Writing The Secret Keeper (Part 2)

The trouble with starting again is that you get very attached to scenes and dialogue that you’ve already put together. Something said by your main character gets a giggle or sounds profound,… is there a way to keep it?

Simply put: No. You can’t be precious or sentimental when writing fiction. You’ve got to be brutal and ruthless or you’ll end up going in circles.

I wrote three chapters of a disaster story many years ago and I could not, for the life of me, figure out why chapter four wasn’t working and why I couldn’t get beyond it. Eventually I realised that I’d made some psychological errors back in Chapter 2 that meant the main character’s headspace was wrong by the time it came to concluding that act. Two chapters had to go. And they did.

Because the beauty of starting again is that sometimes the new stuff that you write is better than you wrote before. You’re working with new ideas and new challenges and that takes you in different and interesting directions.

Sometimes you can recycle a line or two, sometimes not. The trick is to not get attached.

I’ve now worked out a new plot to run through the series. It’s more intimate, more detailed and more interesting than the original. Starting from scratch allowed me to look at the format again and concentrate more on individual motivations. Maybe it’ll make the crafting and shooting process a bit more complex but it’ll also make the finished series better.

And that’s the aim.

The Secret Keeper will be as rich and fully-formed as any HBO or BBC drama. It’s a full-fat sci-fi thriller,….. just animated with shadows. A Film Noir mystery in light and dark.

The pilot version of episode One is in Pre-production, with puppets now being drawn and cut. Audio for this rough-cut (to be used to gather funding for the series) will be recorded in the next two weeks. Filming is likely to start in November.

For more information visit Rough Magic Theatre’s blog puppetlady.wordpress.com. See you soon!

Writing The Secret Keeper (Part 1)

Full steam ahead on The Secret Keeper, the shadow-puppet web/TV series I’m writing for Rough Magic Theatre. Episode One – IE “The Pilot” – is written and has been signed off.

We’ve begun to storyboard the episode and settle on the different puppet types and effects we’re going to employ to bring it to life – it’s extremely exciting and is going to look so distinct and unique. For more information on the creation of the puppets and the production itself visit puppetlady.wordpress.com.

But what about that writing process?

Originally the show was going to be a continuation of characters and ideas I’d used in “The Santa Beneath the Ice”, a short novella I wrote many years ago based in 1900 New York. I was keen to re-visit and expand on the world I’d created for that story and I did draft a basic treatment with a mystery set in a slum hospital.

It was decided, however, that the amount of research and the work needed to accurately re-create the accents (RMT being a British outfit) would be too much.

Collette Knowles (AD of Rough Magic) and I sat down and hashed out a basic scenario based on genres we both enjoyed and ideas that we both agreed hadn’t really been tried before. The basic premise became: “What would the world be like many years after civilisation ceased to exist? And what would that world be like if nobody knew how things worked any more but were faced with a threat that needed people to know this stuff?”

This morphed into the idea that the most important (or feared) people left on the planet would be the ones who still knew things – people who still collected and read books (the internet being long, long gone),… Librarians.

The threat then became a murder mystery and our protagonist became the last person on earth to read detective fiction and criminology books.

That was where it began,…. then came the process of forming that notion into an actual script. And the biggest hurdle?

Whodunnit.

A huge array of colourful and exciting characters span into life during early spit-balling sessions but a murder mystery stands or falls on,… well, the mystery. I knew who died very early on. I knew why it mattered. What I didn’t know was why he had to die and who would really benefit from him snuffing it.

Weeks rolled by with me dwelling on this single issue! I have a new admiration for people who write detective fiction for a living – how do you keep all those plates spinning?

Because every descision creates ripples in your script and those ripples bounce off the shorelines of your story in unexpected and chaotic ways. Being a mystery, you’ve got to make sure that the killer isn’t so obvious that your audience catches on immediately (I’m looking at you, film version of “From Hell”) but not so left-field that your audience feels cheated. It all has to make logical sense when you look back at it.

This is a major headache.

The moment you say X does this you have to justify Y’s reaction or Z’s deduction. You have to think “well if X did this then how did they get that thing there?”

