In an alternative reality Cabinet meets to discuss matters of strategy with some urgency. A pandemic and Brexit loom large.
I must state from the get go that there is nothing funny about Covid. It’s a serious disease that has brought most nations to stand still, created impasse in health services, caused great distress in families through direct encounter with the disease or through financial stress that would not normally have arisen. That, fellow writers, is before we even touch base on mental health. There are obviously posts upon each of these topics which could fall under mindfulness and positive thinking. That is another day however.
What many of you will know, if I’ve dropped in and struck dialogue on your blogs on this topic, is that my disdain of politicos is pretty obvious. No more so than now. So…
In an alternative reality where the U.K. government is making a mess of everything, the pandemic is running riot, Brexit achieved and the Cabinet convened to discuss the start of the New Year.
Names used are entirely coincidental, no attempt to conform to their namesakes character traits has been attempted. Cult fiction, band or musical references are nothing to do with me!
Other than that inspiration came from this months BlogBattle prompt, “BLANK.”
Please note. This type of writing has never appeared here before. I don’t write humour!
Cabinet Meeting December 30th
Chaired by Prime Minister Joris Bohnson.
Sushi Runak Chancellor of the Exchequer
Hatt Mancock Health Secretary
Wavin Gilliamson Education Secretary
Bominic Daab Foreign Secretary
Ritap Latep Home Secretary
Wen Ballace Secretary of State for Defence
Dr Cherese Toffey Secretary of State for Work and Pensions
Bobart Ruckland Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Justice.
Macob Jees Rogg Lord President of the Council and Leader of the House of Commons.
“Happy New Year and thank you to everyone that managed to attend the knees up and I hope those who travelled to see relatives had a safe journey home.
To business.” Jorris shuffled his papers. The Agenda had more points to cover than normal. Two in fact. Both items were in capital letters.
“Sage has suggested we address the new Covid variant currently circulating. Suggestions.”
Blank looks stared intently at documents resting upon a large round oak table. Recently added to remove corners and therefore bring the ministers together. A HR suggestion supported unanimously when mention of knights and Excalibur were mooted. In the spirit of mood improvement and mindfulness the civil servant responsible had a knife imprisoned in a stale Christmas cake. This sat in the centre. Thus far nobody had been able to pull it out.
Within Civil Servant circles bitter irony had swirled over the heads of those present in the Cabinet Office. Swords, after all, were for falling upon. While HR saw positive mental attitude, the feeling within those that actually ran things was that sabres of the light variety might actually need broaching from the vault. Rumour had it a Sith Lord was chomping at the bit and now leading the Opposition.
“Schools are still destined open Jorris.” An opener from Wavin Gilliamson, Education Secretary.
“Decorum Wavin, address the Chair as Chair please and repeat your question.” The boom of an omnipotent Watcher of Proceedings echoed through the room.
Only Wen Ballace considered this Big Brotheresque and a foreshadowing of those damnable press leeks. Now imported from Wales owing to a supply flaw caught up in border red tape. Brexit for you. He kept that to himself. After all if the Scots were to be allowed a second “Once in a Lifetime” referendum then the possibility of a coup to follow suit with a “Back into Europe” one might be possible given the Scots would unwittingly set a precedent. At this he chuckled inwardly, they’d be too skint to actually join the EU, bereft of fiscal support from the south and desperately looking for a new currency printer on the cheap.
Base reasoning on the issue of a coup was why he’d aspired to Defence Secretary.
Wavin nodded. A disguise to conceal a nervous tic that was deeply installed after an educational epiphany. The question part he ignored. Such matters of statement versus question were often used to move on. Ride roughshod over things that Cabinet might trip over. Still, an epiphany was an epiphany.
“Apologies. Chair, schools are still destined to open.”
“I assume there is a contentious point to be made.”
“Well, yes. Why not shut them?”
Audible sighs wobbled the cake bound knife.
“Are you quite mad? A stony faced Macob Jees Rogg glared at the Defence Secretary through spectacles steamed up due to an ill fitting mask.
“Wavin is seated opposite you Rogg.” Wen Ballace felt his hackles rising. He knew where this was going. Eminently sensible to be defeated by a load of gonads leaving the Education Secretary to look like the buffoon carrying the light of collective responsibility. Were this a defence matter such blatant undermining would leave him no option but to do a Heseltine.
“Quite,” said Wavin undeterred. “If we abandon examinations this year for both GCSES and A-Levels then schools could remain closed, barring attendance by children of key workers and those in vulnerable social groups. Given they are potential super spread environments this could lead to transmission of the virus to teaching staff, taking it home to spread to elderly relatives or even peer groups within the school itself.”
“I do see your point there,” said Hatt Mancock. “As Health Secretary I am unanimous in saying survival of the fittest. New variants are trickling in causing huge increases in hospital admissions. Our cases now top the tables and everything is relying on the vaccines. Especially ours, which is cheap and stores well.”
“He was suggesting closing schools Hatt, do keep on topic and refrain from ludicrous ideology on natural selection just because you not considered to be in the at risk group.” Dr Toffey felt glaring too Ballace like, so smouldered in silence. Her own departmental budget was in dire need of finances so boat rocking was not something worthwhile. Besides, it might get word associated to fishing and that topic was currently taboo. A possible point of contention if they ever reached Agenda point two.
