Archive for the ‘subtext’ Category

I like a challenge, I particularly like a challenge when I watch TV. I like to not know everything that’s going to happen next. There have been things I have watched over the years that have truly shocked me, I like to be shocked – up to a point, there also has to be some kind of ‘hope’ at the end though. I really hate that feeling of futility after something really awful happens that there is no way back from. For example the deep fat fryer scene in spooks – that was too much. I literally stopped watching spooks after that – if it had been her hand, I probably could have coped – but her face in a fryer? No! that’s way too much, even for me.  I went back to spooks years after, after the entire show had finished and watched the rest.. I’m glad I did, it had some real moments of brilliance, especially with reference to Richard Armitage’s character and his motivations.

OZ

I go on about OZ a LOT. In terms of shock and awe it delivered in spades from episode to episode right from the very start. The series starts with Straight lawyer Tobias Beecher entering prison after killing a child while drunk driving – Oz Maximum security and being put in the experimental wing ‘EMERALD CITY’ – which – lets face it – isnt the greatest idea. Emerald city is a collection of glass rooms (cells) with slightly special privileges (but not really). When Beecher arrives he is targeted by the aryan Schillinger who warns him about his cell-mate – convincing Tobias to get moved into his cell with him, where he turns him into his ‘prag’ and burns a swastika into his buttock and systematically rapes him and humiliates him, trying to break him. Beechers psychological roller-coaster through the series is something to behold. This is the moment after the moment after he breaks – he fought back and blinded his rapist in the eye – now he is out of solitary…

Every episode has a moral or a story to tell, usually narrated in a semi beatnik/def poetry style.

I held my breath so many times during Oz, turned away many times, too. many of those times were thanks to Chris Meloni’s character Chris Keller – oh he was evil, but beautiful at the same time. This was a weird one for me as I didnt discover OZ until after I had seen many many episodes of Law and Order SVU – where Meloni is a righteous, catholic, alpha male and devoted husband and father. Keller is manipulative and you just never know what he’s going to do next – or what game he’s playing. He is like a walking hormone, too, can literally seduce anyone – evidenced by his manipulation of ‘Sister Pete’, the nun in the show.

There is a moment, when Keller has been working on Beecher for weeks, convincing him to trust him, bringing out feelings in Beecher that he didn’t know he could have for another man. There is a very homoerotic wrestling scene  (at 8 mins in the above video) that is full of tension, as we ‘the audience’ know that he is manipulating Beecher and watching Beecher fall for it is heartbreaking. But this is all just a prelude for whats to come. After Beecher finally admits his love for Keller and breaks his walls down again – then Keller reveals he is just doing it to repay a debt to Beecher’s nemesis the Aryan Schillinger – who he has been friends with for a long time. (8 mins in below video) this was a real *gasp* moment for me.

of course the joke is on Keller, because when Beecher realises his betrayal he is destroyed.  Keller breaks both Beechers arms and legs. After 3 months in the infirmary, terrified and broken he comes out completely cold again – and Keller has had some time to think- he  also realises that he was in love with Beecher and spends the rest of his time in Oz trying to prove his love for him. The love story that is Keller and Beecher is epic, and tragic, and never-ending. Til death do us part -baby!

Oz again actually the moment when poor old Miguel is caught between a rock and a hard place (Again!) He’s just got out of solitary where he literally went mental. His father was in prison, his grandfather was in prison, in solitary for 20 years. Its awful for Miguel and I really felt for his character. But basically the latin gang have told him unless he blinds one of the ‘hacks’ they are going to kill him. So he does it – and they put him in solitary – where he spends most of his time smearing himself in his own excrement.  Just thinking about Miguel makes me sad – his life was only ever going one way. *sniffles*