My initial decisions worked out perfectly,… right up to a casual remark. “X’s motivations don’t really fit him very well.” And they were right – I needed to re-write X’s motivations.

That single character re-alignment impacted the entire mystery. Suddenly I needed to write in new characters and new scenes. Suddenly I needed new antagonists and new reasoning. Suddenly the Whodunnit was just too damn complicated.

So I did what writers frequently do,… I started again,…

To be continued – see you next week!

More Behind the Scenes with “The Secret Keeper”

Hello lovely peeps! Here’s the latest installment of behind the scenes footage with story-boarding and experiments in shadow puppetry techniques from Collette Knowles and Tim Austin of Rough Magic Theatre: We intend to film the series in our house and we happen to have an underground store room with no windows which we use for […]

More Behind the Scenes with “The Secret Keeper”

Behind the Scenes with “The Secret Keeper”!

Behind the Scenes with “The Secret Keeper”!

Returning to Blogging and the Maddest Project EVER!!

Lordy,… is that the date?!

Okay, it’s been a long while since I last posted – more than three years, in fact. But that’s about to change. Considerably.

That’s not to say that I’ve been quiet and not doing anything in the last three years – far from it. Let’s see (in no particular order),…

  • Had a bout of depression. Worked my way out of this over time. Not easy – people who live with depression long-term have my utter admiration for fighting through every day. Keep your chins high and never be afraid to talk or ask your GP for help.
  • Had a baby boy with my wife. He’s now 3 and utterly delightful.
  • Recorded an Audiobook for a New York Times Best Seller.
  • Continued to work in medical roleplay.
  • Was in early discussions about a major TV voiceover gig. Then came Covid 19. Shittles. Hopefully those chats can resume soon.
  • Had a baby girl with my wife. She’s now 1 and a proper trouble,… and utterly delightful.
  • Used my performing and marketing knowhow to run a successful Public Speaking Mentorship business.
  • Worked on a pitch to create a puppetry, choral and storytold stage show of Beowulf. Sadly, these discussions haven’t yielded a show. Yet.

And now,…

The Secret Keeper.

With Covid basically shutting down the theatre industry, many producers are turning to online options to create new theatre content. My running mates at Rough Magic Theatre are joining them.

And so am I.

The Secret Keeper is a new, original 12-part online shadow-puppet murder mystery series set in a dystopian, broken-cyberpunk future UK. Filmed entirely in cinema-wide 21:9 4K HDR, the aim is,… not simple: To create a shadow puppet online series designed to work on film – edited like an animation, written with the twists and turns of an HBO epic and crafted to thrill.

And I’m the fella they’ve asked to write and co-perform it.

No pressure, then.

World-building, plotting and early design work is already under-way, with RMT’s Collette Knowles knee-deep in research and drawing to establish the look and feel of our world. Over the next few weeks I’ll be firming up the storyline of the series and storyboarding the full serial, episode by episode – looking at what can be done with the medium, how to streamline the show to make filming and performing efficient, and how to keep the twists coming.

So much to do. I’ll be posting about it here, weekly. You can also learn about it over at http://puppetlady.wordpress.com, where the show will premiere (along with YouTube), later in the year.

As an example of what can be done as shadow puppetry on screen, here’s a fantastic short called Baku by John Atterbury – Enjoy!

There is a LOT to do to get this show off the ground! So keep your eyes peeled and subscribe to the blog and share it around.

We’re nuts!! But the good kind of nuts,…..

Stay frosty.

Tim.

A House Mouse at Christmas and other Stories

Greetings and salutations!

The nights are drawing in and there’s a very real danger of Wham! being heard on the radio once again,… yep, Christmas is coming!

I actually have 3 separate Christmas books available online – through Amazon and direct from PawPrint Press, my self publishing outlet.

First up is A House Mouse at Christmas!

A limited edition, handmade children’s tale, House Mouse is also personalised and customised for whomever reads it.  Once ordered you’ll be sent a personalisation form.  Return it to me and the book will be adapted so that your son, daughter, niece, nephew or partner becomes the hero of the book – along with their friends and pets!