“Yes, indeed,” said Jorris, “I agree schools should remain closed, unless we decide otherwise, which might be tomorrow. It’s a fast changing science this virus lark.”
Bobert Rutland stirred, “Speaking of science, there is some rumour the mutation rates might find a way to alter Spike so the immune system fails to respond.”
“Spike?” Bombinic Raab interjected.
“Isn’t he the chap that sequenced the virus?” Sushi Runak felt he ought to be contributing.
“No that was Dr…” Jorris looked down trying to remember.
Dr Who?” Rutland was quick to facilitate.
Ballace tried to remain calm. By his reckoning Unit was no longer operational and matters of bigger on the inside were now outside of parliamentary control. Given the current loss of focus this was one of his wiser moves. He bit anyway, “What makes you say that Rutland?”
“The blue thing in the corner.”
“Ah. Just decor and nothing to concern yourself with.”
“We were discussing schools.” Wavin thumped his fist on the oak. Can we try and stick on topic?”
“Good thinking Education Secretary. This is rapidly becoming a farce.” Ritap Latep was deeply regretting her careeer choice. “Do go on, you were suggesting school closure. Presumably you have considered the examination issues this will inevitably raise.”
“As it happens I have, and considering other devolved U.K. countries have already scrapped them this year I feel it might be prudent to do likewise before term actually starts. Give some clarity of direction as it were.”
“Agreed,” said Ballace. “While this is an unparalleled situation with a potential for Dystopia this government must cease appearing to be late to the party…as it were.”
“True Wen, I noticed your absence over the Christmas work do.” A glancing look from a prime minister looking rather tired.
“Social distancing Jorris, it’s called do as we say and not as you do. One might even venture this could fall into the remit of collective responsibility, leading from the top, setting an example and so on.”
“Be fair, the cabinet current here could be termed a social bubble and thus exempt from rule breaking surely. I even cycled seven miles to get there.”
“You went round in circles and ended up in Annie’s Bar here!” retorted Sushi Runak!”
“Where you bought me a drink and charged it to the Treasury.”
Ballace sighed for the umpteenth time, “It’s called Moncrieff’s now Prime Minster. It got Starbucked ages ago and, if I recall correctly, followed an exorcism to remove the spirit of the deceased by which it was named.”
“It’s better than the Sports and Socialist,” Rogg chipped in.
“You would say that Macob,” said Buckland.
“Meaning we were discussing school closure,” Wavin was trying to keep his epiphany up and forefront despite the distractions he knew were trying to get him off topic.”
“Bravo,” said Dr Toffey, “you were about to disclose a plan I think Wavin.” Although the rambling of discourse was now muddying the water in her mind too.
“Order,” came the booming voice. The Watcher of Proceedings was trying to disguise the mirth in his voice. Mention of The Dr had him adjusting the equalising system and tinkering with distortion to provide something akin to the voice of Davros. Enjoy the little things.
“Noted Watcher,” said Jorris. “Agenda item two.”
“Hold on Prime Minister, you’ve not heard the plan yet.” Wavin stood up for emphasis. He also considered removing the knife Excalibur might be relatively simple if one just cut the cake in half. Amazing how a different perspective altered a view point.
“Very well Education Secretary. Be concise, we haven’t got all day.”
Ballace felt if he continued rolling his eyes he might be able to watch his own brain blow a fuse. If the military worked this way….
“I realise this might be radical,” began Wavin. “I have long pondered the Education system with its league tables and assorted reporting structure by BOFSTED. The current disruption and loss of learning by children is a matter of great concern.” He paused looking to each Minister in turn. A few noted his eyes were now glowing blue. “If education was linear across all schools with each Exam Board distributing the same examination papers then parity would be achieved. Any child could seamlessly move schools and slot into the syllabus at roughly the point they left.
With the pandemic as it is assessment would be on a level playing field. No shopping round between boards, no variation of core material. Everyone gets taught the same topics, in the same order, sits the same exam and gets assessed under the same knowledge base if things go awry and civilisation rests on the cusp of anarchy.”
Revolutionary Wavin, thought Ballace. You’re in when I launch the coup.
“Anarchy….in the U.K.” Rogg was incensed. “How dare you use that in the same sentence as education.”
“Would it be better used in context of Agenda item two then Rogg?” Dr Toffey was onboard too.
“That’s rather an advanced solution Wavin.” Jorris was thinking fast. “Would Sith Karma support such a notion? Would the Unions and teachers rally to something that would actually reduce red tape and continuous planning.”
“Prime Minister, the Opposition is called that for a reason. They oppose everything and when they do agree with something they abstain. The immediate question would be would our own Party support it?”
“Anarchy…in the U.K..” muttered Rogg to himself. Slightly more audible, while avoiding all eye contact and eyeing Excalibur, he added “Even Private Schools?”
“All schools, education for all on a level playing field. No exceptions or advantage in any sector,” enthused Dr Toffey. “Even funding might be better managed. Learning from home less diverse in terms of variation. If teachers struggle to cope, a central emergency resource to distribute the same learning on all platforms to all children.”
“More important is educational stability. A long term plan agreed across all parties with no radical changes every few years. Is it possible?” Sushi Runak was mentally calculating savings to the Treasury that might lose his bar bill.
