The Joy of the World of Make-Believe

The Joy of the World of Make-Believe

There is no better form of escapism, in my opinion, then getting yourself delved into a good book. To transform your entire surroundings by simply exploring the unknown abilities of your imagination, is something that I think is grossly under-appreciated.

Like everyone, I was encouraged to read as a youngster and have never stopped since. As a child, I would regularly have 2 or 3 books on the go at the same time. Whether it be dragons, fish and chips, nosebleeds or farting aunts, I loved it all! I approached my reading in the same way as I would a box set or TV show. I would dip in and out of whatever I fancied but would always enjoy not having to approach ‘real life’ for a short period.

Growing up with a disabled brother meant, my life was often rift with stress and anxiety. To be involved in a situation which, you had absolutely no control over especially when it was in regards to the person you loved more than anyone in the world, was hard. I truly believe reading helped me cope with some of the very adult challenges, I sometimes had to be aware of. It was, as I have already mentioned the perfect form of escapism.

As many of your know, I am an amateur writer. As much as I love it, it is often quite stressful and requires a lot of commitment which, I cannot always provide. Reading does not require so much commitment. All you have to do is take the time to read a few pages as and when you have the time. It does not matter what you read or how quickly / slowly you do it. The important thing is allowing yourself to visit a different world, if only for a few minutes.

Unfortunately, daily life now does not allow for me to do that. In fact, I struggle to finish one book at the moment – unless it is about the Contexts of Procurement and Supply (the Diploma I am currently studying. Good lord, it is boring!) It does not help that a lot of adult novels are so bloody tedious. If I would ever pick a genre to read, it would be young adult fantasy/sci-fi. Adult fantasy/sci-fi can often be exceptionally heavy going and rarely appears that inviting for me

To combat this hurdle, I found a solution which has helped. The opportunity to share your love of reading with others. I am, of course, talking about a book group. Often consisting of consuming copious amounts of wine, you can discuss with a select group of people your love / hate of your monthly read. It is especially good if you are open to reading things you would not often choose. Some of what I have read with Book Club has been awful but sometimes the reads have been brilliant.

It is a joy of experience the world of make-believe. I just wish I could do it a bit more often!

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My Fantasy Novel – A Real Labour of Love

My Fantasy Novel – A Real Labour of Love

The other night I could not sleep. This is possibly the rarest occurrence in history, for me. Yes, it was hot but I had no real worries or reason to have issues sleeping.. Whilst I allowed myself to aimlessly daydream into a world of nothingness, I suddenly imagined a world of colours, wizards, war and bitterness. It was not just any world. It was the fantasy world I had created. Out of nowhere this random, unimportant part of my life was the thing stopping me from sleeping! It was madness!

Around 2 years ago, I wrote 40k words centred around an original idea based in a fantasy, fictional world. I was very proud of it as was an idea which, had been forming in my head for ages. But there was a problem. After re-reading, examining and even blogging about my little story I came to the eventual conclusion that I did not like the ending. I could not work out why, but it seemed to lead somewhere else, rather than just ending!

With my frustration heightened I decided to shelve the idea and try to work on something else. This has been working ok until the other night because my sleep deprived self managed to come up with an ending, that I actually like! My excitement lead to a good outline being written. It is now a much bigger story than I had originally intended on creating but the story does lead somewhere and most importantly, ends!

It was inevitable that I would re-visit my story but I am so pleased it has come back to me. I forgot I much I missed writing it! The only issue is having to read your first effort at writing. Out of 40k words, I reckon maybe 8k of those may be kept. The rest will almost certainly be re-worked or deleted altogether. It is crazy to think, in the space of only a few months, just how much I have improved.

I love writing. But I also hate it. Working a part time job, studying a diploma and raising a family means I have very little time to commit to it. This means when I do get a sacred couple of hours, I have to make that time count. I am lucky if I write a thousand words in an evening. I have always said my writing is a journey. I am doing this entirely as a lone project. I do not know of anyone else who writes like I do and I am OK with that. I will now continue to write my fantasy novel until I feel the piece I am writing is eventually good enough to send to potential agents (but don’t get me started on the issues I have with potential publishing options!)

My dream is to see my novel finished, well written and in print. With the pace I am able to work at, I think I will get there but I may be dead before I see the final conclusion!

The Never-Ending Sequel

The Never-Ending Sequel

I have a dilemma. Last night we watched the latest instalment of the Underworld series. It was a good film. It had a big budget, good actors and a storyline that followed on from the previous one. So, what is my issue?