For a snippet to whet your appetite, listen to an example of the first chapter by clicking here. 

Order and personalise the book by clicking here.

Christmas Tails and The Santa Beneath The Ice

“Christmas Tails” is my feature-length Christmas Story Collection: 4 longform stories in different styles – from Victorian ghost story to Enid Blyton pastiche.  You can buy this on Amazon Kindle AND as a fully-fledged paperback at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Christmas-Tails-Tim-Austin-ebook/dp/B00642GS5E/ and https://www.amazon.co.uk/Christmas-Tails-1-Tim-Austin/dp/1502581345/

“The Santa Beneath The Ice” is an action-packed comic thriller set in turn-of-the-century New York,… with a twist.  Read a snippet and purchase it for your Kindle at https://www.amazon.co.uk/Santa-Beneath-Ice-Keegan-Lestrade-ebook/dp/B0181IF8KE/ 

Merry Christmas one and all!

Oh, and if you want a truck load of FREE 100 word stories, visit onewordonestory.org (more about that next time!)

Stay Frosty!

Tim x

Narration: a New Blog Series

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Ahoy one and all!  Time for a bit of an update and some news!

Since my last update, I’ve been a busy bunny – not all of my business on the acting side, but a significant chunk.  My work within the NHS as a Simulated Patient has been frequent and productive and I’ve been out and about as a storyteller on a few occasions.

My main focus in recent months has been in setting up my own home narration studio.

During an acting gig earlier in the year I got to reading aloud a selection of my One Word One Storys.  I was made aware of, and strongly encouraged to join, ACX – Amazon’s audio narration exchange, where authors and audiobook narrators could come together for projects on the Audible platform.

A few years ago I contacted a few audiobook companies to sound them out about lending my voice to their clients’ works.  Sadly their interest was almost solely in using “established” (read: famous) names.  To be honest, I’d written the notion off as something that would wait until I had risen in stature as a screen performer.

ACX turned out to be something quite different – a place where the only thing that really mattered was the quality of your work.  Speaking to a few colleagues assured me that my work was of a standard that would stand out on ACX and so I set about building myself a voiceover booth.

I could’ve approached a local studio but I felt a need for flexibility.  I wanted a studio space of my own.  And that’s what I created.  In the walk-in closet of my home I set to adding sound-deadening insulation.  I then purchased a quality condensing microphone, stand, pop-shield and digibox (to turn the analogue signal from the microphone into data for my laptop).

I’ll be writing another blog to properly detail my rig, if you’re curious.  I may even include a video.  Suffice it to say, however, that the booth has been a tremendous success, with an extremely low noise floor and very creditable sound deadening.  In layman’s terms, it produces a good, clean, rich sound.

I’m now busy auditioning for audiobooks and recording a few works of my own – including a full reading of Christmas Tails and The Santa Beneath The Ice – both to be completed and available on Audible in time for Christmas.

If you’d like to hear samples of my work as an audiobook narrator, do check out my ACX profile here.   If you’re an author, drop me a line and we can have a chat about working together on your book.

I’ll be writing a series of blogs about my audio work so keep those eyes and ears peeled!

Until next time,

Stay Frosty.

Tim.

P.S.  If you haven’t checked it out already, please take a moment to read my short story blog over at onewordonestory.org.  You won’t regret it  🙂

Storytelling, Upcoming Gigs, Beowulf and “The World’s Most Insane Writing Project”

Didn’t I say something about making this blog a daily thing?  Yeaaaaaah,…..

ANYWAY

A lot is happening at the moment so there’s a lot to say.

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First up, I’ve been contracted to be the official Bentham Storyteller at the “Bentham Carnival” for the second year in a row!  I had tremendous fun at the last Carnival (read about it here) and am expecting to enjoy this year’s just as much!

The title for the storytelling is “Rain or Shine – Umbrella Tales”.  I’ll be performing 4 stories through the day.  Just like last year, I’ll be writing them in advance.  Come along to High Bentham on Saturday the 4th of June and enjoy!

