I recently completed my long overdue re-watch of the BBC era Red Dwarf, and it made me want to pick up the books again. I had read the smeg out of Infinity Welcomes Careful Drivers and Better Than Life, and I didn’t quite appreciate how much they had informed my love of the show as a youngling.
And on re-reading them in the past few weeks, I didn’t appreciate how much they had informed me as a writer either (in the same way that coming back to Tom Sharpe had made me realise his influence).
So, it was lovely to find this Rule Of Three podcast with Katy Brand, which is really worth listening to, not only as a celebration of the great first book, but as a brilliant insight into storytelling.
I am currently on Last Human, which I was convinced I had read before, but I seem to be mistaken. Then it will be Backwards.
I think I saw this at the time, but it’s nice to be able to see it again. Bob asks thoughtful questions, and listens to thoughtful answers. As far as I know, this was a one-off, and there were no more.
The more I think about the scene in The Young Ones where they write a letter to the bank manager, the more I think it’s one of the best scenes in the whole series. Let’s have a look at it.
So what makes it so good?
It barely advances the plot, but it does do a lot of exposition work, expertly hidden. Everything a character says is funny, but more importantly, those lines come from that character’s perspective. None of those jokes would fit in other people’s mouths. That’s good writing, and that writing informs even better performances. There’s conflict, but not the bickering kind, and it reaches a satisfying punchline.
I wonder if it might be a good exercise when developing your own characters to re-create this scene with them, and see how the letter ends up. Could be fun, and enlightening.
I’m re-reading some Tom Sharpe at the moment, and I’d forgotten, or never quite realised, just how informative he has been of my own writing. As a bonus, I watched the movie version of Wilt, which was adapted by Andrew Marshall and David Renwick (rather well too), and I had equally forgotten how many of the lines from the movie have slipped into my lexicon.
Tom Sharpe eventually ended up living in Spain, and here’s a long interview he did with a Spanish broadcaster (in Spanish).
One of the most enjoyable afternoons I ever spent was watching an off-the-record conversation between Jon Plowman and Paul Jackson at a writing festival. I find them both fascinating, and here they are sharing some more thoughts on comedy.