24hrFFC, the stories behind the stories: 17 to 20

Posted: 3 April 2013 in 24hrFFC
Tags: , , , ,

To read the prologue, what when where, setting up why this took place, etc., click here.
To read about stories 01 to 04, click here.
To read about stories 05 to 08, click here.
To read about stories 09 to 12, click here.
To read about stories 13 to 16, click here.

Hello – how are you? Sitting comfortably? Good, then I’ll begin. It’s nice sitting comfortably, isn’t it? Taking a few minutes out of the day. Hope you’re not tired… I mean it’s not like you’ve been writing for about sixteen hours, is it? It’s not like it’s half past four in the morning, is it?

Well, you rejoin me at precisely that point. After starting late, having some stories written and posted well inside the hour, and a couple that took me somewhat longer… I’m finally back on schedule. Sixteen stories written, sixteen hours gone. And far, far too many coffees drunk.

There are a few people who’ve stayed through the night, and most of them are dozing now. Gav Taylor is providing some moral support when I’m flagging, but mostly I’m just getting slowly more and more tired.

And the smile is looking more and more glassy as time goes by.

Story 17
Title: Death Of A Turnip
word: archbishop
Challenger: Andy Salzman

The first time I heard Andy Salzman was on an episode of The Now Show. Honestly? I didn’t know what to think of him or his material – it was surreal… but as so often, I was wrong on two counts. One: I didn’t know what surreal meant, and two, his material is clever. No, I mean really clever. Andy doesn’t go for the lowest common denominator – he doesn’t go for any kind of denominator; he assumes you have a reasonable working knowledge of politics, world events, the personal foibles and verbal ticks of famous people. And if you don’t? Go see someone else.

I’ve met him on a couple of occasions since, and it’s always been a genuine pleasure to do so – the man has a brain the size of a planet, and I like hearing him prove it.

However, there’s another side of him. The silly side. The ‘being reduced to a fit of helpless giggles by his best friend and fellow comedian John Oliver and then doing it back to John Oliver’ side, so often expressed by the pair of them in their glorious podcast The Bugle.

It’s that side that I was playing to when I wrote the story based on Andy’s challenge. A recent rewatching of The Wicker Man might also have been knocking at my brain. And, hey, it was half past four, ok?

Strangely, I can see various comedians of my acquaintance taking well-cast roles in the inevitable television adaptation.

Let me repeat – it’s gone past half past four in the bloody morning.

This is a very silly tale for someone who can be very silly himself.

You can read it here. (Story posted at 05:18 am)

And, yeah, we’re up and running again – well, inside the hour, I even had the time to have a proper wander, stretch my legs, stretch my arms… Do you know what? I can actually see me finishing this, and doing it on time. I’m very pleased at that… And, now, the next story, which is almost the only story I’d planned for when I was going to write it. You’ll see why in a sentence or two.

Story 18
Title: My Wife Never Knew
word: pollen
Challenger: Mark Watson

Mark Watson is a comedian of consummate skill, appearing to many as someone who just opens his mouth and allows streams of very funny material to come out of it. Not a chance. Not a bloody chance. Having seen umpteen comedians over the years, one thing I know is it takes hours, weeks and months of work to make it look that casual.

He has some appreciation of what I’m doing for this project, and for what Mitch is doing, as Mark did his own 25 hour standup for Comic Relief at the beginning of March. You can imagine my pleasure when he agreed to challenge me for this event.

As for the timing of this story; well, on Red Nose Day, he was in Australia, and I kind of figured it’d be nice to write a story that would be posted, and that he could read, at a time when he’d actually be awake…

The story itself? Well, a classic pull back and reveal that rewards careful rereading of the story. I’ve always enjoyed the unreliable narrator in fiction. I’ve done it several times and it’s both easier and much, much harder to pull off than you’d expect.

