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#24 The Man In The Woods (1/2)
This week, we start a two part story about a film and TV script writer suffering from writer’s block.
For similar stories, read:
Part 2 of this story will arrive on 31 August.
Also please, please go and check out New York City Hours by Vryn and Allie. They’re excellent stories - human-centred, dramatic, funny - what more could you want? In particular I enjoyed their most recent tale, The Eli Hours, which you can find here.
#24 The Man In The Woods (1/2)
It has been so long since I wrote anything meaningful.
Last week, I started writing a scene about a woman who falls in love with a man at work. Can you imagine? What is wrong with me?
The difficulty with writing scripts is you can’t even sketch out a few paragraphs of description for practice. It’s a script. Nobody sees that. The only content is dialogue, crucial scene setting and other details necessary to move the story along. I wrote a film years ago and during a sex scene I placed a copy of Crime and Punishment on the bedside table. The producer told me it was a great scene but that he’d stop working with me if I kept these arrogant embellishments.
I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed writing something. It must have been Black Redemption, the Victorian crime drama that was serialised by the BBC.
But then again, did I enjoy it?
It seemed to happen easily, but all I remember now is being told to write in the scene where the beautiful pauper tears her petticoat falling down in the mud, only to meet the dark, handsome eyes of a murderer as she stands. And being told to use more ‘oldy-worldy’ language, even though nobody - nobody at all - wants to hear actors using phrases like afternoonified or suggestionise. I recently read a modern novel set in the Victorian era, and it repeatedly used the phrase umble-cum-stumble to mean ‘well understood’ and I ended up tossing it in the fireplace. Though, I suppose the joke is on me as I noticed before throwing its pages into the flames that a newspaper described it as ‘genuinely authentic Victorian literature’. Of course, the only thing I know to be true about it is that it’s inauthentic: irreversibly so, as it was written in 2016.
And now look at me. I’m sitting in my office, desk light on, decaffeinated coffee in hand, a black cat curled up in my lap for the umpteenth day in a row, staring at a blank document in Microsoft Word.
Even the cursor, flashing its slender black verticality, is mocking me, watching how I test if it is keeping time, never missing its own beat.
1, 2, 3, 4.
And of course, Microsoft Word wins. It is painfully repetitive, confirming that these moments have been wasted and I will never get them back.
But what am I thinking about? No wonder I haven’t written anything. Some people say their minds run off in a million directions, writers more than most. But mine seems to pace along at a comfortable stroll, head down, turning this way and that, only to look up and realise it has no idea where it is or what it is doing.
I close my laptop. I feel sick. As I stand, the cat falls lazily down to the floor. I rush to the bathroom, bend over the toilet and open my mouth. Nothing happens except a big burp and then I roll back and stare at the dust gathered along the grout at the base of my bath.
My saviour, my iPhone.
I pull it out of my pocket and my eyes adjust. It’s Jonathan.
Party tonight. 8pm at mine. BYOB.
Jonathan and I are 37 but we still live by the bring your own booze mantra. It’s 5:45 now. That’s two and a bit hours to get ready and travel over. Any excuse to stop writing.
Or to stop thinking about writing.
Ice cold shower. Lathered body wash. Steam on the mirror. Dripping toothpaste. Silky smooth shaving foam. Coarse blade. Steam on a wrinkled shirt. Tight socks. Cat food out the pouch and into the bowl. Slip my shoes on without retying the laces. Out the door.
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There’s a sickening heat about. Or at least a heat that doesn’t help the sick feeling that never left me.
The party has a dark aura. There are a lot of bodies. I see Jermain from the pub. Mike Wetherby who works for the Government advising on sewage policy. Ashley Bisbridge, who sells homewares online. Sarah whatshername. That guy Paul from the city. Mumsy Lauren. Quite literally Mumsy; she has three ‘little ones’ which is the only subject I’ve ever heard her speak about.
I pour a drink. Rum and coke. Warm, flat coke. Thank you, Jonathan. I forgot to bring anything, perhaps it’s my fault.
Ashley Bisbridge approaches. She’s got long blonde hair, very straight, the straightest hair I’ve ever seen. It shimmers in the beams of the living room lamplight. So very brightly.
‘How’s the writing business going?’
‘I wouldn’t know, I haven’t done any.’
‘I’m sorry to hear that.’
‘How’s online retail?’
‘Probably not dissimilar to you. At a point, the business runs itself. I’ve hired two people. All I have to do is make sure we hit targets and tell them to work harder if we aren’t on track.’
‘How is that similar to me?’
‘I don’t do anything either.’
‘I sold 375 mugs last week. All personalised, with different letters for people’s names. Can you imagine buying such tat for yourself?’
‘Not at all,’ I reply with a smile, thinking about the mug sitting on my desk next to my laptop, with coffee rings in it and the ovalesque C etched on.
‘I can’t bear this heat,’ she says, pulling at her jeans about her legs. ‘It’s so sticky.’
‘It is. I’ve got this bladeless fan in my house, though. Works a dream.’
‘Wow, I’ll have to come stay at yours.’
I smile, trying not to wince. I’m not sure if she’s flirting or joking.
Jonathan calls my name.
Thank god I’ve got an out.
‘I’ll see you.’
Read the next edition on 31 August to find out what happens next, where Jonathan takes our protagonist away on a trip and how he overcomes his writing block!