Kill All Your Darlings

It would have been my dad's birthday this week. Last year, he spent it in intensive care- the nurses even bought him a cake, which he couldn't eat because of all his drips. A few weeks later, he passed away.
It was a nightmarish time, made worse by the greed, stupidity and downright madness of my own family. When my mother-in-law, whom I loved, passed away, her whole family was devastated, but we all pulled together to help each other through it, and make her funeral the best it could be. When my dad died, everything became squalid and bitter. He'd been keeping a lot together.
I mention this because I've been feeling lost lately. It's one of the reasons I haven't posted in over a week. It's been a strange time for me. On the one hand, there's a lot of good stuff about. I've come across a horror magazine, Black Static, full of well written and intelligent short stories. I've rediscovered Trembles magazine. I've re-rediscovered the short stories of M.R. James, which reward repeated reading. I've also begun re-reading the stories of Edgar Allan Poe. That was a delightful surprise. I'd always thought that Poe was overrated, but now I'm beginning to realize how good he is and why others, especially H.P. Lovecraft, revere him. The Oblong Box particularly caught my attention for its driving narrative, it's concentration.
But then there's the other stuff. Living in Britain in 2013. Everything seems stagnant. Nobody can do anything. Everybody is stuck. There seems to be that all-pervasive forced jolliness. People volunteering to clean litter or set up running tracks. TV programmes about baking cakes. Pretending it's the 1950s.
I've been flogging myself trying to enter the London Horror Festival's Stagefright competition. As you might recall, they are looking for 15 minute horror radio scripts for casts of no more than 5. I was determined I was going to enter it.
I wrote something. I had great fun writing it, but when I typed it out to the Wireless Theatre Company's layout, I found it was over 10 pages, which is what they estimate a 15-minute script should be. I tried editing it, but couldn't bring myself to do it. It was short enough. There were lines in it which I knew I could cut without affecting the plot. It would, however, make the characters seem less real, and above all, I wanted the audience to believe in, and root for them.
I cut the lines. I hated myself for it. I reinstated the lines, and immediately the script became too long again. I went away and thought about it (sulked would be a better expression). I cobbled something else together, which wasn't too bad and did come in at the right length. I sent that off. But I couldn't help thinking about that first piece I'd written.
So I looked at it again. Tried this method and that to try and bring it in at 10 pages. In desperation, I even altered the font size from 14 to 12- not that that helped. There was only one thing for it. I cut those lines again. It was horrible, but it got the job done. As a bonus, it made the narrative line clearer. They say that, when you edit you have to kill all your darlings, and they're not joking. What I'm hoping is that some of the essence of the characters stays even though the lines arent there any more. That the work I out into the characterization has paid off.
It's sweltering in England at the moment, and it's worst of all in the cities. I don't like to moan about the weather- it is July, after all- but my wife and I can hardly sleep. It doesn't help her that I snore, and it doesn't help me that she won't open the windows in case of burglars. So every afternoon, I hit this flat, dead period when I'm struggling to stay awake. If I could only take a nap around 3pm, I'd be fine, but there's no chance. I'm even dropping off on the tube to work in the mornings, even with the pen on the paper.
I suppose one of the reasons I was so obsessed with the Stagefright competition was because I've been short of money. Basically, I got reckless last month, and my salary ran out with about two weeks to run until my next payday. So my heart was in my mouth; and unlike most times when I've been depressed, I couldn't cheer myself up by buying anything. So the idea of winning a competition with something I'd written, winning money rather than paying it out, was singularly appealing to me.


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