If only I still smoked

And, before you even think of calling me

[Mum]

I’m not thinking of starting up again.

I just finished Certainty, the screen adaptation of Do Sparrows Eat Butterflies? and am very pleased, and humbled, by how its turned out.

That last may strike you as odd, to be humbled by a story. But if you read Memento: 2001- My own time and space oddity, you’ll remember that the novel was written against a backdrop of seismic shift in my life. Most of the writing still feels like a dream to me.

In the 8 years since I published the book, I’ve tried to start writing the screenplay a number of times but never gained traction with my muse. And, as ever with my novels, all the time I’ve had readers telling me that they can see the movie when the read the story, and that I should really think about adapting it.

Last year, around the time I started work on Team Building, I took tentative steps to begin Certainty, but all the other stuff of last year held me off any serious work until December.

And when I did turn my attention to the adaptation, I realized just what had been holding me back.

I was stuck in the how of telling Ray’s rebirth.

For those who haven’t read Sparrows, it’s told in first-person, present-tense – i.e. what happens to Ray happens to the reader in real-time. By necessity, there’s a LOT of internal dialogue and Ray’s weighing up of events, and of his reactions. This lends pace to the writing and, truly, is what brings people into the story so deeply – we experience Ray’s rebirth, we don’t observe it.

All of which is great in a novel but, frankly, crap in a movie – unless we’re making 1960’s French art house, which we’re not.

[believe me, if I’d written and published this in the 60’s, there’s a good chance that’s exactly what would have happened]

There was a real risk that this would be a) a boring film, b) completely lost in self-analysis, and c) totally unworthy of the original novel. This is a story I love, filled with characters I know intimately, and I couldn’t let myself do that to myself.

So I was stuck.

Until, one day in the shower

[oh, how the movement of water, and idle reflection, opens my sub-conscious]

I had a very clear and vivid snapshot of how to bring the internal dialogue to the screen.

[and no, I’m not going to tell you what it is]

Tentatively, I started carving the screenplay – lifting the whole book over, chopping out all the unnecessary, and porting the internal dialogue into the vehicle I’d imagined. And boy did it work! In the space of a couple of weeks, I reworked, tightened and shaped this story for the screen. A couple of days back I registered it for copyright and it’s already heading out into the world.

And, yes, I was humbled by the process – as I often am. When you give yourself to your art, and allow it to flow through you, it can feel other-worldly – a scary feeling, a joyous feeling.

Once again, Ray’s story has told itself and, though the hard work of getting it out there now begins, right now I feel like a post-coital cigarette.

If only I still smoked.

Which I don’t.

But you get my drift anyway, right?

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