A few years ago I was in a bad place; between jobs, owing money to everyone and living off five pound a week for travel, food and entertainment. In between being ignored for simple jobs and going to bed early because I was hungry, I looked at advertisements for the ‘arts jobs’ government mailing list.
One of these was for an interesting web project, and although it was unpaid it offered a share of any profit (and the possibility of a free cup of tea) so I went. What was asked for was 12 episodes with a 4 act structure each, written in the style of a hyper descriptive script. The idea was the reader downloads the script and reads it accompanied by a specially written soundtrack. The idea sounded novel, I had lots of time on my hands and I liked the lady running it. So, I signed up to the project and instantly forgot about it.
So a month later I find myself panicking that I have no idea to show the lady, the night before I get a sudden brainwave and a whole character and situation starts to form in my mind. It starts with the idea of getting some writing use out of all the eighteenth century stuff I had then started reading and developed into a very (very, very, very) rough form of the story that is becoming my next novel, ‘Into the Big City’.
I was on my way to the meeting with the lady and not having anything better to do, made a morning of getting there, wandering around the streets where I was lucky enough to find ten pounds on the floor. I decided to spend the ten pounds on something completely useless for good luck, I decided on a picture and so I went to one of my favourite browsing streets, Cecil Court.
I also went into a shop I have always wanted to buy something from, T. Alena Brett. It is a picturesque shop, covered in piles and piles of old prints and owned by a very eccentric and enthusiastic lady. The shop was her dad’s and she knows all the ins and outs of her stock, never needing to add to it in her whole time there. She is not a fan of browsers but I managed to sneak in and look around.
On a sort of mezzanine/balcony type bit of there was a hand sketch of one of the characters I had written about the night before. As I looked through there was another, and another and some more characters that all looked like they belonged together. I bought as many as I could afford and went to the meeting.
The lady loved the idea and the pictures and I set to writing. Unfortunately, my involvement with the project fizzled out by the third ‘episode’ (as they were called) because I found the style of the hyper-script too strange a medium and the requirements she had for four cliffhangers in 20,000 words to be a little false, but the idea stuck and I knew I would tackle my eighteenth century novel one day.
Now that day has come, I returned to the shop today and picked up some more of those pictures. They are pencil sketches, on cheap paper and one of them has an address for a French hotel typewritten on the back. Many of the pictures are details of things, but some full characters. The lady at the shop, who knows everything about her stock, knows nothing about the provenance of these pictures.
In the next few weeks I will post one or two pictures and post a written character sketch of someone from ‘Into the Big City’ to go with it. I will leave my newer purchases till last so the characters can grow around those images.
So, till then...