example is a joke that was present from the first draft, back in April, and has remained until now, our tenth draft:
Hello! Hello and welcome. You both look swell, just swell. My name is Sally Chicken.
(She pauses to allow a reaction from the couple)
All Nando’s employees must change their names to Chicken when they join.
Ha! I’m only joking. HAAAA! Could you imagine?
It’s not Sally, it’s Fenugreek.
Now, that’s not a particularly complex joke, but it helps achieve a few things. Firstly, it introduces the character of Fenugreek and establishes that a) she’s got a silly name and b) she has a somewhat idiosyncratic syntax. This helps the play in that it immediately sets up contrast between her and the rather straight Melvin and Caroline, and in this contrast we can begin to find absurdity, drama and humour. All from a small exchange of silly lines. Neat, huh?
But there’s a little problem with being too smug about the above, namely that the punchline, the ‘Fenugreek’ , isn’t actually particularly amusing. I liked it at the time, I thought it was a funny word and appropriate and so hoped it would fit but on hearing it rehearsed and then performed it fell flat. It wasn’t funny. I wasn’t funny. Disaster. So how do we try to make something that we thought was funny funnier?
This is how the line appears in the current draft:
Ha! I’m only joking. Could you imagine?
CAROLINE (Still giggling)
Of course it’s not Sally, it’s Rubber.
So it’s the same exact joke but the payoff is better, clearer, more logical. Logic is important in humour, and you can subvert it but if you want a silly chicken name then by Colonel Sanders you’d better go with a rubber chicken, which has been a stalwart of comedy since at least the Pythons.
The new version of the joke was performed and I had a number of people after the event come to me and tell me they liked it (which was nice) and one person come to me and tell me they liked everything except the name change (which I also welcomed, critical feedback is vital). So not everyone will laugh, hopefully more people will than won’t, but even if they don’t it still serves an important role in establishing tone.
So, jokes are funny (sometimes, to some people) but that isn’t always their most important role.
Next week I’ll talk a bit more about how humour affects the tone of Nando’s, and also talk about swearing.
The only update since last time is that we did a readthrough, and the words sound like words. So that’s nice. The last five “questions” from Will Breden to myself concerning music and musicals and such:
New #fridayflash for you all. Wordbunchings every Friday(ish).
The Internet isn’t working again.
Sorry there was no blog last week. Not only did Bank Holiday delight but confuse us all, but we were in intense work on the script. On August 30th we hit version 10.0, with all songs written and words as we want them. Now, we abandon writing it for a bit. We’re giving it to our actors and close friends for feedback, then we’ll bring it back into the shop to tinker with it again based on what they think. The big day, though, is September 29th, when we’ll have our read/singthrough with the cast, and where we really find out if this script’s going to work.
But, blogging. This week and next, some terse questions from Will Breden to myself, concerning music and musicals. The first part: