What am I trying to say?


When I write a story I like to think that it has something to say. I'm not too bothered on what the something is, although more often than not it's something I consider important or poignant, but I like to think that whatever I'm writing is getting across some kind of message. Whether that be a new way of looking at things, an allegorical look at a current issue or even just something about the way in which the world and we as people work, it's important to me that my stories are more than just genre pieces (which, if I'm being honest, is what I tend to gravitate toward writing).

Sometimes this comes naturally. I'll have an idea that will then lead to a message and it'll all fall into place quite neatly and I'll be happy with the outcome. Sometimes it works in the reverse, and I'll have something I want to talk about that I will then figure out how to build a story around and voila I have something I feel is worth saying.

Both Follow the Crows and The Door worked in these ways respectively. With Follow the Crows Marc and I decided we wanted to do something based around the landscapes and locations we have available. We looked at the bleak, yet beautiful backdrops of Wiltshire and knew that was where we wanted to tell our story.

Quite quickly a basic outline developed, based off of several separate ideas I had for stories; a man being hunted across a wasteland, a group of unsavoury characters surviving harsh conditions. These nuggets were fitted together to become the basis for the film, but as we started piecing them together it became clear what I was trying to say, and once that happened everything we did was dictated by that message.

With The Door the process was almost the reverse. I wanted to say something about the 2016 EU Referendum, something I felt no one else was saying at that time. I wanted to critically look at the stupidity of referendum as a whole, at least as I saw it. I dislike them, and I wanted to show people why. From that came the story of six strangers trapped in a room, their unseen captor giving them a choice. The plot was born from the message, whereas with Follow the Crows the message was born from the plot.

I don't particularly have a preference with regards to which one of these methods I prefer. With my latest feature script (hopefully going into production toward the end of this year) the message dictated the plot but then, somehow, a different message appeared from that. I don't think it's a black and white process, and, in truth, it's something that's kind of out of my control.

However, every once in a while I'll have an idea that appears in my mind, I'll make a note of it, and then I won't be able to forget it. It'll just play over and over and over in my head, like a caged animal crashing against the walls of its enclosure, desperately trying to get out. And that's fine, except that. whenever I put pen to paper, I have no idea what I'm trying to say. No idea how this particular story fits in with me, and what message I want to get across. And, as pretentious as it may sound, unless there's something to say I feel like I don't want to do it.

Normally I'm able to brush ideas that don't "conform" to a message aside, letting them sit waiting until eventually they do, but as I said, every so often there is an idea that I know has something to it. I know there's a message in there and I know it's something that excites me. It just keeps bashing against the walls of my mind, refusing to go away and... well, it's really bloody frustrating.

I currently have three such ideas, all vying for attention, all of them clear and yet murky. For some reason they just don't seem to work, and yet if I could just figure out how to make them work I know that they're ideas worth following through with. They're so close and yet so far, almost fully formed but not quite complete, and the most frustrating part is that I know how to fix them, I just don't know what that fix is. What am I trying to say here?

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© Alex Secker 2018