There’s a good chance that I’ll be returning to my role as DCI Clueless in “Clueless and Wuffles: The Case of the Missing Jewels” a little later in the year.  Situation still developing on that.  News soon.  If you recall, that’s the show that I took to Glastonbury Festival in 2014 with Rough Magic Theatre. It’s about time the ol’ trenchcoat was dusted off again!

ANOTHER thing I can’t talk about is Beowulf – a show that’s currently undergoing very early funding talks.  I hope to be able to tell you a bit more about this once things are firmed up.  Again; more soon.

So what CAN I tell you about?  Well, I can tell you all about One Word One Story: a short story marathon of quite ridiculous insanity.

I recently challenged myself to write a brand new 100 word short story every single day for an entire year.  Yes, really.  And I’m doing it – you can go and read them right now over at https://onewordonestoryblog.wordpress.com/.   It’s already got more than 700 views and it’s less than a month old.  It has also garnered a few celebrity fans, including Red Dwarf’s Danny John-Jules.

There will be more to say and talk about next time!

Until then, stay frosty!

Tim.

Books, Acting and Things: ActorTim is BACK, baby!

Where does the time go?

But let’s not start with all that!  I have been having a very busy year as a performer and as a novelist.  Let me tell you all about it,…

As you’ll have seen in my last post – oh, so long ago – I spent part of my Summer working as a storyteller in my home of Bentham.  I have also been hard at work as a medical roleplayer in Lancaster and Manchester.  It’s one of those jobs that is an enjoyable and reliable “filler” between more visible acting work.

I continued my association with Rough Magic Theatre last year, returning to perform as Lewis Carol and The Mad Hatter in a short summer tour of their “Alice In Wonderland” show at a number of festivals.  I also returned to the role of Fred Fettler in “Fred Fettler’s Pony 3000”, a street theatre show that went down a storm at Lancaster Encounter, a summertime festival in Preston.

 

Beyond acting, I have been busy writing.  My “Christmas Tails” collection of short stories has been selling well over the holiday season and I’ve been typing out stories for the sequel collection, due out later this year.

Santa Cover

Just before Christmas I released “The Santa Beneath The Ice”, a short comic/Noir crime thriller set in 1900 New York.  It quickly drew a set of Five Star reviews and sold in good numbers – though the fashion on Kindle these days seems to favour full-length novels.

With that in mind, I have already begun work on my first full-length novel featuring Keegan and Lestrade, characters that I grew very fond of during the writing of “Santa”.  Their first full-length adventure (currently under the provisional title “The Ripper of Red Hook”) will be written over the course of 2016.  I’ve already mapped out the mystery they will face and many of the characters they’ll meet on the way.  Lets see what happens!

I’ll be blogging solidly about my experience writing this first full-length work over the next year.  If you’re curious about how it feels to write a novel and what challenges a writer faces, subscribe to this blog and keep updated on my progress.

Which reminds me: this blog is going weekly.  After an eon in suspended animation, I’m ensuring that I update it every Wednesday from now on.  I hope that you can join me.

Until Wednesday, though,…

Stay Frosty.

Tim xx

Thunderbirds are GO!!! – But are they as good as the original series?

A very interesting discussion on the pros and cons of the new Thunderbirds Are Go series, from my long-time collaborator Collette Knowles of Rough Magic Theatre.

Puppet Lady

Despite my initial suspicion, given the lack of puppets, the new reboot of Thunderbirds for ITV (Thunderbirds Are Go) has a lot of merit and is great fun to watch.

I tend to find in general that films and television that use CGI rather than puppetry are just not as effective.  You can always tell when something is CGI rather than animated or using live puppetry and it does tend to feel a bit cheap, fake and disappointing.  There are obviously exceptions.  The work of Pixar for example does not attempt to make CGI look naturalistic but instead uses caricatured visuals which are much more effective.

Puppets have a character and expression all of their own and unlike CGI where every action is programmed a puppeteer can be surprised by the things their puppet does.  A puppeteer does not impose a set of actions and movements upon the puppet, rather the…

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