Well, for starters this must be the 5th film in this particular series. If you had told me they would stretch the story over 5 films, I would have said you were mad! The original film was released 15 years ago. It was, and still is a fantastic film. But it seems the excitement and originality of the 1st film has been lost due to the exacerbated efforts to make as many bloody sequels as possible! My ultimate issue is that this film was not necessary.

I think as storytellers we seem to be increasingly pressured to come with an idea that allows a story, if successful, to be continued. A long time ago there was a specific purpose for a sequel. You only needed a sequel if the story you were creating could not fit into one sitting. Look at some of the great writers – Shakespeare, Dickins, Du Maurier. None of them did sequels! If Oliver Twist was written nowadays, we almost certainly would have seen a sequel involving dear Oliver being rekindled with his childhood pocket-thieving friend and helping the Artful Dodger out of some unfortunate scenario. It would have been a huge hit, possibly well received but still not NECESSARY!

I feel like the art of creating a new concept is being lost in a money making business, that is only interested in sticking with concepts already in existence, because they know fans of that concept with go see it. Take Star Wars or Harry Potter, for example. They are the ultimate version of ‘The Neverending Story’. Whilst the fans still exist, the movies will still be made.

But this where is where I start to contradict myself, a bit. Despite the unnecessary creation of an extended storyline, these films are always well made. They have huge budgets and some of the best people in the business involved in making them. I was overjoyed when seeing Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them…but it was not particularly NECESSARY to be created. As a fan of the entire world, I welcome any new venture. As a creator or stories I feel a little odd about it all. It was the same when watching Underworld last night.

There could be an argument that, these ideas are original. It’s just they have a brief link to another story so, they can use the same name. Fantastic Beasts, for example is an entirely different time and place. They is magic the same but this life is based 70 years before Harry Potter. It is an entirely different STORY.

I was hoping whilst writing this blog I would be able to come up with a suitable conclusion to my own issue. I think ultimately, stories are about enjoyment aren’t they? So, as long a people enjoy them then that is all that matters.

(But if we could have some original stories thrown in the mix occasionally, it would not be entirely unappreciated!)

Diversity in Hollywood – The Sticking Block

Diversity in Hollywood – The Sticking Block

There is a lot of discussion at the moment, around the lack of diversity in many films and TV shows. There are people all over the place trying to argue why there is not better diversity in our stories. I think, the answer is down to more than just some rich-tycoon big-wig calling all the shots about who is and is not cast in a particular show. I think the answer to better diversity, first starts with the writing!

There are some amazing writers out there producing some incredible works of fiction. Screenwriters, play-rights, authors and writers alike, have been continuing to push our conceptions on what fictional stories are able to offer. An original plot should be the ultimate prick-tease. It should offer you everything but provide you with very little until you are ready to fully commit to it. Plot lines can take months of planning, writing and re-writing. And that is before you have even written any actual dialogue or substance.

To have a plot of course, you must have characters. And it is here, where I wish to make my first point. When writing, the characters created will have a unique bond with the writer who made them. When they have been written, has the colour of their skin even been thought about by the writer? Is there a specific characteristic which, mentions the colour of their skin? I just cannot understand why, a writer would not push for better diversity. I appreciate I am a complete novice, but I have 1 fantasy novella and another concept in the works, both of which, have people of all shapes and colour. It is not hard to do.

An argument to my opinion will be that it has nothing to do with the writing and it is all down to casting. But I think the character profiling could be improved upon. The issue with Hollywood is that it is a ‘business’. Until recently, television had become quite lazy. It was the same kind of shows being made with the same kind of characters. Now it has some of the best stuff in years being produced and Hollywood is left lagging behind.

A good example of what I am trying to say is this: Ghostshell was recently released starring Scarlett Johansson in the main lead role. This, I believe is a popular anime series. With this being it’s origin, there was uproar from fans over a white woman gaining the lead role, rather than an Asian woman. At first, I thought the same. But then I tried to take a more diplomatic look at it? Maybe, Scarlett was the best woman for the role? She is after all, a good actress. The scepticism in me though, says that she was cast in this role because there are virtually no Asian Hollywood actresses well known enough to play this leading role. And when you are producing a movie on this scale, you need an actress people have heard of to go and see it. And right there, is the sticking block.

Hollywood has been a grotesquely in-diverse place for years. It has not quite managed to modernise itself in that regard but I do believe, that sort this issue out once and for all. It starts with the WRITERs. After all, without us you would have bugger all to watch!