HANNIBAL 

I watched Hannibal like I watch everything else, in the background while I was writing. It was slow and moody and seemingly quite dull. Then suddenly something happened and I didn’t know what was going on but I knew I needed to find out – Rewind. I watched it again – got a few episodes in and then decided my husband might like it – Rewind again. Starting at the beginning again, in the evening, with the lights out my husband and I started watching the series from the start. I realised what I had been missing was some of the best dialogue I have ever heard, intelligent and witty interactions, also an intricately woven plot. The funny thing about Hannibal is that we all know how it ends (or at least those of us who have seen Manhunter, Red Dragon or The Silence of the lambs) – Psychologist/FBI Agent Will Graham will eventually outsmart the seemingly invincible Lecter. It was an interesting choice putting Mads in the role of Hannibal because of his accent, coupled with the moodiness of the show – sometimes you had to really concentrate to understand… but only at the start.

The real draw of the show for me was an emotionally and psychologically broken Will Graham (not entirely hampered by the fact that he is played by Hugh Dancy – ahem)  And the way he processes crime scenes in order to find the killer. He becomes the killer, sees, thinks and feels what the killer feels. More than that the horror of what is happening is tangible to him. With every case he is drawn deeper and deeper towards a kind of insanity, which he receives therapy for from Doctor Lecter. As time goes on Will becomes increasingly worried that he may be a murderer himself, that he is forgetting things he needs to remember. Its brilliant when it finally does all start making sense, I’ve literally got goosebumps just writing about it.

It was this scene below – in fact this episode that really caught my attention. I still get chills when i think about everything that’s going on here.  In the show they talk about how with fishing you have to lure the fish to you, most other animals you hunt.  Its the moment just after this, when Will takes the fish inside and cuts it open- the blood triggering something else for him that really piqued my interest. Its such a clever show. I dont even want to ruin it for you. Not for the feint hearted though. Its horrific!

Visually this is one of my favourite shows too. Its a work of art. Some very disturbing things happen and yet they don’t feel gruesome. I watched this after I had written my first draft – but you can see why I liked it.

Interestingly the moment in the movie HANNIBAL RISING when we see the birth of Hannibal is one of the most horrible things I remember – If you haven’t seen the movie, look away now – but basically he’s on a farm with his little sister and the soldiers cook and eat her, and feed her to him – which is how the cannibal was born. Something broke inside him and made him justify that with further acts of cannibalism. Oh gosh, that really turned my stomach.

Anyway here’s some gratuitous ‘Will Graham’ going crazy in his underpants footage. Mmmmmmmmm

I havent watched season 3 yet.

JUSTIFIED

I feel like Justified went under the radar a little. Where people raved about Breaking Bad and The Wire I rarely hear anyone mention Justified and for me its one of the best shows on TV (or it was before it finished). Although Timothy Olyphaunt’s performance as Raylan Givens is reminiscent of his role as Sheriff Bullock in the amazing show Deadwood there’s something incredibly cool about Raylan. I do like his ability to read a situation and his cool and collected menace. The other great thing about this show is Walton Goggins, who is a phenomenal actor, but although most people remember his role in The Sheild, he will always be Boyd Crowder the explosives expert and overall ‘bad guy’ of the show to me. The First series was great, with Raylans character pretty much carrying the whole show forward, as although the story was interesting, with some great hooky moments i wasnt totally Gripped. Givens is a Marshall who does something a bit  embarrassing to his district and so they ship him off back to his hometown in a Kentucky backwater.  His strained relationship with his father and his knowledge of the people and area all make for interesting confrontations as most of the characters are corrupt in one way or another.  Season 2 was when it really hit its stride for me, season 2 of Justified was one of the best complete seasons of television I have seen.

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The end of the opening episode of season 2 gave me serious goosebumps and was so cold. The quick run-down is the bad guy of season 2 is a sweet old lady with 4 boys who all peddle drugs and have some anger/intelligence issues. the old lady Mags kills a single father and then takes his daughter in to raise as her own.  The way she kills him is cold , slow and brutal, and the lies she tells after are even more calculated.  There are probably too many moments to list in Justified.  later on in season three there is a scene where a man draws his gun and before he has a chance to fire someone cuts his arm off. it comes as as much of a shock to the viewer as it does to the victim (who wholeheartedly deserves it)

Here are some scenes – mostly of the great dialogue in Justified.

