(Week 4: January 20 – 26)

Having completed my first short story of the year, I elected to return to the sci-fi novella I started last year (and got about halfway through before either running out of steam or getting briefly distracted by other ideas). Given that it had been a while, I reasoned that it would be smart to kick off with a fresh edit from chapter one so I could get back into the right frame of mind.

This gave me the perfect chance to implement a change I’ve been planning for a while now. The story is split between two narrative strands, following different characters at different points in the timeline of the plot. The first of these strands follows a single person (which already introduces a number of challenges, as well as opportunities).

A writer friend of mine read an early draft of the first chapter last year and suggested that it was the perfect chance to use the ‘deep POV’ style of writing. I wasn’t immediately familiar with the term, so I did some research into it and quickly decided that my friend was absolutely right.

I won’t go into what deep POV is here, as there are plenty of articles already out there, but I’ll do want to talk a little bit about how I went about adapting what I’d written so far.

Firstly, I went through each chapter and highlighted any elements that might take the reader out of the character’s POV. These include constructions like ‘she thought’, ‘she saw’, ‘she said’–in short, all the observational third person tags that give away the fact that there’s a writer at work here. These all had to go.

The next step was the most interesting. This was where I had to replace all of those tags with deep POV. This was surprisingly hard. We naturally write in either the third person or the first person. Writing deep POV is a blend of the two: it’s a third person narrative, but almost indistinct from first person in parts. I’m sure I’ll get into the swing of it in time, but my writer-brain doesn’t intuitively write this way. Yet.

I don’t have any decent samples from my own text to share, but by way of an illustration I’d be looking for something like this:

She heard a sound. She thought it was creepy. She decided to run away.

(And, for the record: no, I don’t write that badly even in my first drafts!) Having identified the offending text, I’d then change it to something like:

The sound was like a thousand dirty nails raking across her spine. Her skin tightened. Her blood begged to freeze in her veins. The terror drove her legs, taking her anywhere but closer to where the sound had come from.

The changes can be more subtle than that, but the why limit yourself when the opportunity to completely immerse yourself in the character’s head is there? It might be tricky, but it’s a rewarding process for a writer: right inside my character’s head is exactly where I want to be.

And now I have five more chapters of this to go through …


Dunkirk movie poster

Myself and the Elderbeast found ourselves in the mood for watching something on Monday night, and disappointingly bereft of any specific choices. After a relatively brief trawl through my Netflix list, the Elderbeast picked out Dunkirk. We saw this together at the cinema together last year, and both really enjoyed it, so I was certainly keen to revisit it.

There were two noticeable differences for me on this second viewing. Firstly, I was fully clued up on the film’s somewhat eccentric narrative structure this time around (in short: one of the narrative threads takes place over an hour; the second over a day; and the third over a with all three eventually coinciding near the end of the film). This meant I was no longer forced to wonder such things as whether I’d imagined seeing Cillian Murphy in two seemingly different roles or not.

The second difference was the sound. Now, the sound design is a fundamental part of this movie. Hans Zimmer’s soundscape is calculated to increase tension at key points; the distinctive sound of the fighter jets is meant to inspire the same fear in the audience as it would have for the soldiers on the ground–Dunkirk is as much an auditory experience as a visual one. All of this still jumped right out, but even with my half-decent surround system there was nowhere near the same sensory impact that the cinema offered. This is definitely one of those rare films that is absolutely designed to be seen on the big screen and truly provides a worthwhile experience if you do so.

Halloween 2018 movie poster

Towards the end of the week I spotted that the reboot/remake/sequel of Halloween was out on bluray, which made our Fridate horror viewing a pretty easy choice. I’ve been keen to see this for a while, but given that it was out for about two minutes in the cinemas, I missed my chance first time around. While I still don’t quiiiiite think this quite matches up to the original, I’m pretty comfortable saying that it’s easily the best of the sequels and makes for a very worthy follow up to the original (and best).

A few comments on this one. First, the body count is significantly greater than in the original film—not sure if the filmmakers felt this was a necessary escalation, or if it was a logical extension of the narrative. I don’t believe it was for gratuitous horror reasons as there were some other interesting choices made. For one, many of the deaths either happen either offscreen or just out of shot. There are plenty of appropriately gory moments, but it’s interesting to note that the filmmakers appear to be actively rejecting any torture-porn opportunities.

Second comment is that, while the movie has numerous truly impressive shots, there’s an almost deliberately unstyled approach. It’s as if the filmmakers are avoiding the obvious visual cues that this is a horror movie, which makes some sense given the emphasis on psychology and family.

Definitely one that’s already demanding a repeat viewing.


Northern Lights book cover

My Awesome Partner is currently reading Northern Lights (aka The Golden Compass; aka the first part of Philip Pullman’s excellent His Dark Materials series). Given that this happened on my recommendation, and I’ve been meaning to give the series a reread pretty much since I first read the book, I decided to give it a go myself

I shouldn’t have been surprised, given how much I enjoyed it first time around, but I sat down to try out the first chapter and ended up three chapters in before I was ready to put it down. I’ll have more to say on the book in the next post or two, but it’s always such an excellent experience to pick up a book that you genuinely don’t want to put down. I suspect this one won’t take me too long to finish.