A Defence for The Cursed Child

A Defence for The Cursed Child

***CONTAINS SPOILERS FROM THE ENTIRE HARRY POTTER SERIES INC. THE CURSED CHILD***

A couple of months ago, I finally read Harry Potter’s stage play The Cursed Child. Since it’s release, I have read an awful lot of criticism about this play. Having now read the play, I feel I can now provide my opinion on both the play itself and the reaction that has swarmed around it.

The Plot

At the end of Harry Potter and The Dealthy Hallows we were left with 3 words.

‘…All was well….’

The conclusion we were provided allowed us to believe that everyone in the series was as happy as they could be. Harry especially seemed to have found some sort of peace at what appeared to be a hideous process for any teenager to go through. I think though, the ending should have stated ‘…..All was well, until….’

In The Cursed Child, Harry is a 30 something man struggling to connect with his son Albus. I think we can agree that parenting does not come naturally to Harry. He is not perfect. In the book, he handles certain situations poorly and makes mistakes. One of the things I enjoyed most about the play was Harry’s imperfections to deal with his son and his own emotions. He had an exceptional childhood. If this was an more adult storyline, I would be almost certain the guy would have turned to alcoholism or such to help deal with what he went through. That fact he fails to cope with his son, who very much struggles with his dad’s ‘legacy’. Also, the kid was named after the greatest wizard of all time, as well as the most controversial one. The poor sod was always going to struggle!

When reading it, I thought this was very much a story about teenage angst and confusion. People were still affected by the past but of course, a person’s actions are always going to affect those around us. None more so than our children.

I was a little pissed at the time turner making another appearance. This is mainly because I struggle to understand the rules around time travel at the best of time. For this reason I am unable to criticise the issues people had around the travelling stuff. Hopefully, someone will be able to explain it to me without me getting a headache over it all!

Overall, I enjoyed the story. I did not GRAB me like the other books but this does lead me to my next issue with all the criticism.

I read a script, NOT a novel

I had a bitter-sweet reaction to hearing that The Cursed Child would be released as a script. I was excited that the story was continuing but I was so upset that it would not be another novel.

All you get with a script is a brief description on the setting, limited stage directions and dialogue. That is it. This in itself cannot even minutely compare to Rowling’s in-depth telling of the Wizarding World. Her novels were packed with tiny little details, some of which you will not even pick up until reading them for the 2nd or 3rd time. Her descriptions on the settings she had created, the characters she had named and the world we all craved to be part of, must be appreciated.

I truly believe that if this was to be turned into a novel, the reaction to it would have been a lot less harsh. To read The Cursed Child you must already be in the Harry Potter. It is no good thinking a script will take you there. It will not. Well, this one will not anyway. That is what the staging is for.

I hear the staging for this play is spectacular. Everyone who has seen it, says it is amazing. Having never seen it, I cannot comment but if the reaction of those actually going to see it is good, then that tells me that the script must only be providing us with slice of what this play has to offer.

The Casting of Hermione

I will be dedicating an entire blog to the issue of casting different ethnicities into certain roles. But for this blog I will say this – despite the colour of her skin (which, remains undescriptive in the books but I will acknowledge Hermione does blush), the actress Noma Dumezweni has a better likeness to the ‘book’ Hermione than Emma Watson. Also as long as she performs the role well, it should not matter what her ethnicity is.

Some roles do require a specific ethnicity to portray them. This is not one of them. So, the argument in my view is entirely invalid.

“JK Rowling did not write The Cursed Child. It is not more than badly written fanfiction”

This is another argument which, frustrates me. Harry Potter is a massive empire. When it is given opportunity to become a westend play you want to ensure the best play-writes are involved. Rowling has so far, written 1 movie screenplay. She has never written a westend play before. I think having someone else write it was a good idea. I could tell it was written by someone who has experience writing plays for the westend.

The worse complaint I have come across though, are fans who will outright refuse to accept this story as canon. YOU CANNOT DISMISS SOMETHING AS FANFICTION JUST BECAUSE YOU DO NOT LIKE THE ENDING! If Rowling has put her name to it, then you cannot ignore it.

Ultimately, I put the reaction to this book in the same context as the films. Is it perfect? No but seeing as Rowling gets final say in nearly everything about this world, if she is happy you should be too. After all, it is her creation.

But if you hated it that much, then re-read the first novel and fall back in the love with Harry Potter again!

Story of the Year goes to….2016!!

Story of the Year goes to….2016!!

2016 has been an eventful year. If Dr.Who arrived back in January with his TARDIS and informed us of what would happen, I think even his second heart would not help him survive the abuse he would receive. 

So much has happened, in fact, I think it should be a contender for Story of the Year. No single author can retrieve a prize as, unlike other great literary works, this story was achieved through a large collective of contributors. 