PRIME SUSPECT (SEASON 1)

Anyone who remembers Prime suspect wont need me to explain what was so great about it. I did watch the American remake a few years later but I was not impressed with it.  They missed the point by a LONG shot.  I’ve re-watched the first season many times. In a lot of ways it was way ahead of its time. Helen Mirren as Jane Tennison definitely leant a certain amount of gravitas to the role. It was bleak, it was gritty, it was dark and it tackled the idea of what it means to be a monster. The show really played with our expectations – I know the first time I watched it I thought that the police had it wrong, that they were persecuting George Marlow unfairly and that Tennison’s obsession was affecting her judgement.

The moment when shes interviewing Moyra Henson, the girlfriend (played  by Zoe Wanamaker) and gets her to believe that maybe her boyfriend is lying and then breaks his alibi is brilliant. I found it chilling the way she stuck up for her boyfriend like that, even knowing in her heart that he had done it.  I was Fifteen the first time I saw this and every time I have watched it since its like watching something brilliant and new. The gruesome nature of the crimes was a new thing for a TV show, too. I would go as far as to say the recent trend of Scandinavian Dramas all have a lot in common with Prime suspect. Aside from the great characters, great plot and great dialogue there is a visual feel that corresponds with reality, its something we can relate to, its real, its something that could happen.

SOUTHLAND

Southland was another under the radar show, although this time it was really under the radar. It was cancelled, brought back by fan petition TWICE and then finally ended after season 5. Strange it didn’t do so well because its one of the better police procedurals I have seen in recent years. Again I like a show where I feel like I am being taught some kind of moral lesson. Each episode would follow several characters and some how each of their stories would demonstrate some kind of shared philosophy .

There were several gripping moments to me in Southland, and it really was a character driven show, which I also like. As well as being visually different. It was formulaic but it was blatant about it, and it was poetically formulaic, so I didn’t mind it so much. Filmed like a fly on the wall documentary for the most part, it has a realism to it. Although most of the actors are familiar faces.

One of the police – officer Cooper is hiding his homosexuality at the beginning of the series, but he comes out at some point. His partner and long term friend has major homophobia and serious issues working with him and the gay jokes are aplenty but for the most part, his team are ok with it, its not as bad as he thought. In the final season Cooper and his partner Lucero are investigating a very ordinary regular traffic crime when they are taken by 2 crack-heads and taken back to some ramshackle building in what seems to be the middle of nowhere. They are bound for days, attacked and after a while sexually violated by their captors. The whole double episode where this takes place made me physically sick, it was harrowing for so many reasons. The idea that A gay man – watches helplessly as his partner – who up until recently was very close to him (and knowing full well how he feels about homosexual acts) – is basically raped by two crackheads. Also from the victims point of view, having a close friend watch as you are attacked – and then summarily murdered.  Cooper manages to escape but to say that this ordeal adds to his eventual demise is an understatement.

 

In SUMMARY

I like cop shows, I like the idea of a flawed authority – I like the human side of the law, the side that makes mistakes. how people deal with those mistakes – self recriminations and self loathing that come from making decisions in a position of authority. I could talk about shows like Game of Thrones that are literally made to shock, but in all honesty – because of the ‘fantasy’ aspect it doesnt hit me in the same way. The same with the Walking dead, which I love, possibly one of my favourite current shows. Because of the Zombie element I cant empathise in the same way. Like I said, I like both of those shows.

There is one exception to the fantasy rule.

BATTLESTAR GALACTICA (Remake)

I’m still angry about the way Battlestar Galactica ended. I didn’t sleep because I needed to get to the end and when I did the disappointment in one element of the story was so deep and personal that I figured I must have really loved the show to have been that bothered.

I only got round to watching this last year, and I watched all 5 seasons in a ridiculously short amount of time, I cried, I laughed, i got angry and in places I was blown away by the storytelling. It may all have been some kind of psychosis induced by lack of sleep – but judging by the things I have heard from other people – its not – its actually a good show.

