Monday, July 28, 2003

how to write good

If an Old House Could Talk, What Tales It Would Tell:
THE FLOOR:Do you remember the time the middle-aged lady who always wore the stilletto heels tripped over an extension cord while running to answer the phone and spilled the Ovaltine all over me and they spent the next 20 minutes mopping it up?

From How to write good (via Particles- one liners from Making Light)

'I have always instinctively felt if one wants to dramatise history and historical figures like George V and Mary, Lloyd George and Asquith, it is best to do it through a half open door as they might appear to a child. For if we were to achieve that perennial fantasy of time travel and propel ourselves backwards into any time but our own, we would almost certainly find ourselves staring at it with the same mixture of cool detachment and deep curiosity that children naturally possess" - Stephen Poliakoff
Creating The Lost Prince (which concluded on ABC TV last night)

The writer's block (via Jerz's Literacy weblog)

Comments: how to write good

I watched the second part this morning and thoroughly enjoyed it.
Whilst initially thinking that Hollander & Richardson were going to be painted as hard-hearted meanies, by the conclusion the show was well balanced out.
I thought Poliakoff neatly put across the notion that whilst Johnny was put out of the way the parents did it in light of attendant complications rather than any personal animosity to/embarrassment about the kid. To me this was always going to be the major challenge to any scriptwriter who may have been tempted to couch the show in terms of modern sensibilities. And therefore attribute blame or inject implicit criticism.
The last half hour was particularly moving without being maudlin.

As to the historical veracity, I couldn't attest one way or the other.

And I didn't refer to Richardson as "Queenie" even once.
Posted by Tony.T at July 28, 2003 04:45 PM

From what I read on this BBC site, it seems that not many people would be able to attest to the historical veracity, it was such a historical footnote. Perhaps this made it easier for Poliakoff to adapt - not being beholden to the dreaded scholarly cabal ready for nit-picking.
I agree Tony - I thought it was great, and I enjoyed it more than his other work - if such comparisons are useful. I think it was more contained - possibly by the discipline of history and a real story. There were many striking moments of theatricality that really worked on film, in the way that Dennis Potter sometimes does. But this style was well balanced with the narrative drive and condensed characterisation.
Posted by boynton at July 28, 2003 05:20 PM

Well said Boynty. And contained. Good shot selection. Written like a true, umm, err, person who knows things about theatre and stories and stuff.

PS: As a person of letters (and punctuation thingos), what's the go with "A History" versus "An History"?
Posted by Tony.T at July 28, 2003 05:35 PM

Yeah I saw that lapse just then, Tony. It should be an "an" - speaking as an historian ( well, that's poetically speaking)
Your having spotted it means I'll have to let it lie.
Just as my - freewheeling - punctuation so often lies for me...
(Note the title of the post...)
Posted by boynton at July 28, 2003 05:45 PM

It was really interesting to see the changes wrought by WWI from Mary's perspective - most often look at it (from a literary perspective, anyway) as a period of progress, heralding the burgeoning of the Modern. But from Mary's perspective, a whole world, a whole way of life, indeed, the whole way the world was ordered, was wiped out, just like that. I thought the killing of the Tsar's family was used really cleverly - it was horrific & chilling, but also a good way of representing the end of that particular world (& not just in Russia).
Posted by wen at July 29, 2003 03:36 PM

I agree - and Miranda Richardson was able to convey so well the inherent contradictions of her character in a time of major upheaval. What I really like about Poliakoff's slow storytelling style is the space given to the actors to reveal such nuances - and in turn, the time given to the audience to gaze.
I agree, the killing of the Romanovs as stark as it was, (I couldn't watch actually) just managed to avoid being heavy-handed - because of the precise symbolic foreshadowing.
Posted by boynton at July 29, 2003 04:01 PM

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