What to do when it's not happening

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Rath Darkblade
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Re: What to do when it's not happening

Postby Rath Darkblade » Mon, 27 Jan 2020 11:35 am

Sigh. I don't feel disconnected from any story, I just don't have any ideas at all (that don't crash down in flames). :( I don't mean ideas as in the 'mystical', layman terms - "All you need is an idea!" because ideas are a dime a dozen (or, in these inflationary times, perhaps a dollar a dozen). ;)

But I just can't think of anything - not a setting, not a character, not a scene ... nada. Ugh. I wonder if this is what they call "burnout". :( Just to keep my hand in, I've been writing smaller pieces, e.g. limericks, "politically correct" nursery rhymes and so on. But those aren't the same as writing a story. And the more books I read, the fewer ideas I get.

I need a new direction, I need a new setting, I need a lead on an exciting, new setting. I've been wracking my brains and coming up with zip-ola. Sigh ... oh, well. Something will pop up. (But if the setting is Puritan times, then no, it won't). ;) :P

Any ideas?
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Re: What to do when it's not happening

Postby Enzed » Mon, 27 Jan 2020 12:21 pm

Rath, how about a story set in a musical / entertainment environment? With your experience of people and relationships from the world of music, you can surely think of a plot based on characters you know, have met, or even some you wish to meet. Basing a story on actual knowledge gives credibility to fiction - at least that's my experience of reading and also writing. Basing a story in truth and then creating from the imagination has a ring of authenticity. And so often the truth really is stranger than fiction.

Didn't you travel to the UK to perform with an orchestra? Imagine all the things that could have gone wrong - or even right? Didn't an alien air ship beam you up from right outside Buckingham Palace or was it London bridge? Perhaps you stole the instrument of your dreams and then led the police a merry dance as they tried to catch you? Something along those lines could make a good yarn for the adolescent age group.

You must have extensive knowledge of musical instruments and understand the emotions of people obsessed by classical music. That's a world you know extremely well.

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Re: What to do when it's not happening

Postby Rath Darkblade » Tue, 28 Jan 2020 4:42 pm

Hmm. Nothing much ever happened to me in the world of music, I'm sad to say. It's been fairly routine and hard work. Sure, I've had (or seen) one or two on-stage disasters, but nothing that couldn't be recovered from. I also met at least one person that I could set as antagonist, but he/she was simply a prima donna, not a story-book "mwa ha ha" evil. ;)

I did travel to the UK, but by myself and for a holiday. However, I did travel to Tassie to be part of a Choir Festival a few years ago. Nothing went wrong, but some things might have that I don't know about. There's a reason this article exists: Ten Tips for Flying with your Musical Instrument. ;) I have read several stories of musicians who were not allowed to take their instruments on a plane, and even one where a musician was not allowed to take a viola string, because a security guard thought it could be used to strangle someone. :shock: Luckily, my throat is my instrument. I don't need any special paperwork for that, but getting sick is a extra-major pain. :(

Some stories of musicians who have had trouble with airlines:

Cellist buys extra seat for his cello, but British Airways stops him from boarding because the instrument 'has no USA entry visa'
Cellist buys ticket for his cello, but airline staff decide the cello is "a security risk"
Ryanair don't let a Scottish pensioner on board with her bagpipes in hand luggage, then call police and the Army
Violinist bullied into leaving Aer Lingus plane after trying to place small violin in overhead locker
United Airlines staff wrestle with violinist and try to take her instrument away

String instruments are very fragile, susceptible to humidity and air pressure, and cost a lot. Some of them cost more than a car. :shock: The musicians carrying them certainly don't need any more stress. Luckily for me, I don't have to worry about that.

So what do I, as a chorister, have to worry about? So much:

1. Props that don't work properly during a play. (It's happened to me a few times. Drat it). :(
2. Props that fall over during a play. (Hasn't happened to me, but I heard some amusing anecdotes). ;)
2. Animals or children that misbehave on stage. (Hasn't happened to me yet, thank $deity$).
3. Falling asleep on stage (it's happened, but not to me and not during a concert).
4. Stagehands that decide to upstage the prima donna. (It's happened many times, but thankfully, not in any show I've been in).
5. A prima donna misbehaving on stage. (It's happened, but again, not in any show I've been in).
6. A prima donna misbehaving off stage. (It's happened to me several times).
7. And of course, the perennial favourite: a director tears his hair out and walks away from the play. :shock: It's happened, but thankfully, not to me or anyone else I know.

Any questions? I can certainly tell some funny, and not-so-funny, anecdotes. ;) The trouble is tying them together ... there's no beginning and no end to this story! :)
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Re: What to do when it's not happening

Postby Rath Darkblade » Wed, 29 Jan 2020 12:42 pm

Hmm - whoops! I used "bella donna" in my last post when I meant "prima donna", of course. My mistake.

