Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Old Blog

People often ask us ‘How do you two write together? ASB

Well this is one way of doing it. Actually the first question they ask us tends to be ‘Where’s James/Andrew?’ since we never seem to both be able to be in the same place at the same time. There really are two of us you know. Honest. JP

So far, for us, the process seems to have differed slightly every time. In the case of ‘Old Boys’, Ian Farrington contacted us about doing a 6th Doctor story, set in the 80s, for ‘The Centenarian’ and we submitted a few ideas. ASB

I honestly can’t remember what the other two ideas were. But in general Andrew is the ideas man, in fact he’s irritatingly good at them. JP

Ian liked ‘Old Boys’, a short story written in letter form that featured three shorter stories – we like to give ourselves work! I came up with the basic ideas and mapped out the detailed storyline. ASB

Ian had asked if we’d include a loose technology theme to run throughout. ASB

In fact it was more of a ‘dangers of technology’ theme. JP

The first thing I thought of was computers. That in turn suggested the companion! The occupational background of the friends of the recurring character, Edward Grainger, suggested the setting. ASB

We also needed the meal as a framing device. In addition this was to be the story in which Edward began to work out who The Doctor was, or at least began to see the recurring pattern of their encounters. JP

For the plot, I drew on an old idea I’d had some years ago for a Virgin Books, Troughton era novel proposal set in the 1930s that James and I never got round to finishing or sending ( I think?). ASB

It probably fell-foul of the ending of Virgin’s licence. I certainly recall the idea but I can’t remember, or be bothered to look up, to see, if we ever submitted it. JP

This, then, became the basis for the first of the shorter stories, which has the mini-title ‘Games Without Frontiers’ (for those interested in such things). It was the often worn garb of another 6th Doctor era companion that sparked the idea for the second shorter story. Working out to lose weight was all the rage in the eighties. And Jane Fonda was queen! Her hit video partly inspired the plot. We gave this story the mini-title, ‘Tummy Trouble’. ASB

Andrew being the expert on fitness videos of course. JP

The final shorter story in the trilogy, mini-titled ‘Friendly Fire’, linked into the overall arcing plot of our main short story as a whole. Again, inspired by the particular companion, I came up with a ‘history’ themed piece set on an ocean liner. We also had a little knowledge of what was to happen in the following short story and so worked the plot to help set up what was to come. I sent this storyline to James, intending to start writing a version myself. ASB

When I got the plot outline I decided to plough straight into writing it – I thought I should probably do a bit of work at this stage since Andrew seemed to have been doing all the running up to that point. In fact, in general, whilst Andrew’s strength lies in plots and ideas, mine lies in prose and dialogue. So I wrote the first draft and sent it back. JP

It was so good, I abandoned doing a draft of my own and just added plot elements that I felt were missing or hadn’t been covered properly and the odd line or lines here and there to it. ASB

Blush. JP

We kicked this draft backwards and forwards between us a few times, tweaking and editing each others re-writes until we were just debating over certain words! ASB

In fact that’s generally how we work – one of us writes the initial draft and then we chuck it back and forth – phoning each other in between to discuss (with varying degrees of heat) the changes we have made. In fact it’s a very productive process because it means we each have to justify what we have done if the other one objects to it. In effect we act as each other’s editors. JP

Once this was settled we sent the final draft back to Ian. Ian came back to us with only a few comments and changes. The main problem was that the plot of ‘Friendly Fire’, rather than act as a set up to the next story, clashed with it. We needed to change the plot and ‘beef it up a bit’. ASB

In fact we had both always agreed that the third segment was by far the weakest of them and being forced to completely rethink it was by far the best thing that could have happened to it. JP

Hair pulling time! ASB

I wish you wouldn’t do that – it really hurts. JP

Keeping the ocean liner setting and some of the original story elements, I came up with an alternative that just about ticked the boxes which I emailed to James. ASB

And it did indeed do everything Ian had asked but I felt that it read too much as though we were ticking boxes. So I went for a long walk. Which was lovely. After which I sat and thought about the story and came up with another alternative. JP

A couple of days later I received his new draft. He’d come up with a different and much better idea for the shorter story that gave us a much stronger ending. Nothing needed to be changed and so we returned it to Ian, sat back and relaxed! ASB

Blush (again). JP

And that’s how these two people write together. This time, at least. ASB


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