This week, CWC member Ian Riddle walks us through the evolution of one of his pieces of writing. It’s a fascinating process, which some of you are sure to recognise.
“It all started as a bit of an experiment, beginning with an idea I had for a longish, short story set in a Cornish cemetery; a weird imagining of a conversation amongst the interred, tied together by a living narrator.
Tommy Tattle, a local legend in the vicinity of Poleryn, a Cornish coastal community, was and remains, in the story, a philanderer though death, he has had to accept, has imposed limitations to his physical activity even if still not to his mouth. Tommy always was a talker – an ideal protagonist for a script. As his dead mother swears, Tom began talking the moment he came out of the womb.
From the start, I wrote the story in such a way that it was mostly dialogue, there was very little narrative in between. The reasoning was that I saw it as something that could be read equally as well by an individual or in parts, by a group.
It didn’t take much to realise that, with one more move, making the narrator one of the characters, I actually had a play, my first, discounting my monologues, in the making. It became, A Piece for Radio – in one scene.
Script writing’s a medium I’ve only moved into since around Christmas and have now completed three although, to be fair, just one, this first, Legend – The Tale of Tommy Tattle, is of a longer length. The second is a half-hour one whilst the third is little more than a sketch.
Having completed the script version of Legend, I thought that to be the end of it but made the mistake, or otherwise, of rereading the original short story. I’m still not sure why, given that, at that point, they were pretty much identical but, as a statement of fact, suffice it to say, I did.
I don’t know how the rest of you work, but my writing leads me, not the other way around. I rarely have any notion of where it’s going when I start and seldom know where it’s going to finish until it arrives. It shouldn’t have been any surprise to me, therefore, that when I returned to the story version of Legend, I found it to be quite unhappy to be as truncated as it was. The play might have been content with its situation, but the story wasn’t. The latter positively demanded a much greater expansion of detail and is now at the point of becoming a short novel in its own right, with far more depth than ever originally envisaged.
On the plus side, mind, it looks as if I’ve not only a new novel well into the making, but the ‘play, based on the novel’, apart from the need for a tweak or two, here and there, is already all but written as well. Unfortunately, given that I’m tone-deaf it doesn’t look as if Legend, the musical is ever going to happen, mind!
Still, two out of three, and all that.”