Inside the mind of a writer www.scskillman.co.uk

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Dark TV Drama for Christmas 2016 and New Year 2017

This year darkness seems to be the keyword for some of our best drama offerings on TV: from Agatha Christie: The Witness for the Prosecution:cast-of-the-witness-to-the-prosecution

through Jonathan Creek: Daemons’ Roost;alan-davis-as-jonathan-creek

Sherlock in The Six Thatchers.benedict-cumberbatch-as-sherlock and the Bronte Family in To Walk Invisible.
the-3-bronte-sisters-in-to-walk-invisible

In Sherlock we discovered that Death had an appointment – with Mary Watson in the London Aquarium. Maybe London is Sherlock’s city and he knows the turf. But he was still unable to keep Mary safe, as he had promised. In the Agatha Christie drama, we were drawn in to the personal tragedy of a detective who was finally outwitted by the criminal; in Jonathan Creek we saw our lovable main character largely responsible for the horrific death of a villain; and in To Walk Invisible we were shown a tough and bristly Emily, a Branwell totally lacking in inner resources when things go wrong, a bossy and controlling Charlotte and a rather ineffectual Anne: and all of them powerless against tidal waves of blind misfortune.

I read in an interview with Toby Jones (star of the Agatha Christie episode, and also due to appear as the next villain in Sherlock) that Ten or twenty years ago, Poirot and Miss Marple were cutting edge. But the viewer’s brain processes genre faster now.

I feel this sums up well the challenge facing today’s TV drama writers, screenwriters and novelists.  We can no longer get away with anything that approaches transparency or simplicity in plotting or tone or characterisation; especially if we write crime, suspense or thrillers, we have to be at least two or three steps ahead of the viewer / reader. For us, “the game” of which Sherlock speaks has to be the game we play with the reader’s expectations, which are now razor-sharp. In our books we can only get away with characters like Mrs Hudson saying things like “I’ll just go and make a nice cup of tea shall I?” if there is some kind of double or even triple irony bound up in the package of words and character and context.

Against all this perhaps, the Outnumbered Christmas Special was refreshingly light, unless you count the darkness of 1) being led astray by a mischievous old man, now deceased, to travel a long distance to scatter his ashes in a random beauty spot 2) the abrupt discovery that your son plans to disappear off to New Zealand long term, and 3) walking away defeated from a car accident having trashed your car, totally unaware your daughter has obtained evidence that the other party was completely at fault….

All of these dramas, though, are essentially English, and all are about life, and we love them, together with their characters and situations. The darkness in some way is cathartic for us; we identify, we exercise our powers of empathy as we are drawn into the tragedy and horror and irony of the characters’ experiences… and this is why drama, and fiction, is a gateway to truth, and so profoundly important in our lives.

Good Progress on New Novel “Director’s Cut”

I’m making good progress on my new paranormal suspense novel Director’s Cut, nanowrimo-2016-participantworking towards 50,000 words for Nanowrimo.… and trying to follow my own advice in my article The writing process for creating a novel in less than a month.

No writing for the rest of today as I’ll be in London, but since that’s where my novel is set I’ll be able to put the trip to good use for my ongoing research!

Meanwhile I hope to see some of you at my two books-signings this coming weekend; 20160910_094309-1I’ll be at  Kingsley School Hall, Beauchamp Ave, Leamington Spa CV32 5RD on Saturday 27th and at Princethorpe College, Rugby CV23 9PX on Sunday 28th selling signed copies of my two thriller suspense novels Mystical Circles and A Passionate Spirit.

There’ll be plenty of lovely Christmas gifts and refreshments on both days, and remember: books make an ideal Christmas gift!

 

 

A Passionate Spirit Full Cover

I was delighted to receive the full cover for my new novel this week:

A Passionate Spirit full Cover

A Passionate Spirit full Cover

I’ve just sent back my third set of corrected typeset proofs to Matador and await the new proofs. When I’ve approved them, the book can go to print.

Don’t forget you can pre-order the book now, either from Matador or from Amazon!

New Life, New Season, Fresh Start at University

Autumn is often a time of new beginnings and a few days ago we moved our daughter Abigail into her new student room in her hall of residence at Gloucestershire University, Cheltenham.  There she will be completing her studies in Media Production and we hope she will emerge as a great film-maker.

Personalizing the student

Personalizing the student “capsule”

Saying goodbye to your young person as he or she goes to the university is often a time of many and mixed emotions for parents.  If I’d used “emoticons” to demonstrate my emotions, there would have been a full range of contradictory faces!

There would have been faces which were sad, fearful, anxious, excited and hopeful among them.  And upon returning home again, having said goodbye to her, feelings of being bereft, numb and even feelings of unreality.

New space in the student room

New space in the student room

And yet she is now making new friends, attending lots of events, discovering new things, entering a different world.  It’s a time for rejoicing too.

For many it can be the best, most fun part of your life.

What can compare to those hilarious conversations and cooking disasters that take place in the student kitchens, or those late nights sitting on the bed in someone else’s room, doing crazy things? or those new discoveries as you go along to another quirky society you signed up for at the Freshers Fayre?

May it be so, as I think now of all the young people starting at their new universities and colleges right now.

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