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writing group: time session

This is an example of a writing group session I presented on 19th May 2015, on the subject of time. I produced a handout including images etc. It's just to give you some idea of one way a writing group session might proceed.

"Time - Part 2" is an unashamedly self-indulgent and sentimental session with reference to poetry and film/sitcom clips - looking at some ways that time has been used as a plot device or inspiration.

What if you were somewhere else or things had been slightly different?

How might this have changed your life?

The Fisher King - If Jack, an arrogant talk-radio DJ hadn't encouraged a listener to murder "yuppies", his own life wouldn't have collapsed and he wouldn't have met Parry (now a down-and-out, but previously a teacher whose wife was killed in that same event) - "Jack shuddered, remembering, regretting, wishing only that he could turn back the hands of time, unsay the words he had said, make those people come back to life, go on living his old life."

Father Ted - Witness a cringe-worthy parachute-winning confession scene... but the plane does NOT crash!

These are just two examples of the use of time to make us aware of how things could have or should have been different.

*** Play the Father Ted clip - plane confession

When every day is the same, details become fascinating.

Repetition adds unexpectedly interesting twists of plot.

Porridge - "doing time" - the day-in, day-out similarity...

Mackay (to Godber) - "You must be wondering what an average day in prison is like. Tell him, Fletcher"

Fletcher - "It's exactly like the day before, Mr Mackay"

How do inmates cope with life when every day is the same? Porridge got great comic value from the drudging similarity, and in fact was at its best when it exploited this - the situation within the situation comedy was even more fixed than is the case in most sitcoms.

How can you indicate the slow passing of time in your writing?

50 First Dates - Following a car crash, a young woman wakes up each day with no memory of the previous one. Her husband makes her a video diary to watch each morning.

Groundhog Day - Every day the alarm clock rings and it is February 2nd; everything is always the same, but you have the power to change your own reaction to these identical events. There's a comfort in it - the repetition allows learning from one's mistakes.

The complexities of time travel... where past and future affect each other...

From A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, to The Time Machine, Red Dwarf, Doctor Who and Back to the Future, time travel is used as a great plot device which allows unique and odd plot twists, paradoxes and much more.

It isn't good to overuse flashbacks, flash forwards and "waking from a dream" elements too much, but they are well-used devices because they allow flights of fancy, just as the premise of time travel does.

A glorious example from Big Bang Theory: Sheldon - "You know, I've been thinking about time travel again". Leonard - "Why? Did you hit a roadblock with invisibility?" Sheldon - "I put it on the back burner. Anyway, it occurs to me... if I ever did perfect a time machine I would just go into the past and give it to myself, thus eliminating the need for me to invent it in the first place!"

*** Play the Big Bang Theory clip which explains Back to the Future!

Goodnight Sweetheart - Gary Sparrow lives two simultaneous lives as he walks back and forward between the 1980s and the Second World War era, using his 'future knowledge' to great effect in the past!

Described by one of its writers as "...a love story between a guy of 30 and a woman of 80 who might be dead".

The Time Machine - a HG Wells short novel.

The Time Traveller uses his machine to investigate humanity's destiny. But when temporarily stranded far in the future, he finds the meek Eloi people are the prey of the underground Morlocks. Later he witnesses the world's final decline as the sun cools.

Leading to...

... the end of time...

So Long and Thanks for all the Fish, and the restaurant at the end of the universe.

And the strange paradox of watching the end of time and the end of the world in Doctor Who. Poignant and funny.

*** Play the Dr Who clip about the end of the world if enough time

Age and time and death

WH Auden

Twelve Songs - clip from Four Weddings and the Funeral

William Henry Davies

Leisure - What is this life if, full of care

Roger McGough

Let me die a young man's death

You are holding time in your hands.

And finally, as a tribute to great comic timing - two classic sketches...

Work in class:

Spend 5-10 minutes writing something inspired by one of the ideas covered in this session.

Home assignment from last week:

You are in a time machine with the freedom to move between times. Tell us the story of what happens, where you go and what you do. Do you struggle seeing this new time from a current day perspective? How might you set a sense of time and place within the writing - use of speech idioms, descriptions of place and clothes, food, social history etc? OR Write a poem with the title "Time Expired" (this is a phrase used to refer to soldiers or convicts, for example, who have completed their term of service or sentence, but you may choose to give it another meaning

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