Now I like Sci-Fi – when its done right its excellent. But in all honesty I would prefer a thriller.

There’s a song in the show, it comes and goes in pieces and you almost dont notice its ever-presence through the story. Battlestar Galactica is a space ship that protects the fleet of ships where the remaining inhabitants of earth, the last humans are kept. Its too intricate and involved to get into – in terms of twisty turny stories its got a lot happening. There are humans and there are cylons – robotty things – and then there are special cylons who look just like humans – all the cylons look the same, or so we are lead to believe at the start. in fact they all look like SIX  – her story is intertwined with sex obsessed Gaius Balthar – the scientist who caused the apocalypse – he sees her in his imagination – sometimes she’s real – sometimes she isn’t – its a real headfuck!

The moment when we learn the real meaning of the song in the background I think I literally exclaimed out loud – WHAT THE HELL?! so brilliant – I dont want to spoil it for anyone but the song is all along the watchtower by Jimi Hendrix and there’s a moment when it kicks in and the whole plot of everything that’s gone before falls into place – its incredible! I almost wanted to start again from the beginning and look for all the clues, my mind was totally blown, its a great feeling.

 

Even though this is such a key relationship in the show, most of the time its not even real, its Guyus guilt for practically exterminating the human race.

Starbuck and Apollo – I loved the strength of Starbuck, she was badass, made no apologies for who she was, knew she was flawed and just carried on regardless. Apollo was constantly trying to prove himself to his father and to Starbuck, who started out as his brothers girlfriend back on earth – his brother who died – so she was always kind of off limits. At this point I am going to say that these characters are always at the forefront of my mind when i am writing a love story, or a sex scene. The unresolved nature of their relationship just makes me cross and I think I’m always trying to find that happy ending for them (no pun intended). – Ds Imogen Grey has definitely got a bit of Starbuck in her. (even though I had already finished writing the The Teacher before I watched the show – but in book 2 I definitely would have factored Starbuck into the equation.)

This scene where they fight was so beautiful and romantic – even though they are beating the crap out of each other. they are so angry, so in love, so in hate. resentment, wanting – everything. She married someone else – with no warning very soon after declaring her love for him – so he married someone else to get back at her – years not even talking and then they get in the ring together. Their husband and wife standing ringside and basically watch their own marriages fall to pieces as Starbuck and Apollo connect again. but not for long (damn you BG writers!!!) – unfortunately the scene is no longer available – but its awesome

 

I’ll think of some more and I’ll write another post like this at some point –

Until next time

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Well silly things inspire me. Sometimes it can be a music video, sometimes it can be a movie, or a tiny bit of dialogue. The mood of things is often inspirational to me. Trying to recreate a mood or a feeling for other people.

I’ll be the first to admit that I can be a little dark, for this reason I tend to gravitate towards slightly darker themes, both in music and films. I am also quite inspired by romance, not big gestures but small intimate romantic moments. I am a hopeless romantic trapped inside the mind of a slightly disturbed and over-active imagination.

I was asked to write a blog on music that inspired me while I was writing my book.I do listen to music when I write, a lot of other writers I have spoken to were horrified by this notion. How can you listen to lyrics? I also explained I sometimes watch TV while i am writing. Sometimes I do need to switch everything off but usually have something going on in the background.

So each one of my characters usually has a song that fits them, for me – usually based on mood – lyrics – feelings etc.

Between the Bars – Madeleine Peyroux

This song has always been a favourite of mine, moreover this particular cover of it. The original recording was by Elliott smith. I always thought of it as purely a love song until I met one of my main characters then it took on a whole new meaning. suddenly the lyrics were sung from the point of view of that destructive voice in your head that constantly reminds you who you are, deep down; coaxing you to stay the same as you have always been, never to improve yourself because you cant escape who you really are. That the only thing you can really trust is that you will fail at some point, its inescapable.

