To be honest, this has been ‘bugging’ me for a while, although it only became blog worthy (by which I mean complain to random people on the internet) after the first episode of the BBC’s current Sunday night drama ‘What Remains’.
Imagine, if you will, sitting in the dark with my wife (the wife part is optional), enjoying the plot development of a thriller/drama/who-done-what. Totally absorbed in the story, time passes quickly and the twist and turns climax with the main character being smashed over the head by an unknown assailant, chasing them out of the house, before collapsing – condition unknown – onto the street… the screen goes black….
… then the tension is broken by the killer words ‘Next time’. What follows is a montage in which we quickly learn that the main character has suffered no ill effects from the hideous head injury he received, he uncovers a vital clue and does a number of other things which make watching next weeks episode seem a complete waste of time. Shivers down spine, stopped. Built up tension – which would have ensured I tuned in next week – shrivelled on the floor like an old balloon.
The ‘Next Time’ phenomenon actually goes deeper than this. I have lost track of the number of times I have sat through an hour long program, which is actually only half an hour of original programming, thanks to the presenter constantly telling me what is ‘coming up’ or confusing the ad breaks with memory lose and therefore telling me what happened 2 minutes ago OR worse still, prior to the ad break, telling me what will happen after the ad break AND THEN reminding me what happened before the ad break followed by what’s coming up now the ad break has finished.
So what does this have to do with writing – well very little. But it does have a lot to do with the presentation of our work. My wife commented to me the other week that the book she was reading ‘just ended’. When I asked her if she had noticed that the pages towards the back were getting less than those at the front, she (after slapping me) pointed out that the story did unexpectedly end. The last fifty pages of the book contained the first ‘few’ chapters of the authors other novel – and some adverts for other books, suggested discussion points for Book Clubs etc etc. In short she felt robbed, the unexpected end – thanks to the additional ‘Next Time’ style padding – left her feeling severed from the world she had been enjoying.
So the question is – and I know it is a marketing ploy – is this tactic fair on readers? Does advertising the fact that this book (electronic or otherwise) contains EXCLUSIVE extracts from the upcoming new novel staring the hero of the book you haven’t read yet – but who clearly survives the mission/horror/case – spoil the drama you hope to create or experience?
Until NEXT TIME……
As a writer and teacher (but primarily as a parent) I cannot deny the importance of basic numeracy and literacy. To this end my wife and I play a lot of word games with our youngest son (5 at the time of writing) to help develop his vocabulary, spelling and reading.
Animal Alphabet is one of the favourites (especially after our visit to Chester Zoo over the Easter break as it was getting a little boring), but I have to report that my son has taken ‘eye spy’ to olympic levels.
What started as ‘Eye spy with my little eye something beginning with C’, ‘Car’ etc has taken a more competitive turn with my youngest using C for the corner we had just driven around etc etc. Whilst I am delighted with the development of his vocab and the opportunity to be able to discuss spelling (he used f for phone box – so we had a conversation about the phonics of ph), it is making the game a little more poetic (‘something beginning with S and D’ – sunny day or ‘b and s’ – blue sky)
However nothing could have prepared me for what happened yesterday.
‘Do you want to play eye spy Dad? You start.’
‘Eye spy with my little eye something beginning with….’ as I thought for a moment (and drove the car out of our road).
‘I bet it’s B for basket ball hoop’ he said smugly.
I don’t even need to say the letters! I mentally changed it to ‘L and S’ for ‘little….’
Once again I find myself make sorry excuses for not blogging – although since the time has been spent with my family and getting the first draft of my story finished then something had to give (OK it could have been the xbox, but a mans got to do etc!)
Anyway, I find myself with a problem and I am turning to you good people to offer advice and guidance.
There is a somber atmosphere hanging over me at the moment as I now know that I need to kill someone – quickly adding (before internet security type things have police knocking on my door!) that this person only exists in the pages of my book.
The person to be killed is not a major character, so it isn’t as if I know them as well as others, but their death will affect characters I am closer to and I don’t want them to be resentful of me. This character is also not a ‘baddy’ (as my youngest would put it) so their death is a decision I have made to develop the plot – not something that the laws of fiction say must happen. Plus, and this is just a minor point, I haven’t actually ever killed someone before so this level of planning is somewhat unnerving.
So dear reader, any words of advice (or encouragement if you’re that way inclined) – guess this post is just a delaying tactic.
OK the kettle has boiled, there is death to be dealt….
A week ago I was on a train bound for London upon which I witnessed a sign which asked passengers to ‘Close and lock the door before use.’
This sign was on the inside of the toilet compartment.
Now lets ignore the fact that anyone who needs reminding to close the door before using a public toilet shouldn’t be allowed out on their own and consider for a moment why these signs exist.
In my opinion, these wasted words are a results of a) general ignorance in our population and b) the ambulance chasing lawyer culture which fills our TV screens during daytime television ad breaks.
Over the last week I have been reminded that my freshly purchased coffee is ‘HOT’ and that the packet of almonds I purchased ‘May Contain Nuts’ – well in both cases I bloody well hope so!
But then I had a change of heart – firstly these signs are a form of entertainment. After all if it wasn’t for these somewhat pointless words of wisdom my twitter feed would be a lot shorter. Secondly I have used these signs to help my son (who is five) continue to learn to read. Finally I thought that we should actually have more of these signs.
For example – on the return journey to my beloved North East, I would have dramatically benefited from a line on the ticket which stated ‘Your ticket entitles you to a single seat – not the whole carriage’ or a sign above my table which stated that ‘After you’ve kicked the person opposite you five times, they are entitled to administer ONE punch on the body part of their choosing.’
All a little OTT you might think, but if people really need to be reminded of basic lavatory protocol, isn’t it time we improved other aspects of our social interactions with such helpful signs? I therefore conclude that these words are not wasted, but essential.
Post your suggestions below.