“Might I raise a secondary point Prime Minister?”
Jorris was deep in thought. Head in both hands rubbing his temples and not thinking of hoisting a pint in the former Annie’s Bar. “Go ahead Mancock.”
“Could the NHS operate similarly?”
“All sectors under a common strategy. Centralised procurement of everything with a distribution network supporting it. Welsh lamb for example, buy British. Local produce. Remove the grip of supermarket chains and waste.”
“Marvellous!” said Runak.
“Madness,” decried Rogg. “Efficiency loses political point scoring at elections.”
“Gentlemen and women. This has turned into a ponderous discussion the requires cogitation before decision making. I suggest this motion be deferred.”Jorris saw a way out. Indecision, much easier than a vote which might create decision. Or worse still, actions that might look decisive. The public wouldn’t stand for that at all. “Schools open, we will convene again on January 2nd and review the matter then. Time marches on so if we can now turn to item two and advance the success of Brexit I’m sure we can all retire in good spirits this very evening.”
Ballace looked at Wavin. There goes the press buffoon. Open tomorrow closed the day after. Heseltine where art thou?” He eyed the cake once more and realised the hidden message of the civil servant responsible. You can’t have your cake and eat it. Obvious really.
Oh my this was clever. A treasure house of references and parodies swirling about, capturing the essence of the floundering and running to catch up which has been the basic policy of Government since the beastly Covid popped up and spoilt all the Brexit agenda.
The feature I particularly liked was the relatively Minor Role The PM played while the rest fought various turf wars and the time honoured ‘Shift the blame’, the choice of title being particularly ironic.
The notion of ‘Rogg’ muttering the title of a Sex Pistols’ song is going to pop into my head every time I see our world’s alternative of him.
What I refer to as ‘Dry Satire’ (ie the lampooning is not knock-about such as in Spitting Image) is quite a difficult call, to get the balance of Humour, Ridicule and ‘Well It Could Have Happened’ just right.
Well Done Gary…..
Now onto Brexit Warrior
Very generous Roger. I just read them both again to remember the content…memory again, although it was quite some time ago.
It was my first “open house” attempt at humour. I have the PM in classic high management. Stay quiet and nick all the ideas unless they backfire and your scape goat is the supplier of said idea.
Obviously now the material is tremendous. You can hardly turn the news on without a million parody ideas flowing. Have to admit writing these was very entertaining. Definitely out of my “normal” comfort zone as it were.
A brave expedition and successful expedition out of The Comfort Zone Gary.
Again. Well done.
“In the spirit of mood improvement and mindfulness the civil servant responsible had a knife imprisoned in a stale Christmas cake.” hahahaha And that whole Spike conversation. That’s about right, I’d say. The banter and inner thoughts of each character was a perfect balance of the serious and the ridiculous. You obviously have a good grasp on the need for satire in such moments in time as this. 🙂
Thanks Rachael, figured current circumstances are irresistible for satire. I’ve often thought recently you’d struggle to make stuff up while listening to politicians and media. Bit of a new writing direction, or genre, for me. Trouble is recent events are giving far too much material not to carry on! Most of the info in here wrt bars in Westminster is factual btw. Annie’s Bar is historically correct as is the Tory reference to the Sports and Socialist Club (Sports and Social bar). The ministers are also current wrt their cabinet positions too. In the timeline I’m still back in early January. I guess I must reference Tonald Drump at some point 😳
Although to continue with satire… it has been suggested I do this as the NaNoCamp project haha
ha! That could be an interesting and eye-opening social satire, for sure!
I enjoyed this! Humour from all the stress and rubbish happening right now.
I liked the renaming of the characters, great writing for Blog Battle.
Thanks Marian. I was in two minds whether to put it up or not, but watching politicians squirm and avoid answering questions clearly puts too much “script” not to have a pop. I think humour is about the only way forwards right now…laugh or cry!
Fun take, Gary. I agree with Joshua: “Or worse still, actions that might look decisive. The public wouldn’t stand for that at all.” That had me chuckling.
Thank Sarah. I’ve not really put humour out before. It’s not what I consider to be my writing genre. However, looking at out politicians the material was something I felt the need to try. I’m aware many that don’t know U.K. politicos might struggle to fully understand the nuances though. Although I think their modes of operation are probably widespread.
Thanks for reading it too!
I’ve thought about integrating Covid into my fiction. I wrote quite a few prepper articles, about food stores and raising chickens and gardening, but I just haven’t been able to wrap my brain around the pandemic when I’ve got my fiction cap on. The Covid response has been a ridiculous farce and a tragedy at the same time. I can’t swing back and force between the two drama masks to give the thing any kind of voice.
So, go you on finding a way to make it work in an actual story. Well done. : )
It’s a tricky one as it can be seen as flippant in a crisis. Hence the disclaimer at the start. I didn’t want people thinking I was poking fun if they are in bereavement or affected by personal experience of it. Politics though is open game as watching them doesn’t inspire me with thinking they know what they’re doing. I know the defence there is it’s new and it’s unprecedented. I don’t fully buy into that as there’s this subject called history that shows it’s not unprecedented at all. Yes to this generation, but why reinvent round wheels and make them square?
