Can you keep up?

The concept of narratives and narratology boggles me. The biggest thing for me is the discrepancy between the narrative’s progress in the eyes of the writer and the eyes of the consumer. When writing Not Another Pantomime last year, I mulled over it for months, themes and motifs blossomed naturally over a long period of time, characters developed gradually on their own. Before long, I could dive into the world; visualising every corner. I knew the history, the future, it seemed there was so much in that plot and so many bits to discover. The story of the actual Pantomime is meant to last around a week, which is oddly enough the same length of time between the writing of the first and last word. The show itself was 2 and a half hours long.

What the audience saw was only a smidgen of what was in my head. From the moment I started writing the show, I was having to reduce everything that the NAP universe offered into consumable chunks. To the actors involved, we worked on developing this universe further, grasping the concepts and ideologies of every single character involved, the intention being that we could offer the audience the most rounded characters possible, not in-yo’-face but hopefully with enough grounding to provide not only punchlines but characterisation. We all knew that Aladdin and Peter Pun had an off-stage relationship that blossomed due to circumstances, culminating in the small moment where Peter Pun leapt to attack the Stepmother, standing guard over Aladdin’s body. What the audience saw was only a smidgen, but hopefully if they even caught onto the tiniest element of the chemistry and emotions, then we’d succeeded.

Because, for me, the aim of the writer should not be to expose every corner of the world they’ve created, but simply demonstrate that it’s there.

NAP ended up being a rough-edged show where I attempted to squeeze too much into a simple concept, leading to a lopsided production with a second half longer than the first. I understand the narrative expectations of a 2 hour production or even film, especially in today’s world we’ve grown to expect consistency in film structure, the most obvious being the 90min films, whose plotlines are almost always divided into 3 30 minute segments. But writing a novel is a different thing, because no one dictates how long you should take to consume it; some people eat a book within a day, others can read it over the course of several months. The experience can be astonishingly different, and when writing a novel, I feel a need to accomodate to both kinds of audiences; to allow a world to be visited quickly, that offers humour, characterisation, emotive ideas and then to develop a universe that can be explored in great depth by the reader who slowly absorbs the text and can ruminate over what the text offers, an opportunity allowed during the periods when not reading the book.

Blah, accommodating to others is difficult.


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