Trent Samuels Festive Special 2011 – the writing process

Believe it or not, here’s the new blog as promised!

My big project at the moment is this year’s Festive Special for our Trent Samuels audio series. I did a similar project this time last year and, despite the fact the episode wasn’t released until February 2011 due to a LOT of snow interrupting the recording session, it was a fun exercise. The story this year will mainly focus on Tony The Absorber, the main villain from series 1 and a ghostly apparition in the 2010 Festive Special. To date out of all of my creations he’s the most fun to write, if nothing else because I have Rich’s performance of the character running through my head as I write the dialogue. In many respects writing future series has been made a lot easier from having that first series and the various myriad performances to refer back to.

Without trying to give too much away, this year’s special will follow Tony The Absorber through a loose adaptation of A Christmas Carol, as he receives visits from the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Yet To Come (or, in more simplistic terms, “future”). It’s going to be an exercise in fleshing out his character a little and giving him a much deserved backstory. And what about Trent, the eponymous hero? He gets his own backstory in series 4, which will go back to the very beginning and show Tony The Absorber’s first attack on Earth.

From a logistical standpoint I’m purposefully avoiding the use of a few series regulars. This isn’t because I’m not happy with their performances, far from it, it’s simply a matter of getting this project finished in time for a Christmas week release, and the easiest way of doing that is by keeping the cast list to a minimum and recording it in as prompt a manner as possible. In many ways the initial recording is the easy part – there’s the whole editing process as well as throwing in sound effects and writing the soundtrack, none of which I’m currently involved in! I’m planning to exert a bit more control over the post production process (ooh, the alliteration) in future, just to ensure we’re getting the right balance and to ensure a fully collaborative process in which the script, the soundtrack and the edit compliment each other.

    The Writing Process

I can’t really make claims to having a writing process that works well, so don’t take this as gospel. For this particular project the characters are already in place, and as I’m lifting the plot from a classic novel there wasn’t much work needed in those areas. The first step of course was deciding what story to do this year. The 2010 special featured a character called Scrooge who essentially did the bog standard alien invader shtick at Christmas, and it was up to our characters to stop him. This year I wanted something a bit more… festive. A plot that actually represented the Christmas season, something that wasn’t a loosely linked group of set pieces resulting in a final showdown with the villain. Thus, I purloined one of the most popular Christmas stories in existence. And I’m sure the most purloined.

So, Tony The Absorber takes on the Scrooge character, that was nice and easy. The next bit was more difficult, fitting Tony into the Christmas Carol tale. Suffice to say that’s still a work in progress, but the story will pick up right from the very end of the last Festive Special. Go back and listen to it so you know how it finishes. Done that? Fantabulous.

For the most part my writing process is mostly spent plotting the story out, ensuring all of the characters, new or otherwise, have a voice and a distinct personality, and then going back to previous episodes and making sure there aren’t any continuity errors. I can’t guarantee that to be true, however, but I try and minimise the continuity issues wherever possible. For all of this, a whiteboard or five are very handy pieces of kit to own, both for writing on and for sticking post-it notes to. Then I move over either to the Mac or the iPad, using the paid desktop version of Celtx, or if I want to write while watching QI or something I use the Celtx app on the iPad. Then it’s Time to focus on putting the first draft together in a reasonably short period of time – usually about a week. Then I leave the script for a few days and go start another project, then return to the redrafting process and look on the script with a fresh eye. After that, it’s usually straight into recording, tinkering with it as we record. I’m never too precious about the script if someone has an idea that improves the script.

There isn’t much more I can say about the writing process, other than it’s a great feeling when you’ve written something and it ends up being better because of the input of a great bunch of people. It’s also a great privilege that they all feel inclined to help out with these random musings of a madman. That would be me.

Best be off now anyway, this script needs to be finished in two days. I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew. Wouldn’t have it an other way.

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