Here we have a huge amount of satirical humour to work with without having to make much up. I just elaborated here with actual events.
I might get to agenda point two next time or go back to my normal fiction genres ha ha.
Thank you Cathleen. Appreciate you reading and taking time to comment 🙂
Ah, Gary, this was marvellous! I think I mentioned before how I’d love to see your take on something comedic. Had me chuckling at several points — too many to bring focus to. I loved it! In particular, “Or worse still, actions that might look decisive. The public wouldn’t stand for that at all.”
As you say in your intro, Covid isn’t a funny matter at all. Beneath the funny quips and hilarious lines, there’s biting satire. Really hit the nail on the head on multiple issues rather brilliantly. Rather biting — in a manner I thoroughly enjoyed.
Excellent stuff, Gary. It rather reminded me of a blend of Orwell, Adams, and Pratchett. Somehow, I couldn’t help but imagine them all as Vogons from Hitchiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. Snivelling and sneering away. Art imitating life?
Well done, Gary. You might not write humour (on a regular basis), but this was fantastic.
I do recall you saying that and it was on my mind when deciding whether or not to publish this as a post. Obviously it might appear funny to people familiar with the U.K. system. I’ve asked here if anyone knew what I meant by “Doing a Heseltine” too. Sadly no. A referenced to the only cabinet minister (as far as I am aware) to resign during a cabinet meeting because he disagreed entirely with the principles put forward (Westland affair).
The disclaimer I felt obliged to include too. The actual epidemic isn’t funny and I wanted to be clear I wasn’t suggesting it is. However politics is open game IMO.
Too generous with the comparisons too. A fraction of those abilities would suit me! I’m tempted to do the next one as Agenda point two. You’ve already hit that with the Vogons. Red tape over Brexit borders. Wrong document please fill in the right one then join the end of the queue. Of course the other angle could be “What have the Europeans ever done for us?”
How many cult references or pop references did you get?
Many thanks Joshua. I’m looking at the next word right now and cogitating. Yish or Brexit?
I’m afraid I’m not clued-in about Heseltine — I was eight when he left Parliament! You might need to explain that one to me! 😀
Yes, I agree entirely — I don’t think anyone would’ve suggested you were making fun of the pandemic, but wise to include it nonetheless. Politicians are absolutely fair game!
I would totally read more of your comedy/satire pieces. I think you handled it brilliantly — I’ve always sensed your brilliant humour in our little chats, so I knew you’d handle it deftly.
I’m positive I didn’t get all of the references — I’m sure a fair few went over my head! Anarchy in the UK might’ve been my favourite, haha. As was Dr Who!
Here’s the short version https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Westland_affair
I vaguely recall it being something of a scandal. Just seemed to tie in with Wen Ballace as Defence Secretary. To continue with this or not is the next question! Or quit while ahead haha.
Another one was “Enjoy the little things.” Straight out of Zombieland. I also think “Madness” appeared shortly after. Just not singing. I blame this on Geoff LePard as I often comment back at him with themed replies such as band names. Missed one here though wrt Heseltine and the Iron Maiden thinking about it 🤔
Oh…. talks about CampNaNo are moving for April and July. It’s now integrated with the main site so we’re setting up a BlogBattle writing group there to link up. Post will be scheduled for 12 Feb hopefully. Loose aim is take a favourite BB story and take it to 10 or 15K. That’s if you’re stuck for ideas. A few folk I’ve touched base with seem keen. We “talked” about it last year, but enough talk, time to walk the walk haha. You interested?
Oh wow, I went down the rabbit hole on those Wiki entries! Quite a shark’s den — I’d never want to get into politics. Would be torn apart in an instant…
Ah, I didn’t spot that one! Excellent. I think that’s a mark of good nods and references — when they’re woven in so well they don’t immediately jump out, they also work within the context of the piece. A bit like the nods in Shaun of the Dead (“the place with all the fish,” “we’re coming to get you Barbara”).
I am absolutely game for CampNaNo! Count me in! 🙂
Exactly why politics is full of numpties…anyone sensible would stay well clear or go insane.
I think it’s easy to miss the nuances if you’re not au fait with the sense of humour maybe? I often drop bits in that I find quirky just to see if anyone spots them.
Re Camp NaNo, I sent you a group invite there already! It’s still under construction as the header size is weird and currently unknown. Same with the avatar. I’m tempted to add links to participant blogs at the top too. Currently it’s just got the BB homepage. Suggestions on the group description are welcome too. Just trying to get ahead before the actual announcement. 😊
Hear, hear! I think it attracts a certain type of person. A certain personality. It’s why I’m surprised when I feel anything other than cynicism when one of them speaks. An eyeroll is my usual go-to reaction.
I think if you’re not looking for them, there’s a chance they’ll be missed. But that’s half the fun once you’ve read the piece — to go back and try to find them all, like a puzzle! Like King says in On Writing, a story should hold up under two readings — the first for the story, and the second as an analysis of technique.
Yes, I’ve responded to the invite over on the NaNo site! I look forward to it, having a think about what story to use. I might explore Boddi Craig in a more of a structured manner — I like the idea, but it got a bit messy and tangled, with no clear narrative. I think it’s fertile ground for sure, I just made a mess of the excavation…
Any idea what you’ll be writing? Dragon Stone, or something else? 🙂
I think Nicholas Parsons once sound the problem with politics and media assassination is it attracts the wrong people.