***WARNING: The following is long. My apologies.***

Stakes? Let's see ... well, what if the play is about vampires (sorry!) :) Or more seriously ... at stake could be a lucrative contract to perform with the Met (i.e. the Metropolitan Orchestra of New York) for a season. The contract then extends for a year, two years etc. if the soloist is any good. Big names like Enrico Caruso, Dame Nellie Melba, Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf etc. all did this. Obviously there are more singers than there are roles, so competition is very fierce.

Luckily (or unluckily?) for me, I'm a chorister, not a soloist. There are major differences, among them blend (blending the voices together to sound as one), breath (where and how to take a breath without ruining the sound), intonation (getting the various choristers to sound good together), etc. Soloists don't have to worry about blend, but have to pay lots of attention to breath, intonation, and focus. Soloists can also use more vibrato (to add expression) than the average chorister; some soloists can get away with it, and some pieces even demand it, but if one chorister out of 100 sings vibrato and the others don't, then it just sounds silly. :)

The problem with soloists singing vibrato happens when they do it gratuitously, which we've seen in recent years on TV shows like "Australia's Got Talent" and the like. (Most of these people, sad to say, have no talent at all. They just sing loudly, off-key, and with far too much vibrato - and the audience just laps it up, because "they're so brave!" etc. I guess you can never go wrong with appealing to the lowest common denominator). ;)

So how to turn all this into a story? Hmm. Here's a scenario:

A soloist for the MSO is retiring soon, and the MSO advertises (on their own website) to find a replacement. Two people see it and decide to apply: one is a long-term soloist with a classical company like the RMP (Royal Melbourne Philharmonic), and the other is a recent winner of "Australia's Got Talent". ;) She already has a lucrative contract with AGT, but now she wants one with the MSO.

Why? Because in her opinion, with her media fame and experience at singing rock music, she will be a shoe-in to become a world-famous classical soloist. :P Prestige! More money! Etc. :P

She is received politely, but rejected, and told to go and study music for a few years. (A line for the music director: "Yes - perhaps - if she studies for a few years, she will be a very bad singer". ;) No snobbery here: most people's voices are either suited to classical music or rock music. There's very little cross-over. I've done both, as part of the RMP, and it's very difficult to do both well).

So, what next? At stake is this lady's opinion of herself, as well as (another) lucrative contract. Does she accept that her voice is unsuited to classical singing, resolves to work hard, etc. etc.? Or does she resolve to - deep breath time here - TAKE REVENGE on the STUPID IDIOTS who COULDN'T SEE HER TALENT??? (Insert a few mwa-ha-has, lightning and thunder, etc.) :twisted:

Of course she'll do the latter. How? By taking to social media and besmirching the name of the MSO, the name of the pianist who accompanied her, the names of the conductor and musical director, etc. She'll show them all! Moo-ha-ha-ha! :twisted:

For a few days, all goes amazingly well. Her followers on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram etc. are on her side. Not surprisingly, though, she's burned her bridges with the classical music community. What do they do? Engaging her on social media is unhelpful, to say the least. Releasing a press statement likewise, because it's liable to be misinterpreted. One Committee member (the newbie, perhaps?) suggests: "Why not invite a journalist who wishes to interview us, and set the record straight? I'm sure that when people of goodwill get 'round a table..." and so on.

The other committee members exchange glances, stop themselves from rolling their eyes, and explain to the naive newbie the facts of life. You can't trust journalists. Interviews, like press statements, are a double-edged sword. It all depends on the interviewer is: he absolutely must be impartial. Not "impartial" as in between the fireman and the fire, obviously, but impartial as in being able to see their point of view.

"I see," Newbie says, "So when you say impartial, you mean partial." ;)

Long story short, the Committee decides - in the interests of resolving this manufactured dispute - to invite Miss Big-Head back for an audition, and also to invite in the press. When they see that she can't actually sing, surely ... etc.

Newbie: "But what if she can sing?"

Conductor: "Nonsense. If she could sing, she wouldn't create all this fuss and bother."

Newbie: "Then may I suggest one further improvement?"

Conductor: "Certainly, as long as it is sensible."

Newbie: "Very well. Why not broadcast her audition, live, on YouTube - and advertise it beforehand on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Instagram etc.? Something like: to all her followers - a special event! See your beloved star sing! And so on."

Conductor: "Newbie, that is a--" *hesitates for a second* "--stroke of genius."

Newbie: "Could it be arranged?"

