This week, we’re going to be tackling one of my favourite subjects…Me! Just for a change right?
A few weeks ago I started work on a new blog, because I have apparently absolutely nothing better to do with my time. As regular readers will know I am a bit of a fan of the BBC Radio 4 soap, The Archers. Its little slices of bucolic life act as a salve to some of the worlds stresses. Plus, to my delight, I have discovered a whole subset of Twitter devoted to the show with some very, very funny people. So when the villainous Rob Titchener recently made an abrupt (and slightly odd departure) I thought it would be rather fun to create a fictional diary of his adventures, the central conceit of which is that he had never left and that he continues to lurk, unseen, in Ambridge, spying on the ongoing events.
(You can find it here – https://whatrobdidnext.wordpress.com/ )
This means I write an entry for every episode, and have to find a way to shoehorn Rob into each day’s action. So for example, if, in the episode, Eddie and Lillian are stood outside the village shop having a chat, in my blog, Rob, dressed as a pensioner, is lurking behind the post box, listening in and taking note.
At first, this seemed a fun and jolly idea. But, very quickly, I realised it presented a whole new level of a creative challenge. If I was just writing a story about Rob, I am in control of the entire plot line, I can introduce characters and events as I see fit, to construct a (hopefully) satisfying and entertaining storyline. However, by tying Rob’s activities to each day’s episode I am handing over creative control to script writers, and I don’t know what is going to happen each day. So, for example, I can’t have Rob burn down the Village Hall, if, in the next days episode, the WI meet in there. So far he has only interacted with main characters in a very low key way, which need not cause comment in the episode.
To try and counteract this, I’ve also been building an entirely separate plot line based on the Boarding house Rob finds himself in, its unlikely Landlady and its dubious inmates. But this of course, takes it away from The Archers which is the hook most of my target audience would be caught on.
It is also a challenge to time management and discipline. Ideally, I want to ‘post’ the morning after each episode is aired. Which means in practical terms I listen to the podcast walking down to the bus stop, hoping there is a nice interesting outdoor or public scene for me to use. If all the action happens in kitchens or living rooms then I’m stuck. Hopefully inspired by that day’s action, I then write the approx 500 hundred words on the bus. (Who knew art would be happening on the X1 bus right?) It means I have very little time to tweak or proofread before I post the blog entry. (Which meant the other day I said Will and Emma Grundy were BDSM swingers, when of course, it should be Ed and Emma. Very embarrassing)
Last week I was poorly, so got a few days behind and it was quite an effort pulling it back up to date.Thankfully there are websites run by fellow Archers nerds which have summaries of each days episode, so I could go back and construct a narrative.
This leads me onto another challenge. What does the character know, and what do I know? Thanks to the podcast, I haven’t missed an episode in years but little details, which add to the authenticity, can be forgotten quickly. The other day I had to dump a whole bit of action because I couldn’t remember where Peggy Archer got her hair done. I’ve already left Rob manning a bicycle and having to do a much bigger round trip then I originally planned because it turns out I’ve mixed up the location of Borchester and Felpersham, the biggest towns near the Ambridge. Still, all those miles will keep him fit and lycra, shades and a cycle helmet make a great disguise.
But it also means I have to get inside the head of Rob, who is a pretty revolting character. I can only have him know what I think he should know of the other characters in Ambridge, and to view everything through his own sense of injustice and narcissism.
I’ve even invested in an official map of Ambridge and district, which means I can actually pace out distances between farms and houses etc. It has also messed up the mental image I’ve had of Ambridge all these years.
So far, it seems to have been quite well received with a few, mostly nice, comments. The visitor stats I compulsively follow show that most visitors stay to read a number of days entries and I’ve had a number of people sign up for email updates, which I’m guessing they wouldn’t do if they hated it.
This takes me down to one of the root causes of why I’m writing it, and part of the reason why I write this blog as well. To find out if I have any ability in writing. I’ve always fancied that I can turn a phrase but have carefully avoided putting pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, to prove that as correct. I showed some promise at school but a lot has changed since then, not least my waistline, my hairline and my blood sugar count.
The blog is growing, slowly; more visitors, more readers returning and more followers on Twitter, so for the time being I’ll keep going. Of course, the day will come, when the real Rob will return to the show and my blog will dissolve into pure fan fiction. I’ll have to find some other outlet for my nonsense then and of course, I’ll still be writing my weekly outbursts on this blog.
I mean, eventually someone is going to say, ‘Hey Fat Bloke’, here’s a great big Advance, go and write the 21st Century’s great novel.’ right?
If you would like to have a look at my new blog, you can find it at https://whatrobdidnext.wordpress.com/
The entries started on the 5th February https://whatrobdidnext.wordpress.com/2017/02/05/
And you can follow What Rob Did Next on Twitter – @whtrobdidnxt