Ha,ha. Good point. If you look for them too much then you’ll miss actually reading the story. I think King is right too. Two readings minimal if it’s good enough. I’ve done the dark tower several times, which is why I was proper annoyed at the movie attempt. Tried hard to like it but just no. What’s the point of him reaching the final turn carrying the horn of elf (which he does in the film) then not flipping using it? The race issue was brilliantly done with Suzanne and Eddie. The film should have started at the Way Station with Roland not dropping Jake and thus not catching up to Walter. Not to mention he didn’t even get to the blasted tower in the film so the Crimson King is still in residence. Bah….I enter soap box mode.
Nice one re NaNo….if nothing else it’s us haha. For me it’s a good question. Dragon Stone is, or has, become quite complex. The back story as you know jumps about. That’s deliberate on my behalf just to explore the characters themselves in different areas. I’m up to 100k now so I reckon it’s time to stop mucking about 😳
Then again I could do what I proposed as an idea. Take a BB prompt and move it forward. I have a few possibilities there. The Gothic horror story, the Corona A.I., the last five chapters of a book I’m short on… even though I finished it’s sequel… must give it some serious thought.
I’m not certain you excavated Boddi Craig wrong either. I think it tempted you with a fossil tooth and you’ve merely found it’s skeleton was disjointed. I also have a feeling when you started it might just have been intended as a one off BB story. After that you seem to be doing what I do. Jumping about while learning more about the world. I’d call that the pre-excavation…. bit like geophysics or metal detecting before the trowels come out. 😂
That’s why I avoided the movie, I was wary about it before it even came out. When King fans started slating it, I figured it wasn’t worth my time — best to leave my imagination’s images untarnished!
Haha, yes, you better get on it at some point! Of course, no stress or pressure whatsoever, but with that much explored already, one would think the worlds and characters are already clear. Just need to put the words on paper in proper sequence. Easy, when you put it like that, eh? 😉
Yes, I remember the gothic one! Definitely lots of potential there, as wtih the Corona one, too. Got your pick, I think. See whichever takes your fancy — which one excites you the most?
I think you might be right there! BC wasn’t the only serialised one that I began and then realised I’d bitten off more than I could chew — had one for Reedsy called Montis Absentia. Still really like both ideas, but there was too much there for a one-off short story. I think a bit of planning on my part would have helped a little bit. As you say, pre-excavation. I’ve explored a little bit, and I know there’s good stuff there. Think they deserve proper attention, though. For BB and Reedsy — at the moment, at least — it feels better/lighter to just pop in and out of worlds and do one-offs. (Having said that, >60% of them have the potential to snowball — if I let them!)
Had the same thoughts Joshua. I guess if you know his books then it was always going to be disappointing. I’ve seen it a few times now on movie channels. More because I wanted to look at its plot structure. Try to find why they took it in this direction. Why I feel it didn’t work for me and so on.
Haha… very true. I do know the characters used yes. I hope that now transpires in their interactions. The world build is harder though. It’s not linear time wise and spans several parallel universes. Obviously it sounds easy…just put words down and see where it leads!!
Corona as a concept I quite like. An AI creating clones is a subject I find both fascinating and disturbing. Same with my thoughts on the evolution of sentience. If I’m right then AI proper is inevitable further down the line.
Mind you, gothic horror also tempts me to try it. It’s one area I wanted to explore, but haven’t yet. Something about it is really appealing. As does the new line on political satire. In fact the new variant “Brexit Warriors” is feasting on pantsing. Not sure if that’s taken me in a direction heading elsewhere…. still, might put it out next month and see what you think.
Trouble with short stories…too many begin claiming book rights! I think I said before BB or prompts is a great way to explore concepts. World build or character development in a way that I feel is more fun than sitting with a character sheet. Personally I don’t get doing that before you start writing as it’s not free form. I do read things where I feel a “special ability” suddenly appears to solve a stuck zone. Never feel they read properly myself.
Yes, AI and cloning are subjects which I also find fascinating. It’s one of those topics where I think, “Is this horror, is this sci-fi? Is this a blend? Who cares, it’s interesting!”
The fact that you have several ideas vying for your attention is great. I remembered loving your gothic piece. I’d say it’s not really an either/or situation, rather, it’s which one do you want to focus on right now? The beauty of the back-burner. Can get to those other ideas later on down the road.
Haha, yes! I know what you mean about those character sheets. Even as someone who is halfway between pantsing and plotting. “What are their motivations? What are their behaviours?” Well, I don’t know, I haven’t put them in a situation to see how they react. Let me put them under stress, and I’ll get back to you with answers! I like structure in that I need a map of where I’m going or I’ll get lost. But I hate the… I don’t know, sterility of over-planned stuff? I guess I’m (still!) trying to find my own way — with the longer stuff.
You have hit one of my internal literary agent conundrums…what genre is it? Half the time I have no idea. I write what I like to read. It’s like looking at Kings portfolio….is it horror, crime, psychological thriller or fantasy? You can find books in each with elements of all three in DT. Genres switching I know I do so how the heck do you classify it???