Conductor: "It will be expensive. But perhaps we can arrange for someone else to foot the bill."
======================
The plan works. The newspapers, anticipating either a great triumph or a lamentable disaster, divide the bill between them. Miss Big-Head botches her audition completely and flounces out, vowing never to try it again. Miss Big-Head's online followers ditch her, after seeing how immature she is. The classical singer receives the contract. And everyone is happy! :D
======================
How does that sound?
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Re: What to do when it's not happening

Postby Enzed » Wed, 29 Jan 2020 1:35 pm

You've got oodles of material Rath.
I don't see why you can't reformat the plot into a novel. Novels sell.
Perhaps chuck in a murder - or attempted murder, by an insanely jealous / stalker type - male or female who 'followed' her on Twitterer or Facebook, and then followed her in person - and you've got a thriller.
Some of those musical instruments could be used to smuggle - whatever - a murder weapon? :o
Go for it - You've surely got the talent.
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Re: What to do when it's not happening

Postby Rkcapps » Wed, 29 Jan 2020 5:19 pm

I always find reading other stories in my genre helps spark my imagination...

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Re: What to do when it's not happening

Postby Rath Darkblade » Wed, 29 Jan 2020 9:02 pm

Enzed wrote:You've got oodles of material Rath.
I don't see why you can't reformat the plot into a novel. Novels sell.
Perhaps chuck in a murder - or attempted murder, by an insanely jealous / stalker type - male or female who 'followed' her on Twitterer or Facebook, and then followed her in person - and you've got a thriller.
Some of those musical instruments could be used to smuggle - whatever - a murder weapon? :o
Go for it - You've surely got the talent.


Thanks. :) I've never actually seen something like this happened, I just imagined it. I've witnessed plenty of backstage jealousies, but that's about it. I've never actually been taken into confidences, and never asked for them.

Murder? :shock: Surely not. Not even attempted! Having said that, I've witnessed loads of backbiting and backstabbing - some was even aimed at me - mainly from that prima donna, who made everyone's lives harder for a couple of years. He was a pathological liar who made up stuff to make himself look better, verbally abused some soloists and choristers too. I was relieved when he left, though I believe he was pushed. It was really too bad; he has a great voice, but a crappy personality. :(

No-one can smuggle a murder weapon (or anything else) inside a musical instrument. :) Enzed, maybe you're thinking of the old "shotgun in a violin case" business from all those Hollywood Mafia films? The truth is, a good musical instrument is often hundreds of years old, fragile, and susceptible to humidity. No-one could smuggle a weapon inside a violin - the sound holes are far too small! :) I suppose someone could smuggle a pistol inside a guitar, but it would ruin the guitar. No serious musician would want that - not to mention what would happen if the pistol went off while inside the guitar. :( Sorry to ruin that subplot! :)

All right, if you didn't care at all about your instrument, you might be able to shove a pistol inside a guitar. But how would you get it out again in a hurry? Not to mention, if the musician is flying, they'll scan the guitar ... ;)

So, suppose you're a prima donna. Other than competibg with other soloists over a contract (which can be worth tens of thousands if not more - depends who you're playing with!), the other source of friction could be stage hands, who set the stage for you to act on. If you treat the stage hands right, they'll be gold. If not ... well ... they can get their revenge. :twisted: There's at least one story - it may even be true - about a soprano soloist who annoyed the stage hands. Nothing they did was right. This was a performance of Puccini's "Tosca", supposedly in New York City in 1960 - true or not, I don't know.

This soprano was a pain in the neck. At the end of the opera, after she sings her final "farewell" song, she has to jump off the battlements to her "death" (though, actually, she lands on some pads or a mattress on the other side). :) This soprano kept whining about the pads that were supposed to cushion her fall. The stagehands couldn't put up with her any longer, and substituted the pads with a particularly springy trampoline. :P As Tosca sang her final words and jumped off, the audience was treated to her bouncing back into full view, several times - sometimes cursing, sometimes laughing, sometimes upside down, sometimes the right way up... ;)

The moral is clear: if you are a prima donna, be nice to everyone! :)
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Re: What to do when it's not happening

Postby Enzed » Wed, 29 Jan 2020 9:52 pm

CageSage wrote:
How does that sound?


The first question with the proposed story is: whose story is this?
The answer makes it easier to shape the story to suit the events and progression.

having said that, there's always a new way to look at what happens in a world that not many people know much about -- which is what makes this more interesting to me than it is to you. I know nothing of this world, and would be interested to follow someone as they live it.



I feel the same. I know nothing of this world and would be fascinated to read a story set in that environment. It's new to me too.
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Re: What to do when it's not happening

Postby Rath Darkblade » Thu, 30 Jan 2020 9:02 am

CageSage wrote:
How does that sound?


The first question with the proposed story is: whose story is this?
The answer makes it easier to shape the story to suit the events and progression.


Hmm. That is a good question ...... and one not easy to answer, especially when I'm sick. :( All sides - the "Australia's Got Talent" prima donna, the classically trained singer, the musical director (whose final decision it is), even the press - have their own points of view.

Isn't it possible to alternate? I know it's bad form to have four POV characters, but I don't really need the reporter(s) to have his/her/their own POV(s). That leaves three.

