Tag Archives: Shadow Puppetry

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!

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.