Ha ha…ideas vying is my nemesis. It leads to procrastination and poor decision making. Ridiculous really as I’m doing the BB NaNo draft now and part of that is equating an example word rate of 500 a day. It seems six months at that rate gives a 90,000 word novel. Spend a year mucking about and you’ve lost two novels. I will warrant on a good day we do 500 words just commenting on blogs!
Seems we’re back to On Writing! You know both story and characters better after the first excavation. Why start with preconceived sheets when writing will reveal more? Oh yes…that means actually writing 👀
I think genres only matter to publishing houses trying to sell to the perfect demographic. As a reader, I only pick up books that sound “good” — as vague as that is. I tend to stick with horror and sci-fi, but honestly, I’m open to anything as long as it sounds interesting! I think most people are that way — only search for genres because there’s a track record of being entertained by a certain genre.
I was stuck in a similar mindset of “If I write so many words a day, I’ll have the novel by a certain date”. The logic is reasonable, and I’m sure it works for some, but it’s like NaNo, when you fall behind, you beat yourself up (“oh, I’m 6000 words behind schedule!”). That is a killer for my motivation and creativity, especially with MH struggles, so I’m trying something different. Seems to be working (thus far!). Instead of setting myself a word count for the day, I set aside an hour for main WIP writing, an hour for short stories, an hour for blogging, and so on. I’m not churning out NaNo levels of words, but I’m not feeling burnt out, either. This way, I’m never “behind” on my work, I just do what I do in the allotted time, and that’s that!
That or they are really stuck in the past. It took them years to cotton onto e-books as a way in via imprints. Mind you that’s a cheap way for them to see who sells well before committing. Ode to being cynical haha.
I’m with you re take what sounds good. That said over the last few years I’ve read outside my genre quite a bit and found some unexpected gems. Never Let Me Go being one that I found highly disturbing as a concept. Goes with the cloning thing. You might like it.
Words a day I don’t really stick to. I did once and was highly productive. Habit thing though, I got out of it and now it’s hard to resurrect. NaNo proper is a beast if MH fretting drops in. It turns into failure which isn’t a useful byproduct. It’s why the camps might be better. Set something realistic and tackle it in a group where nobodies judging and will laugh with you if you fall behind because chances are someone else will be too. Your approach is a good one given “our mindsets.” I think therapists would approve too. Chunk things into manageable pieces rather than set up for a fall. A time based one is just time. If things work they work, if not there’s another hour tomorrow…or as Mr Crabs might say, “what is today but yesterday’s tomorrow.” Dead helpful lol. Mind you I’ve done next month prompt so that’s not too bad. Granted I do know the word list haha
I’ve read The Buried Giant by the same author — Kazuo Ishiguro (I hope I’ve spelled the right!). It was utterly heartbreaking. I have to read more of his stuff. Will definitely give Never Let You Go a go (cough, cough). Have to make my way through a bit of my current TBR pile, first!
I did get into the rhythm once, and I was quite good at it. Problem was, it made me hate writing! So I figured that’s a no-go for me. If I’m hating it, the reader definitely will!
Ah, Spongebob. A source of philosphical discussion beneath the childish whimsicality! It’s one of those shows I look back on and think, “That was actually really bloody good!” But yes, a good way of thinking.
I’m looking forward to next month’s prompt! Then again, I always am. Haha. That’s another thing I love about BB, the “unwrapping” of the prompt present. I get a genuine thrill out of waiting for it to drop!
You should, it’s very sobering and what struck me is it could actually happen if the world twisted down the line. My TBR is pretty large too. It also took a hit last year after lockdown hit. Weird really, both writing and reading should be easier given it’s a couple of the few things that being home accommodates! Then again minds are play and all that.
Same here, I wrote three manuscripts inside 18 months. Part of me thinks once stopping the intensity caught up. I’ve never really got back to it. Even half that rate would do now. Hopefully NaNo might rekindle things. If I can decide on what haha.
Can’t go wrong with Spongebob. I’m sure part of it was aimed at adults even though kids love it. Sign of good writing perhaps.
I’m glad you get the thrill of the unknown prompt haha. For me it’s the albatross…. I generated all 12 last year and we’re all scheduled for this year too. Mind you, that part Rachael does!
I found that “forcing” myself to get into a routine of reading actually helps. The brain puts up a bit of a fight, doesn’t like to be told what to do, but after a week or so it gets easier. Always helps if you’re reading something good, too!
I’m still thinking about what to write for NaNo, too. Maybe Boddi Craig, maybe Montis Absentia, maybe a BB story, maybe something new — get a few ideas floating around. Itching to try a few out!
I don’t know how you don’t just go off and write all the year’s stories in advance! I know I would be tempted, if I were in your shoes!
That’s the real issue. With MH forcing habits is the only way to get out of the bad ones. Trouble is they sit biding their time for moments of inertia then bully their way back. I think that’s where mindfulness comes in. Seeing it happen, recognise the moods dipping and getting the executive brain to dictate the outcome rather than letting the default mind run its course. Sounds dead easy haha.
Same here re NaNo. Might be easier if there wasn’t a multitude of ideas! I’m moving towards a novella on political satire though. Just for a break to see if it can kick start writing habits and roll off into the epic in waiting.