The story starts with the departing soloist, and the MSO (Melbourne Symphony Orchestra, for anyone who isn't aware) posting an ad on their website. (They sometimes do this - I responded when they advertised for choristers with the MSO. A chorister is simply a member of a choir). :)

Anyway ... we have three major characters:

1. The "Australia's Got Talent" prima donna, aka "AGT";
2. The classically trained singer, aka "classical" (a supporting role); and
2. The musical director-slash-chorus master, aka "master". :)

Chapter 1 could start with AGT's POV. She's just won "AGT", and is hungry for fame and fortune and prestige, etc. etc. She applies for the contract and phones her agent. He advises her to stick with rock music (wise advice), but she tells him she already applied. He says, "Well ... please don't be too disappointed."

Chapter 2 starts when "AGT" meets "classical" in the waiting room, while they wait for an audition. "AGT" is immediately scornful because "classical" was never on TV. "Classical" reserves her opinion; she goes first and sings a few scales and a Mozart aria. "AGT" is again scornful - is that all? She goes next, is thanked, and leaves.

In chapter 3, we meet "master". He is in a difficult position. Artistically, "AGT" hasn't a chance, but PR-wise, she has lots of resources and could make trouble for him. But his job is to create concerts, not to manage prima donnas. He gives her encouraging advice, but suggests she start with something less challenging.

Chapter 4, we switch back to AGT, who is enraged - how dare he! I'll show him! And so on. ;)

I think I'll need to switch between "AGT" and "master" regularly, because there will be things "AGT" knows/is privy to that "master" doesn't/isn't, and vice-versa. So, if I stick with one character the whole way through, the reader will only get half the story. :(

What do you think?
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Re: What to do when it's not happening

Postby Rath Darkblade » Fri, 31 Jan 2020 5:06 pm

CageSage wrote:You can have a few different POV perspectives, but who is the main person for this story? Who has the most to lose, learn, or distance to travel? Who changes the most? The difference between a major character and the main character can be a canyon - major character doesn't have to change; main character has the journey of change.
The first scene is usually from the view of the main character; it's a hint to the reader that this person is important, is likely the main character, and is interesting.
Who, in this story, fits the bill? Who has an external need and a strong internal need to change to reach for that goal? (that doesn't mean they have to reach the goal, or succeed at it, only have to have the aim and need/want.)


The main character is probably the AGT diva. She has a loooong journey of change before her, and based on what I've already written about her, she's not going to change. This is, unfortunately, true of many people these days - i.e. they think they're always right and everyone else is stupid. :roll:

Is it a better story if the AGT diva does change? But I do know there's a difference between choirs. For instance, choirs like the RMP one have very high standards - they audition people every two years, monitor voices closely, have a more professional attitude etc. - whereas local choirs are happy for anyone to join without audition, and put up with a lot more rubbish. :P What kind of rubbish? Well, some years ago - when I was in a local choir - we sat there and learned a piece, when suddenly someone's mobile rang. (This is unfortunate but not unusual, even in high-standard places). But this guy just picked up the phone and talked away, oblivious to everyone's withering glares. He finally said "I'm in rehearsal ... yeah ... bye" and hung up. I couldn't believe it. :shock:

If the AGT diva does change, she'd probably have to start in a choir like that and work at musicianship for a few years. I worked away in a local choir (plus doing light opera) for nearly 9 years before I felt ready to audition for the RMP. Even so, it was - and is - always a learning experience. :) If she did that, it would be the end of the story.

The other characters probably don't need to change (much). The classical singer worked her whole life to get this far, and the musical director (aka the conductor) worked even harder.

For me, the story as it stands is a cautionary tale - hubris and nemesis, that's all. :) Is it possible for me to write a beat sheet based around that?

CageSage wrote:However, I'd lose the 'how dare he!' melodrama - diva tactics are much more prissy/pissy than that, aren't they?


Oh, dear. Diva tactics can be extremely unpleasant, but unfortunately they boil down to melodrama. Petty jealousies are common. Divas - real Divas - are usually insecure about their looks and their voice, and they take it out on everyone, even the conductor. :shock: They don't have to be female, either; I've heard some stories about (for instance) Luciano Pavarotti. :|

Before I soil opera's reputation, I must make clear that this sort of behaviour isn't unique to opera. Some pop princesses (and princes) are just as bad: Justin Bieber (caught with drugs, arrested for DUI and assault etc.), Jim Morrison (exposed himself to audience), Lady Gaga (attended baseball games dressed in her underwear, flipped off the press), Britney Spears (danced publicly sans underwear, etc.) ... the list goes on and on.

So yes, I'm underplaying this Diva's tactics. I suppose she could kick the conductor, throw a stool at the piano, and so on - but people would probably call the police. I'd like to make her sneaky and devious, not a complete nutbar. :lol:
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