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A Spielberg Masterclass

This week I have been hit by the cold and was forced to actually take Sunday as a proper day of rest. Therefore I was found on Sunday morning at about 9am watching “Bridge of Spies” , huddled on my sofa, fighting to breathe properly through my nose (yes, those are violins you are hearing).

Bridge of Spies DVD cover

Now I have to say I am a fan of the spy genre, Len Deighton and John le Carre being authors I love but this was a rather unknown story to me. However it was more than a spy movie, rather it was a masterclass in telling a story.

What struck me about this film was not Tom Hanks’ acting (although as the main character he was superb) or that of anyone else in the film (Alan Alda was sublime). It wasn’t the terrific locations, especially Berlin in its coldness, snow on the ground and lawlessness breaking out. Rather it was the way Stephen Spielberg can hit your emotions from the blindside.

At one point Hanks character is crossing from East berlin to West Berlin after successful negotiations and looks out of the train to see the recently built wall. So far all has been fairly pleasant in the film but at this point you see the hopeful escapees brutally shot down off the wall and it hits you hard. The shot is brought back to mind as Hanks is back in the USA having completed the mission successfully and is somewhat warmed by the response he receives on a train. But looking out the window he sees a backyard wall with kids jumping over it and you are immediately taken back to that sucker punch.

A story would not be true to itself if it didn’t show that uneasiness we all have with finished results, knowing that despite success there is more evil or unfairness left in the world. Unless it’s a child’s movie the platitude does not really sit well with us.

Having watched the film, I found myself thinking about how Spielberg sets his audience up, rolling them through those confusing sides of life, of every person, so we end up with a rounded picture of what is happening whether we like it or not. And seeing it on film only makes me want to do it on paper. In a world where characters are often one dimensional or simply purporting one side, depth of writing that can enhance our world view with all its complications can only be a good thing.

Watching this film made me remember why I love films to be begin and why I love reading. The challenge made to ourselves as viewer and reader is surely what makes it all worthwhile.

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One of the things common to us all is that at some point in our life we will have been under pressure. Be it a moment that jumped up in front of us, say a bank robbery or seeing someone about to be hit by a car. Or whether it’s the slow build up of a situation which requires us to endure some sort of pain to see it through. Whatever it is, we all experience pressure.

How do you convey pressure in fiction?

When writing, especially action and adventure, or dark fantasy, there are situations where the characters are in wild moments I have never faced. One wonders how they would react. Personally, I have never looked a demon from the deep in the eye, swung from a hangman’s noose or faced strange creatures intent on taking my head off. The only way I know to generate these feelings is to drift into the characters shoes, drawing on my own reactions to horrors I have had in my own life. Not that my life has been a rollercoaster of disaster, it’s been bloomin’ good to be honest. But we all have the well of dark moments to draw from.

Sometimes people say my books would make a great movie, or that they could see it as a TV drama. I think I know why. When I write, I write describing the movie in my head. The creatures move for me, I hear the drop in the noose, I look into those demon eyes. And I then feel what comes. I don’t see words, I see pictures and then the job is to put that picture into words. The further distillation by the reader reversing the process hopefully brings the movie back to life.

Character development, making the unreal seem real

It begs the question, are my characters real to me? Only in my head, only in the movie. And that’s a good thing. I wouldn’t want a mad cap professor summoning up who knows what, an emotional father pulled from his family by every woman that walks past, or an ice cold winged femme fatale. Life is weird enough. When you put these people under pressure the real emotions come out. Hopefully then the real life heroic decisions we make or fail to make surface.

If you haven’t got it already, then you can purchase the first Austerley & Kirkgordon novel “Crescendo!”. The follow up “The Darkness at Dillingham” has just been released.

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The Hurt of Care Home Criticism


“Well, I guess it’s the sort of thing you would have in a rest home, sitting on the table for when people are bored.”

It’s not the way I imagined someone talking about my first book of poetry. I had worked for years, endured deep thought and debate about single words in some of these poems and then fought hard to produce it all in a good looking book. And while I hope those unfortunate people who are bored in their rest home would find enjoyment and comfort in my book, it is not the location I had dreamed about for it. And I certainly didn’t expect to hear comments like this. As an intended compliment too! Seriously, the person thought they were complimenting me.
When you place your beloved “baby” into the public domain, it is perhaps done with immense trepidation. Even the most honest of comments, intended positively, can be soul destroying. I have found learning to smile in the face of what is sometimes coming across as abuse, difficult to master. And yet we heard this week how one disgruntled comment led to a bottle over the head.

It seems to me that sometimes the hardest things to learn in writing is not about the letters, words or spaces we form on the page. Neither are they about the formatting, publishing process, pricing and merchandising we are all a part of these days. Instead, it is simply being able to let your “baby” go.

When our children go into the world, people pass comment on them, sometimes praising them, at times not so. To let our kids loose on this world hurts, in comments and sometimes in how they change when the world gets a hold of them. Our writing goes through a similar process and we as parents must take the flak that comes. Our children grow by exposure to the world and so does our writing. And as parents we need to roll with the punches.
I think the hardest thing may be for screen writers, play writers or books that make it to film or television. Someone else then takes your child and changes them. Clips off the golden locks, dresses them in those gaudy colours or totally restricts their behaviour. Maybe the remuneration helps. I’ll let you know when I am there!

The simple fact is we can no more guard our writing from everything than we can our children. It is all about growing up. Yes we can vet who our writing is exposed to in some cases, change bad influences but ultimately we have to let some things just fly over us. Either that or ring every single care home and make sure there’s a copy on each table!

I’m currently publishing my first novel and the Kickstarter for Crescendo is running here until 21/11/15. Please support if you can.

G R Jordan author, poet, and top Dad apparently!

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With the peak in sight, my mind starts to drift
Back to memories of dreams and hopes that I sniffed.
When knowledge was small, ignorance abounded
Before all my efforts became firmly grounded,
In the workings and ways, tasks and plans
Learning to keep plates spinning through hands.
Until now at last, with the top nearing view
All the doubts resurface, claim to be true.
Then standing above, my eyes turn to fountains
Cos’ all I can see is just more damn mountains.

In some ways a Kickstarter is like the above. You can check my Kickstarter for my new novel Crescendo! right here.

G R Jordan author, poet, and top Dad apparently!