Re knowing all the prompts… I have pondered it lol. Then again in the spirit of things it might be construed as cheating…although I’ve done that already this time. Not sure about it though…the direction is getting very odd!
It does sound easy! But I think recognition is a large chunk of the battle. I got through my uni days by charging through like a bull. Now I understand what was going on inside!
I might stick with my current WIP (provided I’m not finished by then — that’s wishful thinking, ha!). Just so I don’t give myself too many balls to juggle. It’s a goofy B-movie sci-fi/comedy/horror about a fungus from outer space that swallows a town. I think my previous WIPs were too “serious” and lost their joy as I progressed? Trying something a bit more silly!
Yes, it might not be in the true spirit of BB. I think a week or so in advance isn’t that much of a crime — as you’ve done here. I look forward to reading this — an odd direction is an interesting direction!
Agreed, recognition is the biggest shield. Doing something to distract of it becomes the battle ground. At uni I was way too busy to even think about root causes. Getting older tends to give more time to overthink. It’s that part that does me in! Take publishing for example haha.
When you say “serious” what exactly do you mean? Many of mine are, but if the tale grips me then I carry on…caveat…used to lol. For me losing the joy is actually telling me somethings not right. Again there, and this is the only “work” one feels ok saying it in….my characters tell me if things are not right. Those voices in the head being real right haha.
Silly is also maybe a good way to take a time out. Maybe go back to serious after with a clear head. Read it and see if it is holding its own and maybe find where it’s stuck or gone off course. Could it be something of that ilk that’s made you think like that about them?
Odd here might be disjointed. Having said that I’m part thinking maybe that’s the whole point!
I think what I mean is that I — as the author — took them too seriously. Like, I placed them on this pedastal of “proper writing”. Perhaps thinking, “Okay, this needs to match the artistry King showed in Pet Sematary or ‘Salem’s Lot.” When, in actual fact, I think (this may be wrong!) my best stuff comes when I’m not obsessing over the craft too much.
I reckon it’s also partially because the works themselves were so bleak and grey? Perhaps? For an apocalyptic tale, I had no colour in it — as that’s what the end of days would look like. Just nonstop drabness and horror. With this “silly” piece (I call it so because of the premise — I’m still approaching it in all seriousness, trying to make it the best I can) I’m trying to capture the “fun” side of things. Adding in a bit of colour. Some neon lights like eighties horror flicks. Like Stranger Things horror, y’know? Not necessarily terrifying, but entertaining.
I hope this rambling made sense. It’s kind of an abstract feeling in my chest. Hard to articulate — funny thing for a writer to say, ha!
Sort of haha. I’m reading this seeing an element of aiming too high. King is one heck of a target and a great albatross to carry round. I hear what you say though. His craft develops character identification before it all goes bleak. The fact you admit your craft works best while not obsessing suggest the above too. Stick with bone excavation first the artistry in editing. So says me who hasn’t bought the JCB to begin excavating!
Also, do you think it possible your work might be mood responsive? If written from a hole does it later appear less appealing when out of it?
As for colour in an apocalypse… we’re in one now… have to admit not seeing much colour myself! Maybe thats why I’m doing the parody thing. Says me while watching The Curse of La Llorona in the background.
Post apocalypse (my interpretation) requires hope arcs. Striving in adversity against a world gone mad. Your current one sounds almost cult horror merged with humour. Not sure why I’m now running Rocky Horror in my head!!
You’re right though. Hard to articulate might be an artefact of where we both are. If that question was poised to a well known master, could they roll the abstract into something real? Is that why they are best sellers?
Wise words! I read a nice quote the other day: “Draft sloppy.” Just get the blasted thing down… but now we return to previous conversations. Get out of your own head, Joshua, and put words to paper! We can figure out the rest once you’ve got that bit down.
I think it may well be! Perhaps once I “come back up”, the stuff I wrote whilst down there seems so… hopeless? Nihilistic? Perhaps I shouldn’t scrap it, but keep it aside.
I’ve heard good things about that movie. Any good? I’m watching the Korean horror series Sweet Home at the moment. Absolutely bats**t and I’m loving it!
I think you’re absolutely right. Apocalyptic tales are all about juxtaposition — why go on in such a bleak world? Why doesn’t everyone just have done with it and eat the business end of a shotgun? The darkness makes the light seem even brighter by contrast. There’s something beautiful in that… I’ll contemplate this for a bit, I’m not quite sure where I’m going with it, but you’ve given me food for thought! As your blog’s name states, ha!
More so for you and I Joshua. If you write free form then there’s no point mucking about in headspace. Get stuck, move on and rejig it later. It might be more difficult if you spent weeks planning a story arc to find the characters hate it! Ever in doubt think On Writing haha.
Never scrap writing. I often find gems of phrase when in the troughs. Mind you I actively don’t write in them now. I feel it can often perpetuate the mood, bit like listening to Fields of the Nephilim. Mind altering so not good if the minds already altered as it were.
I quite like the movie yes. Seen it a couple of times. I like to watch the scene development more now too. How the tension builds and see if I can translate it into words.
