Wednesday 26 January 2011

Building Worlds

I've just been re-reading some of the posts from my old Tailcast blog (no longer online; I've got them backed up in a Word document), in particular a three-part ramble about fictional worlds of my own making, which I posted in mid-2009.

The basic gist of the thing was about how I've moved, and am still moving, through a series of different fictional worlds, and generally heading along an upward spiral in terms of their self-integrity and publishability.  There was commentary on some of my earliest and least coherent efforts, and on the relative merits of the Geometriverse, and it all wrapped up with some vague remarks about hopefully going on to build new and better worlds which might actually be fit for release on, say, TV.

It made quite interesting re-reading, and it's inspired me to have another ramble on the topic, covering the developments of the last year or two.

The Geometriverse, for starters, is still going strong.  It's been half a year since I last wrote any Cylinder and Miserable strips, and it'll be a few months yet before I restart, but it's a deliberate and controlled hiatus, and I'm still hoping to start work on Series 3 sometime, maybe as early as this year.  While the webcomic is mostly an exercise in arcane humour, the narrative glue holding the plot arcs together is getting stronger and stronger with each new series - my plans for Series 3 are already shaping up to be the project's most tightly-written run yet.

But that's an extension of a world which I already knew about when I penned my earlier treatise.  What's more talkable-about is the fact that, as predicted back in mid-2009, I've got new fictions in development, and they look likely to become my best yet.

Megastropulodon, for example.  The existing short film, conceived in the first months of 2010, is just a precursor to the bigger narrative, a tiny little sample of the monster-fuelled weirdness of my planned TV series.  The basic plan is that the story in the 15-minute film will be stretched out to become the overall narrative framework for a 6 x 30 minute series, with numerous other subplots and side stories being built into it.  I've recently gone back to work on writing the series scripts, and I've now finished the first drafts for Episodes 1, 5 and 6, so I'm starting to see the light at the end of the tunnel in terms of getting the bones of the story out on paper for the first 'block' of episodes.  Sure, there'll be a load of rewrites to do before the stories are ready for the cameras, but the important first step has been taken.

Now you might ask "Why have you written Episodes 1, 5 and 6 first?  What happened to Episodes 2, 3 and 4?"

And that leads me on to what I think is one of the most interesting developments in my fictional-world-building of late: the strange and fascinating process of co-creation.

I've left the middle three episodes of Megastropulodon unwritten for now, for one thing because I've got a clearer idea of what should be happening in the three framing episodes (due in part to their re-use of scenes and plot threads from the short film), but also because I'd like to keep some room open for other writers.  Yes, the show is my brainchild, but in the world of television there are relatively few series creators who then go on to write every single episode on their lonesome.  Gerry & Sylvia Anderson wrote only the pilot episode of Thunderbirds, leaving others to scribe the next 31 instalments.  Doctor Who has had seven different writers per season for the last few years (I counted, I'm a geek).  Thus far, I've got someone pencilled in for Megastropulodon Episode 4, but the other two episodes are at a bit of a loose end - but it's early days, so I'm not too worried about the gap at the moment.

What it comes down to is that two heads are often better than one.  I don't need to explain the principle, do I.  Suffice to say that it holds true for TV writing, and sometimes for comic strips as well.  They're probably right when they say that "too many cooks spoil the broth", but with TV writing you can assign each writer their own episode(s) to work on, and then each cook contributes their own semi-independant broth to a big, exciting multi-soup smorgasbord.  I'm not sure if that mixing of metaphors (or mixing of broths) made any sense to you, but I think it more or less says what I wanted it to say.

Looking back over my previous fiction-making career, I seem to have come full circle, from worlds shared with Cat back in the long-gone days when we used to play with snail shells and cuddly toys, via a period of more solipsistic work (e.g. the aforementioned Geometriverse), and now back to co-developed universes, albeit in a slightly more sophisticated form e.g. Megastropulodon, and the oft-harped-on-about Fort Paradox.

Speaking, or harping, of which: sorry to have to mention my pet subject again, but it happens to be the prime example of what I'm on about here.

The project was my idea in the first place.  As in, I was the one who first said to Tim and Sarah, "why don't we get a load of our characters together and write a big, confusing cross-continuity comic?", and I was the one who came up with the name.  But I never wanted it to be a solo thing.  Right from the outset, I wanted it to have not just a plurality of characters representing different species from unrelated universes, but also a plurality of writers and viewpoints, illustrators and art styles.  And that's what we've got.  There are some places where we can't even remember which bit was whose idea, because we've built so many layers on top of each other's initial concepts.  Three brains have definitely made a better broth than one.  And even now, it isn't intended as a closed-membership club.  So far it's remained an exclusive circle in practice, but that's simply because nobody else has expressed any interest in joining in, not because we're intentionally keeping it that way.  I intend to address the issue in a bit more detail on the Fort Paradox blog next week, next time it's my turn to post an episode and do the Weekly FAQ feature.

So... I think I've said my piece.  I shall leave you to chew over its implications.  Or to ignore it and get a cup of tea instead, if that's what takes your fancy.

- The Colclough


  1. I've got into the habit of commenting and I think it's a good habit so I'm not going to give it up =)

    (This is assuming I have something to say...)

    (I did have something to say but it was one of those half formed thoughts that disappears before you have a chance to write them down...)

    Oh, wait! For the episodes that you were hoping to get others to write, I'm assuming you have main bits you want to keep in, main ideas that have to be included to make episodes 5 and 6 work and a basic sort of direction for said writer to go?

    Also, is it 7 writers per series on average or rock solid 7 writers per series? Then again, the series is pretty much always divided up into the same sort of ratio of doubles and singles.


  2. Sounds like a good habit to me 8]

    For my part, I’m still waiting for you to post something else for me to comment on… it’s been more than a week now since you last blogged…

    In terms of pre-planned ideas for other people to write in Megastropulodon 2-4, obviously all writers would need to use the same principal cast (Ron, Jason, Shaughnessy and a new character called Tasmin), there are certain themes that need to appear (primarily Ron’s ongoing efforts to train Jason), and I’ve got a couple of plot ideas which I’d like to see included, but there’s still a fair degree of flexibility.

    Re: DW, the Ecclestone series only had 5 writers (in order of appearance RTD, Mark Gatiss, Robert Shearman, Paul Cornell and Moffat), but all of the subsequent series have had exactly 7 each. Series 6 / Season 32 looks likely to carry on the trend, as the known writers so far are Moffat, Stephen Thompson (Sherlock: the Blind Banker), Neil Gaiman, Matthew Graham, Mark Gatiss and Toby Whithouse, with one or two episodes left unaccounted for towards the end of the series, which will likely be filled in by a seventh writer.