 

Pretty when you cry – VAST

Well this is a tricky song, but its beautiful in its own way. For me it explores the idea that somehow someone elses actions towards you can be your fault, as though you are forcing them to behave a certain way just because of who you are. Of course we all know this is nonsense, but that’s the delusion some predatory people have. It also makes me think of the overwhelming urge in some people to possess, violate and control something pure and innocent, because of their inability to be a human being. Of course by doing that you lose interest in them, you take away the thing you wanted and suddenly you don’t want them anymore. The hypnotic beat and monotone matter-of-factness of the vocalist adds to the mood of the predator – “This is all your fault you know, if you weren’t so vulnerable then I wouldn’t be forced to take advantage of that…”

 

Change (in the house of flies) – Deftones 

Possibly my favourite song ever anyway. But the theme of this is what gets me – again – the compulsion to make something ugly, to take away that which makes it beautiful. The need to witness that destruction. To essentially make something as ugly as you. Both physically and metaphorically.  Also a part of yourself hating that you have this inside you. Then replaying the guilt of your actions and waiting for the repercussions; wanting them. For me this fits several of my “victims” who have created the “ugly fly”.

 

Say it Right – Nelly Furtado 

I don’t know what the official meaning of this song is but for me it speaks to one of the most important relationships in this book. Which is two broken people who need each other, but are afraid to admit it. Its more of a feeling than the lyrics. The hesitant building of a relationship and that knowledge that this could be IT, the big one, the forever relationship. Also the understanding that if you both accept this is really happening that everything will change. That you can save each other. Also I think its about laying it all out there and saying “Look – I’m fucked up – are you SURE you want some of this? Because once you do there is no going back…”

 

Made of Scars – Stonesour

scar tissue is stronger than regular skin. This makes me think of a  survivor, someone who has been scarred in lots of different ways but still refuses to be a victim. Remember your past, use it to become a stronger person. Also the idea that everything that happens in our life shapes who we become.

 

46&2 – Tool 

OK, without going into the Jungian 46&2 theory  (look it up, its interesting) For me this song perfectly sums up the need to move on and the willingness to do whatever it takes to get there. Its sinister and sexy in the way it sounds (to me anyway) and that adds to the drama of it. The idea of picking your scabs (obviously these are mental scabs) but it has to be done in order to “shed the skin”. Rebirth through cleansing, confronting the things about yourself that need to be addressed before you can have a new life. Its about making the decision to move forward with your life but knowing there is no easy way to do that, that in order to do that you have to clean out the darkness and sometimes that means becoming the darkness. Being aware of every part of you so that you can get rid of the parts you don’t want anymore.

 

Exile – Show of Hands 

A beautiful song written by Steve Knightley. I spent a lot of time at folk festivals when I was a teenager, I saw this band a few times although this is not my video. This song was one of my favourites. It took on a new meaning for me after writing this book. Metaphorically it represents the loss of an important relationship  within the book. How one event that takes place immediately estranges one of the female protagonists and that suddenly she’s all alone. For me its about the father/daughter relationship that is suddenly impossible.

 

 

Bring me to Life – Evanescence

To be really seen by someone, to realise that as lost and alone you are that there is someone else who can reach you and accepting that you can come back from the brink of darkness. That your whole life is a prelude to meeting this person and that when you connect you will both be alive again. Even though that’s almost a literal interpretation of the lyrics   its a passionate song – begging to be saved – from yourself and the choices you have made, from staying hidden, from making yourself invisible. There are a couple of invisibles in the book and in a way the book is largely about when they ‘wake up’

 

How to disappear completely – Radiohead 

Firstly, the amount of Radiohead songs I could have included in this list isnt even funny. I personally find their music very evocative and moody, not just lyrically but melodically too. I picked this one because its just lovely. I think the lyrics speak for themselves and require no explanation. To me it sounds like a mantra you would say when you close your eyes, when something so terrible is happening that you need to take yourself out of that situation at least mentally.

