Progress on my current novel, The Thespian, reached a bit of a milestone this week, as I passed the 100k word mark. It also brings me very close to finishing the second act. I’ve chosen to use the classic three act format, both in style and structure, because the theme of the story cried out for it, and for a few other reasons too:
I’ve always had a great love of film, and an endless fascination about actors and their processes. When I read stories about how an actor prepares for a part – how obsessively they try to inhabit the character… well… I can’t help but love them a little for it, even the self-important and temperamental ones. To be good at something you need to have passion, and passionate people can sometimes be self-important and temperamental. Acting is an art form, and the spectrum of seriousness in which it is undertaken is as wide as it is in any other art form. For me that made enticing subject matter to build my ghost story around.
The King George Playhouse is the derelict theatre and the stage, so to speak, for my ghost story. It’s inspired by the Hulme Hippodrome in
, and if you search the internet
you can find hundreds of beautiful photographs of this amazing Grade 2 listed
building. Derelict buildings have a
haunted quality to them anyway, but the Hulme Hippodrome spoke to me as soon as
I saw the auditorium. I just couldn’t
see my characters on any other stage. Manchester
My main character is called Owen Youngblood, and as much as I want him to represent the new generation of actor, I want him to have an old-school feel about him – more James Dean than Robert Pattinson, but still in an English sort of way. As with every character I write though, it’s a learning process, and I discover more about the person as I go, and so when I get to the end of a first draft I say “Oh, that’s who you really are”, and then rewrite through their lens. I already know that Owen needs dirtying up a little, but that could change by the end of the first draft. As for my ghost, he is far clearer in my mind.
Theodore Savage is based in no small way on Laurence Olivier. I’ve studied old archive footage of Olivier’s interviews, and my apologies go out to any of his friends and family as this is blind observation, but Sir Laurence had the definite air of a man who knew he was better than yow. He seemed to maintain an open lie of being one with the common man, but at the same time believing he was beheld in awe, and rightly so, in his mind. Other research into Olivier’s acting career has turned up stories that could support my observation, but whether or not it holds water, it serves Theodore Savage as a characterisation perfectly. Just look at this picture of Olivier. This is the smug look I imagine on Savage’s face when I’m writing him:
A Ghost Story, But Not As We Know It
The other reason I’m using the three acts for style and structure is because I want a classic feel. The Thespian is a ghost story, for sure, but different. I want the reader to get comfortable (and uncomfortable) in an easy chair they think they’ve sat in before, so when they finish the story and finally look down, they realise they’ve not been sitting in a chair at all. Then I want the reader to say, “Wow.”