Movie Night – Completed

Movie Night is finished. At various times this story has been known by other names, including – for about a year: ‘Europa’. It took longer than expected to get through the various drafts. I had particular trouble with part 1 of the story (there are 4 parts), and I’m still not completely sure it’s as good as it can be, but it was a difficult concept and I feel I’ve done as much with it as I’m able to, at least for now. So I’m calling it.

‘Movie Night’ is my first novelette. That is, something longer than a short story but not as long as a novella (novellas are at least 17,000 words and Movie Night is just under 14,000 words long). How did I come to write such a relatively long story? I’m glad you asked. Actually it’s the result of a long (4 years) experimental process that was not planned at the start, but which came into being and gradually assumed focus as I travelled the journey. Originally, in 2014 I wrote a short story entitled ‘Get Away’, which forms part 2 of Movie Night. Get Away is a deliberately obscure little story that I think would have left any reader with a lot of questions. The following year I had an idea for another story that would provide some clues to what I think of as the meta-themes in Get Away. ‘House Call’ (originally titled: ‘Forever’) forms part 3 of Movie Night. It’s not a sequel to Get Away, but it is closely, if somewhat tangentially connected. But I think the addition of House Call raised further questions about just exactly what the hell is going on in this strange universe. A couple of months ago, while holidaying in Sweden I conceived two further parts, a start and an end that would bookend the two existing stories, tie the whole thing together and hopefully give it some kind of understandable form. These have become part 1: ‘Movie Night’ and part 4: ‘Visiting Hour’.

Thus far I’m the only living soul that has read Movie Night through from start to end. I think people are going to find it a bit of a slog. I’m not sure if the connections between the 4 parts are sufficiently clear and obvious. I think most readers are likely to come to the end of it scratching their metaphorical heads and, if they have the energy, pondering, possibly re-reading sections and developing theories. And that’s pretty much the reader-experience I’ve been aiming for through the whole experiment. It’s about getting the right balance: sufficient strangeness to force you to question the story’s meaning, while at the same time, sufficient clues and connections to permit at least some level of understanding.

The difficulty now will be trying to get it placed somewhere. The market for fiction of this length is far smaller than for shorter stories. If anyone has any ideas, please let me know. The little film poster at the top of this post is for a 1940 German film named: ‘Wunschkonzert’. This film – which was a pet project of Joseph Goebbels – was central in the research I undertook for part 3: ‘House Call’, and in fact features in the story, though it is not referred to by name.

In other news, I’ve started listening to Bob Dylan’s 1966 album: ‘Blonde on Blonde’. My whole life I’ve had no interest in Dylan’s music, but for some reason I’ve now developed the desire to understand it. I’ve let it into my life and I’m seeing if it gets under my skin. The times, they are a-changing.

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The Electric Fence completed

Today I finished a new short story I’ve been writing over the past couple of weeks: ‘The Electric Fence’. This will be my submission to this year’s Elizabeth Jolley prize. It’s the first short story I’ve done since ‘The Signal Box’, a year ago.

This story, I think, continues a style I found in The Signal Box. I’ve had a feeling I’m starting to find my ‘voice’, whatever that is. A style or kind of story that feels like mine; like I’m no-longer just doing my version of what someone else does. That’s probably been a big part of the journey over the past three years, so its good to feel like I’m arriving at that point.

Like The Signal Box, The Electric Fence can probably be read as a sort of allegory. Neither story is concerned with the time or place in which its events are set. There are also, I think, clear themes of occupation, entrapment and escape. Developing on from The Signal Box though, I think this one is more minimal. Also, it’s way less dark than The Signal Box, which for me is a refreshing development.

My next plan is to get back into ‘The Worm’, and write chapter 8. I also have an idea for continuing two earlier experimental stories: ‘Get Away’ and ‘Forever’ by tying them together in another sort of experiment. This would be a departure from the style I’ve been exploring and discussing above, but it’s an experiment that interests me. The working title for this latter work is: ‘Europa’.