The year did not get off to the best start with the deaths of David Bowie and Alan Rickman. The world (which, is still mourning) found this hard to cope with but then with every week or month that went by another beloved celebrity would leave us. And we are not just talking about Z Listers who had a brief stint at showbiz, are we? Particularly in the U.K we have lost some true geniuses from the creative industry. These loses alone were enough to call 2016 a less than awesome year but then we had all the politics. 

Even if you HATE politics, you cannot deny this year has err…..eventful. With the raise of alt.right wing groups gaining popularity, Britain voting to leave the EU and now Trump being elected President, my response to nearly anything political at the moment seems to be “What the actual fiddly doo is going on?” I know there have been loads of experts provide their knowledge as to why all this has happened but I am not one of these people. (This may surprise but I am not an expert in anything!) I blog about the concepts of storytelling, writing, the joy of particular works of fiction/non-fiction or characters. I blog about ANYTHING to do with the world of imagination.

But even someone with a wild imagination like mine, could not have foreseen or envisioned the contributing events that have made 2016 what it has been. In 40yrs time I will be telling my grandkids about the Year some abhorrent parasite of a human being became US President. In the same year, Maggie Thatcher resurrected herself as a leather trouser loving, double standard Christian and Britain’s most kick-punching appealing face (I.e. Nigel Farage) clogged up every fucking news article despite having no real of power. 

I am hoping 2017 becomes a lot more mellow. I wish for a peaceful end in Aleppo, I wish for the politics to go back to being boring and I wish Victoria Wood could provide one last stand up routine. I am wishful but not expectant!

The Casting of Grindelwald

The Casting of Grindelwald

Just like millions of people all over the world, I am a proud Potterhead. It would be very easy for me to discuss nothing but my love for the overall story but instead, I am going to discuss the recent, yet somewhat controversial decision to cast Johnny Depp as Grindelwald.

The Ultimate Prequel

There are several stories within the ‘Harry Potter’ universe that many people would love to see turned into their own series. It was recently announced that alongside Fantastic Beasts, we will be treated to 4 more feature films which, will include the story of Grindelwald – one of the darkest wizards of all time.

It is one of the most intriguing stories within the Pottersphere because his significance to the wizarding world has so far, been understated.

I seem to be the only person who is unsurprised at Johnny Depp being cast as the new villain.

I have heard some of the most ridiculous criticisms about this casting including “he is too famous”! Are you fucking kidding me? Harry Potter has some of the most famous names involved in the franchise I.e. Maggie Smith, Kenneth Branagh, Emma Thompson, Heleana Bonham Carter, to name just a few! So, this is a ridiculous argument. 

Another argument however, is a lot of people believe he will ruin whatever goodness may come out of these films. Well, let’s just take a step back for a minute and have a look at this. 

Firstly, Depp has been cast as Grindelwald NOT Voldermort. Many of the reactions I have read seem unable to make a definition between the two. Grindelwald must have had a certain level of charm/charisma about him in order for Dumbledore to fall in love with him. Also, many students allowed themselves to be subject to his ‘experiments’. His agenda may have seemed the same as Voldermort’s but it wasn’t. Despite some similarities (like the decision to live in the world of dark magic), ultimately their personalities and characters were very different. 

Secondly, Johnny Depp is a brilliant character actor. It seems most people are incapable of envisioning him as anything other than Jack Sparrow! Watch any of his other work and you will see he has played a vast collection of personalities. He does not play ‘1 kind of role’. He has played some amazing fantasy and horror people, as well as some true life characters who were scarily accurate.

Ultimately what I am trying to say is, trust the film makers and the actor who has been doing this 30 years. Rowling will have a vision in her head of what Grindelwald should be and if she was not happy with the decision, he wouldn’t have been cast! 

The Elephant in the Room

The biggest argument I have read a lot is the fact he was accused of committing domestic abuse. It is hard to make a judgement on this because the truth is, we only know what the media have told us (and we can certainly trust them to provide an impartial view on situations like this. Not!) I know there are a large number of guilty people who remain unconvicted with domestic abuse. But we are not a jury! Also (and this is where I’m going to talk controversially, now) how is this a valid argument against giving him an acting role? I cannot see the link between acting as a fantasy villain and getting accused of domestic abuse? Dislike him as a human being, disagree with his life choices but unless you have the ability to charge him, you are not in a position to state otherwise.
But if you feel this casting really is the worse thing since a very bad thing, then stay at home and do not watch the bloody film! Plenty of other people will go in your place!