Easier because, of course, you as the writer know far more than the reader does at any point, so it’s easier to allow the reader to be steered in a particular direction. Harder to pull off though if you’re not going to cheat. You have to play fair with your reader, so you can’t lie by saying something that’s explicitly not true. Lying by omission? That’s the secret, that’s the trick… and it’s lovely to play it every so often.

As I hope I successfully did here. (Story posted at 06:07 am)

When I posted that story up, I was hugely surprised; I was pretty sure it had taken me a lot longer to write, but no: stretched legs be damned – I’d written and posted the story in about half an hour. Nice! Felt a lot better after that tale was up.

Story 19
Title: Suzy Gets A Fish
word: banana
Challenger: Ben Aaronovitch

Is there anything more upsetting as a child that wanting something and your parents not letting you have it?

I couldn’t understand where that thought came from when I saw the title challenged by the superbly talented writer who is Ben Aaronovitch. But it immediately speared what was left of my brain. Why’d Suzy have a fish and why, oh why, wasn’t it good enough? What did she want instead?

I’m not sure when ‘dodo’ jumped into my head; it was certainly after I’d discarded ‘triceratops’ and also ‘brachiosaur’ (although thinking of them may have led me to the next story, it’s certainly true.)

OK, so now I had a parent and “Suzy”, the latter presumably sulking because she couldn’t have a dodo and was refusing to have a fish instead.

I was already thinking along the idea of time travel before I’d got to the second sentence; I hope you have a better time reading the story than Suzy did on her trip home.

You can find out here. (Story posted at 06:48 am)

And now I’m on a role. Again, about a ten minute stretch, a smoke (yes, another ‘real’ cigarette) and then a story written and posted in about half an hour… Would this continue? Could this continue?

Story 20
Title: Sale On Horse Beaks
word: crepuscular
Challenger: David Arnold

You may not have heard David Arnold speak. You may not have even heard of him. But you’ve seen his name, I promise. You’ve seen it on screen when the opening credits say “Composed by…”, if you’re paying attention, not having been swept up by the themes to Stargate, Independence Day, Zoolander, Hot Fuzz, Casino Royale and four other Bond movies, let alone those for Little Britain and Sherlock for tv.

I was tempted to write something musical but as Mitch and other musical friends of mine know, I genuinely have problems with the concept of keys, let alone anything more detailed. And I’ve always believed that if you’re going to write about something, it does kind of help if you know what you’re talking about.

So of course, the story I wrote for David’s challenge was about genetic manipulation made so ubiquitous that a pet shop could sell such items. Well, maybe not ubiquitous. Perhaps the pet shop in question is a unique offering, like its wares, with a very specific owner.

Crepuscular is a lovely word indeed, and strangely, I’d only learned it a couple of weeks earlier; otherwise it would have been a trip to the dictionary again. Horse Beaks? That rang a bell, a distant bell and it was while I opening up google that I remembered: the hippogriff. A sale on them? The plot, such as it is, hit my brain fully formed. I just had to decide win which format I wrote it, and the more I thought about it, the more I had a mental image of a shopkeeper welcoming a customer. And that gave me the format.

Like a previous tale in this collection, the story I wrote for Kim Newman, this one is what I call a dialogue for one; I absolutely loved writing this story. I could have written four or eight hundred words. Again, like the previous take, I wanted – as I wrote it – to know more about the shopkeeper. Was he the owner? Just a manager? The last in a long line of managers? And if so, what happened to the last one?

Alas, the tale was the tale, and they’re always the right length as they are.

I hope you like the story. (Story posted at 07:36 am)

Unlike the previous stories, I wasn’t surprised at all that this one took about half an hour to write. I was very well aware of how fast the ideas were coming for this story, and I was genuinely pumped up for the remainder. I had four stories left to write.

I’d written twenty stories in nineteen hours; The last eight stories had been written in six hours. I had five hours left! FIVE HOURS. And FOUR STORIES. I was flying.

What could possibly go wrong?

[SPOILER WARNING: something went wrong.]

To read about stories 21 to 24, and what went wrong, click here

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