 

Animal I have become –  Three Days Grace 

Again this idea that who you are is inevitable, that you have become something so vile that you are beyond saving, but so desperate for someone to save you and make you better even if you don’t believe its possible. Compulsion to do bad things because you are filled with rage and hate ; knowing what you are doing is wrong but being unable to do anything differently.  “Help me believe its not the real me” is probably one of the most important lyrics in the song for me – because thats the last link to humanity, the wanting to be better, just needing that validation is the reason  you aren’t totally bad, the moment you stop needing it is the moment you are lost.

 

Prosthetics – Slipknot (Explicit Lyrics)

Ok this is a dark one. Its heavy too. The first time I heard this it made me feel a bit sick (so naturally I love it!). From the perspective of a predator/stalker. I think its the collaborative nature of the lyrics that get me in this song. As though this stalking behaviour is somehow an agreement between two people. I feel as though this ‘relationship’ is something I have tried to recreate within the novel. As though Predator and Prey are both in it together, they know their roles. Also that sense of blame, as though the victim has created this scenario “You brought it outta me” – Aside from the lyrics I find the music itself quite desperate and harrowing.

 

Uninvited – Alanis Morissette

Falling in love is hard, especially when you are happy in your little bubble of loneliness, when you have written yourself off as someone who is unlovable. This song probably has more relevance to my second novel, although after reading the second novel certain things in the first novel will take on more significance (confused?!)  As someone who has read both I can tell you that this is happening in the first one although we don’t know that yet… Falling in love with someone unsuitable is also hard – it reinforces for me the idea that you just cant control that stuff!

 

 

 

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That’ll do for now I think but there are plenty more – maybe I’ll add more description after the book is released – struggling not to give you spoilers!

Until next time…

 

 

 

 

 

Subtext is a tricky thing, unless you know how to do it, its hard to do, and when you do know, its simple.

Subtext is important because thats how people are, people are full of things they don’t say. If you think of it like this, you have a secret you want to tell someone, but you have absolutely been forbidden to tell them, or you are terrified to tell them – you really want them to know though, so you tell them without telling, you imply or infer, or you avoid it altogether. To me subtext is basically the secret conversation going on inside the conversation.

When writing a novel you only have the thoughts of one character (usually – depending on perspective) and so some of your subtext can be explained through that, but often, you don’t want it to be explained, you want it to subtly creep up on the reader or punch them in the face. In screen-writing of course you don’t have the luxury of being able to read peoples thoughts and so you have to work a little harder for your subtext (although in some ways this makes it easier).

Possibly one of the reasons i love the book Rebecca so much is because no one is ever saying what they are thinking! the tension and frustration shines through in this subtext rich novel. From the protagonists relationship with her husband, to creepy housekeeper Mrs Danvers bizarrely homoerotic fixation with her dead employer. the subtext also comes through in the actions of the characters. If you only ever read one book – make it that one.

Another story that is rich in subtext is CAT ON A HOT TIN ROOF,  My favourite movie, also a fantastic play although different to the movie in many ways, including the “happy” ending. The best conversations in that movie are the ones that don’t happen. The rare moments when there is some honesty Brick has to drink himself into oblivion.

Just remember when you are writing to leave out the obvious things and try not to write on the nose. Write the conversation as you would have it, then change it so its all a little less in your face. If someone asks a question, rather than answer it have your character do something to show how they feel. For instance in that clip of cat on a hot tin roof when she drinks from the glass he wont take it from her to continue his drink, he doesn’t say to her “I don’t want that now you’ve drunk from it” but the way he looks at her and the way he goes and pours himself another one tells us all we need to know about how he feels about her. – although later we realise that his disgust isn’t with her but with himself (subtext with subtext – hot!) make your story multi-layered and make your audience work for the truth. no one wants it all laid out on a plate for them, thats just boring.

I have by no means mastered this myself, but at least i know this is something to strive for. i find it easier in screen-writing than in writing a novel where i am privvy to thoughts and feelings of characters, not to say its impossible, it really isn’t.

Subtext is what makes stories sexy to me.

Until next time