Looking for words in the rabbit hole


Queensland Writers Centre CEO Kate Eltham played the white rabbit, and a bunch of we Alices gave chase: the goal, 30,000 words in three days. Some gathered in Brisbane while others of us, the diaspora of Queensland writers and other interested parties, joined in online, sharing totals and motivational mentions of caffeine.

How liberating to be given permission to abandon all but the most major of priorities in order to devote three solid days to wordage. For wordage was the goal; quality could come later. The aim was to get that story down, or at least a solid chunk of it.

My goal was a little different, though. I’d already hammered out a bit over 90K of a novel, but I had to write and insert a second point of view character to help fill in some gaps, add some suspense and provide some contrast. It’s a fairly brutal story, this one; moments of levity are to be grabbed wherever they can be had!

ms pages on a kitchen table

There's a story in there somewhere: grappling with scene progression.

I thought I had eight scenes to write, expecting no more than 1000 to 2000 words for each, and it turned out I had 10 to write, and they amounted to about 11,000 words. It took two days, averaging maybe 500 words an hour. Some of the other rabbit holers did meet their 10,000 words a day quota — w00t!

The third day of the rabbit hole was devoted to smoothing out those new scenes, reconfiguring the existing text to accommodate the new material and ensuring continuity. As is the way of things, a whole new character emerged, with enough legs to play a bigger role in a follow-up should such a thing occur. I’m tempted to call her Alice, in honour of the rabbit hole, but I’ve already got a character with that name tucked away waiting for her chance in the spotlight, so for the moment she’s Felicity because A. she’s felicitous and a felicitator but, ironically, not particularly happy, and B. I still owe two sisters a character named after them after inadvertently slipping an Amanda cameo into The Darkness Within. I have managed to slip in an Alice nod to the rabbit hole, though; I hope it survives to the final cut.

In tribute, here’s a cool clip of the Sisters of Mercy performing Alice, one of my favourite SoM songs and the inspiration for the aforementioned character in waiting. Note: The Sisters are touring with Soundwave Revolution: this is very exciting.

So, three days of fairly solid wordsmithing later, what have I got other than square eyes and a slight case of jetlag?

About 108,000 words of first draft manuscript littered with notes and sporting a most satisfying cross-hatch at the end (the mystical The End only comes when the draft is ready to be subbed — that is truly The End). And the possible beginning for a short story: what could be the second to come out of this universe.

Will the MS go anywhere? Well, that’s always the question, isn’t it? But the story feels good — rough but good — and, regardless, I enjoyed myself in my plunge down the rabbit hole, bumped into some new writers online and learnt some stuff along the way. Would I do another rabbit hole? Most definitely. It’s a three-day trip, man. Just ask Alice.

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Alice in Underland, er, Wonderland

johnny depp as mad hatter in Alice in Wonderland

First impressions of Tim Burton’s addition to the Alice in Wonderland canon: it’s pretty darn cool.

A few of us saw it in 3D and agreed the extra dimension was pretty much overkill and at times a little distracting, except for the absolutely stunning end credits.

I have studiously ignored reviews and comments about the movie — I usually do when I know I want to see something, and I’ve managed to stay blissfully ignorant, except for a few comments about the film not being particularly well received (critically), and Johnny Depp’s portrayal of the Mad Hatter being panned.

This isn’t Alice in Wonderland as I remember it, but I’m not a purist; I don’t have much affection for the original story or film versions since. It’s just a fine yarn to me, and so Burton’s monkeying around with it hasn’t raised my hackles. But I can see why it might rub some up the wrong way.

I enjoyed Depp’s very edgy Hatter, and the “almost 20” Alice played with suitable innocuousness by Mia Wasikowska, and Helena Bonham Carter (the bobble-headed Red Queen) is always a delight. The critters were fine, Alan Rickman adding a lovely dourness to the grub, and the Cheshire cat’s coming and going was a lot of fun.

Burton seems to have had a foot in two camps, unable to completely let go his love of the Gothic (eg the whimsical White Queen’s necromantic tendencies (played sweetly by Anne Hathaway)), but still conforming to the fact that this was a Disney film; I’m not sure it straddles both audiences well.

But there are some absolutely gorgeous “sets”: twisted bare trees, soft light through dust and fog, a ruined chess-set battlefield and final battle sequence between a dragon-like Jabberwocky and Alice that was just lovely (the scene reminded me a lot of a striking piece of fantasy art by the wonderful Clyde Caldwell).

I don’t think I needed to see Alice in 3D and I don’t think it’s something I need on my shelf — it skated a little thin for my liking — but I enjoyed it for its darkly tinted escapism, which sometimes is just the ticket.

Here’s a trailer.

Also, in the theatre there was a poster for a new Tron movie: not a remake, but a sequel, I’m told. Here’s a trailer for that: it looks flash and the sound, even through my wee PC speakers, sounded pretty hot.