So the good news came through this week that in about four weeks, the tv film of my novel The Gritties will be shown on S4C. For those of you not in Wales, this is Welsh Channel 4.
For those of you who fancy having your own work filmed, I thought a few run-up posts to transmission might be useful about what helped make this happen.
Luck will play a part here, be warned.
This was my first novel, although I’d had a lot of popular psychology non-fiction published, and writing fiction was much more difficult than I imagined.
This story is set in 1984, in a small Welsh town, Aberelli, which is in the grip of the most violent industrial action in recent memory in the UK, the miners’ strike. As research, there were many people to speak to who had been actively involved in the strike, and held vivid memories of it. I learnt that in some Welsh villages, scabs – or strike violators – were still banned from the local pub.
Setting a historical novel within living memory sets the writer a challenge. At some point you just have to tell yourself ‘Ok all these accounts are most interesting and I must honour them – but now I have to create my own totally fictional world where my story will unfold. Offence may occur.’
I bashed, smashed, hacked and cracked the story, a coming-of-age story of a mining family daughter, whose mother and female friends throw themselves into the strike cause, while secretly the daughter holds very different ambitions.
Initially it was first person, and in the past tense. The daughter, Carys, is a character with considerable attitude though, and I felt this became tiresome occasionally for the reader. The past tense did not suit the immediacy I wanted: the feeling that much of the future for these characters was uncertain, and that their bleak situation gave them no alternative but to live in present moment, much of the time.
So the story moved to third person, but very close in on Carys and with a strand of narrative from the point of view of Gwyn Price, dashing strike leader, who comes to the village to convert and seduce.
N.B.to all mid-life women writers: creating a randy, marauding mid-life male character and where those qualities get him, has to be amidst the best fun ever.
This combination of third person and present tense worked best, I felt. It helped depict a main theme of the story, which is how environment creates and limits our expectations and ambitions. And the present tense helped drive the story through and give the narrative threads a sense of urgency, for a tale where many of the readers would know the historical outcome.
I brought the story up to 2009 too, so there was interest and consequence for readers, as to how the aftermath of the strike had shaped the characters’ destiny.
Three books influenced this knocking about of story:
As two of these are about screenwriting, subconscious wishes may have been influencing what lay ahead.