I found out a couple of weeks ago that my play, iFamily, didn't get anywhere in the Playmarket competition. Being realistic this isn't so surprising, as there were a lot of plays submitted and many, I imagine, would have been from people who do this for a career. But still, I couldn't help but feel a bit down on it. The other option is to apply for a Creative NZ grant but then I have to include a detailed budget and all kinds of things I don't know about. That means I'd have to teach myself all of that and find a director all without knowing if anything would come from this effort. But that's the reality of creative endeavours, right? I guess I've been spoilt by being in the advertising environment, which is such a unique intersection between creativity and the corporate.
In the meantime, to help get me out of my creative slump and to prepare me for the online soap opera I want to write this year, I'm trying my hand at yet another thing I've never tried before - fiction. It's tough! Very different from copywriting. I've found the perfect outlet though. Fan fiction. Around 3 months ago I discovered Fan Fiction.net, and my life hasn't been the same since. I'm going to bare my soul here, and tell you that I am a dedicated pop culture enthusiast, an avid TV critic, and more specifically have an fanatic relationship with the characters of Naomi and Emily from Skins Generation 2. So when I found a website full of stories about these two, I developed a level of obsession that is usually only achieved by the teenaged and the insane. I love the concept of taking fully-formed characters that we already know so well and placing them in different situations to explore how they would act and react. The sign of a good fanfiction, to me, stays true to language patterns and values of the characters, but pushes them to their outer boundaries. They live on, beyond the limitations of the official TV show, as circus aerialists, close protection officers, famous american actors, hotel owners, teachers, hostages... whatever people can dream up .
Fanfiction also parallels the format of the online "soap opera" I want to write, which will be told entirely through online media. Readers subscribe to the story and receive emails in their inbox from the characters. It's very voyeuristic. Fanfiction is similar in that you subscribe to stories or authors you like, and as new chapters are posted you receive an alert in your email inbox. Each alert is SO exciting. That's what I want to achieve with my online soap opera. I only call it a soap opera because "online novel" isn't really right. I need to invent a new name for this method of communication. I don't believe it's been done before and I want to be the first. However there is a lot of functionality to work out.
But back to fanfiction. Another reason I love it is the sense of community it brings me. I imagine this is much like the pre blogging, pre social media days where fans of a particular thing (Dungeons and Dragons comes to mind) would share thoughts and tips in online forums and chatrooms. You come to "know" the story authors by the comments they write before each chapter, you recognise reviewers, too, and can respond to both. You're brought together with people from around the world by your mutual love for something.
Today my story was reviewed by one of the most prolific writers of Skins fanfiction, her pen name Hyperfitched. 'Hypes', as she is fondly referred to by those in the inner circle, is a young circus aerialist in Britain who writes to the most amazing standard. How she hasn't already been snapped up to pen the next season of Skins I don't know. My point being, she's a fricken' circus aerialist!! Internet, you astound be with your ability to connect people from the most disparate backgrounds! Hypes has chosen to set her fanfic in the circus - because SHE is in the circus! As they say, write what you know! And the characters fit as naturally in this environment as if that is the purpose they were originally created for. My my, I do love writing, and I do love the internet. What miraculous things can be created when the two intersect. Some say the internet only creates a false sense of community, but it feels more real to me than many of my interactions with people in the "real" world.
So, I'm up to Chapter 3 of my fanfic, called "Letting Go". It's full of angst, overblown descriptions and the hyper-emotion of teenage life that I have never really grown past. My poor ego is so tied up in this story, but so far the reviews have been lovely. This is unusual for the internet environment, but fanfiction.net seems to attract nicer people for some reason. I'm totally hooked on the rush.
Yay! I finally finished the FINAL final draft and have submitted my play. I was so worried about somehow not submitting it before the deadline that it's been appearing in my dreams. Along with a donkey, that's random.
Here is the official synopsis of the play:
iFamily is the story of a modern-day family facing modern-day problems.
Sam’s on the warpath because someone sucked up all the broadband - how are he and his best mate Kat supposed to socialize? Older sister Molly’s too busy plotting world domination with her girl gang to give two hoots, and getting through to older brother Bain is nigh on impossible when all he cares about is Lady Gaga. Luckily Gran has everything under control. She may be off her face - but she sure can make a mean cupcake.
iFamily takes the play beyond the theatre and into the online environment.
It features interactive elements within the play and as an extension of the characters that the audience can access before or afterwards. This includes the ability to connect with the characters via social media platforms. Become Molly’s friend on Facebook (if she deems you worthy), follow her 140 character rants on Twitter, or brush up with Bain’s research into women and empowerment in pop music by watching his YouTube montages. And when Sam, Kat and Gran get their "Can’t Cakes" business up and running, you can order your own online. Viral video publicity for the play gives us even more insight into the characters, for instance, you might just come across Gran on Chat Roulette!
Never before have you had the chance to become so entangled in the lives of fictional characters. iFamily takes audience participation into the modern day, and to a whole new level.
A playlist of the songs featured in ’iFamily’ can be listened to here.
Its working title is 'iFamily: One house, three kids, no broadband'. Brief synopsis:
Its core target is 17-22 year olds, but it will appeal to anyone. It's set in a family home over one day. The basic rundown is Sam, a 15year old boy and his mate, Kat, are trying to figure out who used up all the broadband allowance, which drives them through the house where we meet all the other characters: Molly, 17, and her gang of girls. Riot girls. Molly is a passionate feminist who rants about how no one does anything for the cause these days. Then Bain, 19, the older bro who is researching female empowerment in pop music. He's a sensitive lad. Then Gran, who the kids think is senile but is a actually a stoner. Did I mention that it rhymes? Parts of it anyway. I've never quite gotten over my love for things that rhyme, I love the rhythm of language.
There are very strong themes in the play around technology, social media and the impact on family and today's teenagers. Also around gender roles and the accessibility of feminism to young people in the modern day. And a big wallop of popular culture critique with a smattering of talk around marketing. What can I say - it's everything I'm interested in rolled into one.
The play has some interactive elements - seeing how pivotal technology is to the play it wouldn't make sense not to. But it's the publicity and the additional media elements that I'm really excited about. I want the public to be able to add Molly as a friend on Facebook, subscribe to Bain's YouTube channel, and order product from Kat and Sam's online business. Taking it out of the theatre and into the online environment. Really letting people interact with the characters.
I'm entering it into a competition soon. I don't expect to win but hey - I wrote a play, now I gotta to do something with it. I'd love to get it produced. I think that as the writer you have to be able to imagine how it would actually work in real life, so I'm itching to get it to that point. The characters feel like real people to me, I can hear them speaking as I read the words on the page and I want everyone else to see them too. The hardest part is putting yourself up for critique, especially when you have that little doubting voice in your head going "What makes you think you can write a good play anyway, dummy?". Shut up voice. I've pasted a scene below, from my favourite character: Molly. I kinda wish I was her. And think that I might be a little bit, don't they say that a writer's characters are just versions of herself?
I'd love to post it here, but the site won't allow for the correct formatting. So I guess you'll have to wait to see it for real ;)