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Writing with a Partner

Yesterday was an exciting and eventful day because I was in full creative mode.

My first visit was to Christophe Lombardi who I am working with on a fantasy screenplay. He and his fiancée, Dorothy, had been on vacation for a few weeks. While they were gone, I played around with the ideas, characters and possible plots that we had hammered out to draw up a synopsis, a treatment, several episode ideas and made a start on the first episode.

Christophe is primarily a performer: actor, magician, comedian. He’s played roles in Game of Thrones and is currently in The Secrets of Great British Castles. You can learn more about the talented Mr Lombardi on his facebook link here https://www.facebook.com/christophe.lombardi.94

It’s common knowledge that writing is a lonely business. I am no different to other writers penning my poems, stories, screenplays, stage plays, radio plays and novels in splendiferous isolation.

Don’t
annoy me
or you’ll wind
up in
my novel

One reason why, I think, that writers like to meet in groups. Within a group whether formal or not they can discuss ideas, bounce around problems, read and give constructive feedback to their colleagues. An active group might even produce plays, organise filming, host poetry slams and book readings bringing in published authors and professionals from other fields like actors or tutors.

It was in one such group that I had a taste of working with a partner. That’s not strictly accurate. In the early nineties, from an idea by Ricky Tomlinson and his business partner we agreed to develop a situation comedy series called The Life of Riley. Actors from the soap Brookside were lined up ready to read the parts. There were about six writers and we briefly argued about the plot eventually coming up with a simplistic scenario: Riley runs a club/pub with live entertainment with his wife and several children; a relative dies and there is a funeral made up of a variety of comic entertainers and we have a laugh. After that initial idea we set out individually to write a part of the episode or a full episode of our choice. We’d return to read all the offerings and make a decision about how it all fit in. We did manage to get that far and had one of the actors in to read the joined-up writing. There was a follow up but it never took off. Yes, it was that bad.

My mother-in-law thought Monty Python was hilarious when arms fell off and blood spurted everywhere. Really! Humour is a subjective matter. In the Riley band of writers, what a few of us found funny, there were an equal number who didn’t. We argued about what worked. Was it funny to have a short man with three large men carrying the coffin? Was it funny if one of the coffin bearers had a limp? Was it funny to drop the coffin? In that situation I thought it better to be a sole writer and carve out the humour to suit myself. The US writers work in teams on all types of shows from comedy to crime drama. Some of it is wonderful but it isn’t to everyone’s pint of Guiness.

Our approach to the writing of that piece was haphazard and nothing like US writers I imagine. Egos came into play. The more dominant shouted loudly that their piece was funnier than anyone else’s. Well, you get the drift. Characters hadn’t been even partially formed before they were given names. The plot was developed without consideration of the characters. There was no consistency with the character because we each developed the role separately. It was a case of ‘Hey, this is a funny story’ and somehow we’d work to that. The series was neither character nor plot driven. Rather it was driven by the title ‘The Life of Riley’. I can see the possibilities of a series in the title but without the development of Riley and his associates it can’t work. To be honest, I don’t think any of us had our heart engaged.

Theatre of WarAnother group I was associated with were students from the MA Writing course we all attended at John Moores Liverpool University. We’d meet up weekly at one house to discuss and criticise the work presented via email. If a writer wanted feedback on her dialogue, or advice about the direction to take, then we were there. Ultimately, one of our group was offered a two book publishing deal by Hodder & Stoughton and another self-published. Hilary Green now has eleven stories to her name, a number of them set in World War ll where the heroes and heroines are the brave men and women who go undercover. You can find out about her and the book titles at http://www.hilarygreen.co.uk. Christine Andain self published her novel ‘The Book of Silence’ which can be found on Amazon.

book of silenceMy experience of partnering this time is far different. For a start, I believe we are truly a partnership. We are actively working together exchanging ideas and being open about what we like or what works. Neither of us is precious about which ideas belong to whom and so we’re not afraid to discard anything; change a location; nor drop a character. Perhaps because I am older and more experienced; perhaps because my partner is a male performer, or perhaps it’s because the idea is exciting and it’s something I want to do that the partnership works.

Christophe wrote a story generated by an exercise of our writing group, Equivox, one miserable, cold winter evening. I was so taken with it and I could imagine it as screenplay that I approached him to see if he was interested in taking it further. Well, we took it further and beyond. It’s still being developed but I am excited by the project. We exchange emails during the week and meet on a Tuesday (usually) for a face to face. We lunch, drink copious amounts of coffee, play games of tug with Emma, the dog, and enjoy relevant interference from Dorothy – a talented actress herself.

So watch this space. It would be a wonderful dream come true if this were taken up by the Irish film and television industry.

THE BOOK CLUB

I mentioned that I was going to the book club yesterday evening. The book we discussed was Kate McCabe’s ‘The Book Club’. It wasn’t popular.

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