Category Archives: Ideas

The Bathysphere

A few years ago I had the idea of a story set on a bathysphere, sunk deep below the waves. The crew would have been small, four or five, and the cable would have snapped, plunging them down, down, down to the depths of the ocean. Back on board the research ship a reporter for the London Express would have been sending telegrams back to England about the disaster, rousing interest and sympathy in equal measure. The captain of the ship was named Rachman. His father was a tailor. The first mate, unnamed so far, was a coward, though it was only when Rachman was knocked unconscious in a mishap that this cowardliness became evident. In the great depths of the sea they would have been almost blind, but the phosphorescent glow of tiny sea creatures would have been visible in the black, like stars in space.  Later they would rise to the surface somehow, and find themselves the other side of the world than when they started. I had been reading a lot of Alan Moore and Jules Vern at this point, and the sketch, and idea, are obviously influenced by this. Something to come back to in the future perhaps.

A sketch drawn one lunchtime:

The text reads: The history of the explorers of the oceans is long and varied. From China to the Persian Empire, from Aristotle’s tales of Alexander the Great sinking deep beneath the waves, to sponge divers in India and village girls diving for pearls in the Philippines. The sea holds many attractions and many terrors. In 1903 a new diving bell was built in the docks of Liverpool. Not really a diving bell at all, this steel ball was built to sink many thousands of feet in to the churning waters and then hang suspended, a tiny point of light in the engulfing inky darkness. A bathysphere. 


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SOUNDTRACK YOUR EBOOKS! ____ An open letter

Dear Penguin, Bloomsbury, et al,

Have you considered creating a soundtrack to a novel? Not just selecting a piece of music that you play as you read, oh no, something a liiiiiitle more high-tech than that.

As I imagine it you will need the following: An iPad2 (or any ebook reader with a camera that points towards your face as you read the screen), some souped up eye tracking software, an  ebook you really think is great, a composer to create the score.

How it works:

As you read the ebook the eye tracking software, unsurprisingly, tracks your eyes and lets the ebook reader know exactly whereabouts in the novel you are (down to the paragraph/sentence). Specific parts of the novel (‘a door slams’, ‘she screams’, ‘the rocket takes off’ etc) would have obvious sound effects, but the majority of the soundtrack would be aimed at building atmosphere (trees shifting in the wind, the hustle and flow of people/traffic in a city). Think of it like a film’s soundtrack or, better still, something put together by the BBC Radiophonic workshop for a radio play.

(N.B. Every so often as you read a book your eyes drift and you lose your place/have to re-read a paragraph, so the score would have to be simple enough to so that could be looped back without notice, depending on where the eyes flicked to. I’ll leave this to you to figure out).

Right, talking money. A custom soundtrack to an ebook, plus the software, would be expensive to produce. So, Bloomsbury perhaps only do it for Harry Potter (imagine the ‘zip!’, ‘zing!’, ‘woosh!’ of a wand duel), and Penguin, maybe trial it in Children’s Books (what sound does a Puffin make??) Et al . . . I’d recommend seeing how those two get on first or, failing that, I’d say start with the horror or fantasy genres.

That’s my idea, it’s yours if you want it.

Kind regards,

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The written art of the con – p.s.

As a postscript to my piece about con men and writing I wanted to add that the very act of mentioning the word ‘con’ and the concept of ‘conmen’ makes an entire story suspect in the mind of the reader. Suddenly as they read there is suspicion, concious or subconscious, about the reality of everything that is said, shown, examined and done. Think about what happens when you watch a film about conmen. Towards the end of the film you don’t know what to believe, so you tend to doubt every action.

Write the  story in the first person and perhaps the narrator is conning the audience he speaks to, or conning himself.

The writer (author) of the story could be the writer (character) of the story.

It could all get a bit mind bending.

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The written art of the con

Another idea I had recently came midway through watching the brilliant The Brothers Bloom (by director of the equally brilliant Brick – a man who likes his ‘B’s in a title).

The Brothers Bloom is a story of con men, con men brothers. Not a particularly original idea, but the scale and artistry of the cons created by older brother Bloom lends a sometimes surreal tilt to the story, something furthered by dialogue and production design that is as distinctive and different as anything found in a Wes Anderson film (not that this is a Wes Anderson film).

The idea, which I meant to write down as soon as I thought of it, but didn’t, and still managed to remember it, which means that it’s probably an okay one, is . . . the perfect con.

Again, not that original. Continue reading

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The blog’s taken a bit of a hit over the past few weeks, holidays, royal weddings, bank holidays and friends have meant not much time in front of the laptop and no time at all spent reading. I haven’t touched either Pittsburgh or Spilling Ink for a while now, and the longer I leave them the harder is it to go back. This weekend I’m jumping over to Amsterdam for an extended weekend break and that means probably even less reading/writing. The flight’s a couple of hours so maybe I’ll get something done then.

I’ve a couple of ideas about short stories that are percolating their way through my mind at the moment. The first begins when a man answers his door one morning – below is a first draft, rough sketch of the idea.

When I opened the door to leave for work there was a man standing there, arm raised about to knock. He was dressed in a suit, smart but slightly crumpled, and wore a grey fedora that seemed slightly too big for his head.

He introduced himself as Dr Syumers, of the Royal Huntingdon Secure Psychiatric Hospital and, after the introductions were complete, he said ‘I’m sorry to come straight to you like this but I thought it better, you see, I have a responsibility to my patients, but of course I have a responsibility to the care of others also.’

He spoke quickly, the sentences tumbling out over each other; patient confidentiality, ethics, consent, imminent danger.

‘I’m sorry’ I interrupted, ‘I’m afraid I have no idea what you’re talking about.’

‘It’s one of my patients you see,’ he said, ‘In our last session, two nights ago, we had a break through.’

Continue reading

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