Thing with the shotgun concept is I do wonder how many might take that way out. The majority of people in the west are just not geared up to deal with anything like that. Panic buying or supermarket raiding…then what? Even fresh potable water would be a task. Now that concept might incubate a few thoughts….simple fresh water when the taps don’t work!!
A very successful experiment in genre jumping! Although I wasn’t able to keep track of all the characters, it didn’t really matter because, well, they were less important than what they were spouting. The humor was nicely done – sometimes when things keep ‘heading south’, I have to laugh or I might wind up going on a rampage. And the mess with the schools – oh my! My own offspring are in college, so the adversity isn’t as bad as for the primary schools, but we’ve still felt it. And I cracked up over the Dr. Who references!
That’s politicians for you! I can’t keep track of those characters in real life!! I think for anyone not familiar with the U.K. government it’s probably trickier. All these fictional representations are current members of our Cabinet with their roles as they are there. The topics are elaborations of actual events here too. The bar is real and has indeed been “Starbucked” to the new name given here. Boris did recently go on a seven mile bike ride despite restrictions and did give the enclosed excuse.
The schools part is almost beyond fiction. You couldn’t make it up though. My son was caught up at the start of last year after working harder than I’ve ever seen him. Then finds exams cancelled and a real mess of grade awards. It did get sorted though and he did get straight A’s which got him into the uni he wanted. However the issue is repeating this year with school exams now off again.
Both mine are now out of it thank heavens.
Dr Who came out of nowhere. It wasn’t planned! I was starting with a ploy on the Spike protein with Raab (real surname) wondering who Spike was. There’s a few other cult and pop references here too. Not sure how many will get picked up though.
Thanks Abe, I might try the second Agenda point next time 🤔
Could you let me know if you received my comment?
I just wrote one, but once I hit “Post” I got an error and my comment disappeared 🙁
I got this one but no sign of the other. Even checked spam just in case 😕
Never had an error before so not sure what’s happened..
I think it’s on my end. Sometimes the browser likes to pretend my connection conveniently dropped in the middle of posting a lengthy comment. Oh, well. Thought I’d check before trying to potentially repeat myself and spam you.
You had me slightly worried at the beginning with the non-fiction opening (I was hoping for a fiction piece). But I totally enjoyed the direction the story went in. We all need a bit of humor those days, so thanks for that. Even if it’s based on the sad ridiculousness of our governments.
“a large round oak table. Recently added to remove corners and therefore bring the ministers together.” I found that passage absolutely hilarious. Genius!
Education is something that’s very important. I’m glad I’m not at a school age or have kids that go to school. Not sure if I could handle any of what’s going on there now. Things have been going downhill even before the virus, but now… I worry about potential illiteracy.
I’ve had that problem a few times in the past with some blogs. I used to copy my comment before posting just in case it went pear shaped!
The beginning part was more a disclaimer. I wasn’t trying to appear flippant so some people might have taken umbrage at humour in a crisis where Covid has actually impacted them. Alas my thoughts upon political handling of matters couldn’t be resisted. Blank just screamed parody ha, ha.
Not sure if you are au fair with U.K. politics, but every minister mentioned is a current cabinet minister here. Swap first letter with the surname letter and you find who it actually is. Eg. Wavin is Gavin Williamson who is the actual Education Minister…. Jorris Bohnson is probably more obvious.
The Bar mentioned is also real and sits in the House of Commons. It was renamed from Annie’s Bar after a long term barmaid. The new name was used here after it was “Starbucked” which is a WorldsEnd reference. There’s a few other pop cult references too, not to mention film or tv show inferences!
I’m not known for “humour” writing either. I leave that mostly to Geoff LePard. Mind you they never did get to Agenda point 2 so maybe a follow up next month ha,ha. Oh, Sith Karma is the alter ego of Kier Starma. Leader of the Opposition (Labour Party). The character builds are all mine though so names aside it’s all fiction…or fact…depending on who you perceive parliamentarians!
I agree wrt education too. My youngest got hit last year with A-levels. Worked his socks off to end up locked down and endured a results mess here. Eventually got the grades he deserved, but not after a chaotic process to sort it out. Really glad mine are out of it now though. Wrt the downhill slide….I have a theory on that…. maybe another!
Thank you for the detailed comment Sam!
I used to copy my comments before posting, too. But then, it got better and I got complacent.
No, I get that it was a disclaimer. I came to read your piece after a couple of other entries that were more non-fiction, so I had some pre-conceived notions at the beginning.
Yes, I was able to decode the names, which did increase my enjoyment of the piece.
Glad your son was able to get through it!
Same here. I ought to get back in the habit when doing a longer comment.
I think I’ve also read those ones too. I often put a précis up before the actual story to try and set it, or disclaim it in this case. I’m toying with Agenda point two. Brexit is a spectacular debacle. You’ve only got to watch Twitter trends to see that ha ha.
Thanks. Fortunately it was his final year. I dread to think how much education has been missed over the last year.
Cleverly crafted scene that could have stepped from the pages of Alice in Wonderland. How did you smuggle the recorder into the Cabinet room? 😉
Generous Doug. Maybe I should rename it Politics Through the Looking Glass ha,ha. It’s not the sort of writing I’d put out normally. However since they never did reach point point two maybe it requires an addition next time?
The recorder….a good point, but one might suppose I am the Watcher of Proceedings 😉