So part 3 of the Trilogy Award came with a bit of a surprise, a big surprise in fact, with authors challenged to write the final piece for someone else’s trilogy. Disruptive ideas don’t always work out, but this time at least it seemed like a fun idea that worked out pretty well. With the winner still to be determined, we thought it would be good to sit down with some of the authors and find out what it was for them to undertake this particular creative challenge:
My first response to seeing the twist for the trilogy award part III was to groan inwardly and despair.
That’s leaderboard champ Lydia Trethewey letting us know that even cowgirls get the blues. Lydia took up Sean Crawley’s alliteration trilogy with Dinner, Despair and Debbie
It wasn’t all bad though, Lydia went on to say:
But then I thought about it for more than half a second and realised how liberating it might be to work with existing characters, settings and plot. I rubbed my hands together with mischievous glee, thinking about how I might disrupt the lives of these unsuspecting characters…well, actually, no, I was just excited by the possibilities afforded me by all the wonderful stories, my enthusiasm tinted slightly by the concern that I may accidentally butcher someone else’s carefully planned ending. I thought, great, I get to really delve into worlds which are fresh, which aren’t already burdened by my expectations, plans or tangents. Like an exercise in reading and writing all bundled into one. At the same time I felt oddly protective over my own story – what if someone did my ending differently to how I’d planned it? Because who’s to say you can’t be a writer and a hypocrite.
As it turns out Lydia needn’t have worried, as nobody stepped up to the challenge for part 3 of Black Ice (here’s hoping Lydia finishes her own version and we get to publish it down the track). Nick Lachmund’s Kookaburra College Trilogy wasn’t so lucky, garnering two rewrites, one from Sean Crawley and the other from Tobias Madden. Let’s check out what they thought about conditioning Nick’s dark 90s mystery.
I think for me the main concern was honouring the original writer’s story, as I know how attached we all get to our own writing. It’s obvious that the writer had a very clear idea of how the story should end, but as the second writer it’s impossible (and not really the point) to finish the trilogy the way they would have. However, I still felt a strong desire to do their original stories justice, by writing an appropriate and meaningful ending, based on the themes in the first two chapters.
It was really fun to look for clues and patterns within the writing to try and get into the original writer’s head, and develop a final story that felt seamlessly connected, as if it had been planned that way from the beginning. Certain elements form the first two stories really struck a chord with me, so I tried to carry them over to the final chapter and highlight them, whilst still attempting to tie the loose ends together. As a reader this was a really rewarding exercise; I really hope the original writers enjoy our stories too! I’d love to know how the stories were intended to conclude… How intriguing!
What do you think, did Tobias do Nick’s story justice? Here’s what Sean Crawley had to say about his effort:
Not being a huge fan of fantasy, sci-fi and overt literary masturbation, mainly because it is a bit beyond my limited capacities, the Kookaburra College start-up seemed the only option. I realised this after I got to know a whole heap of other people’s stuff more intimately than I ever imagined I would. So I guess, thank you for forcing me to read a bit more widely.
The problem was I was heading off for an end of term sojourn in the campervan and had to abandon my brilliant, and already drafted, part three. So after choosing Nick’s thread, I drafted a twenty year reunion for Kookaburra College where Evelyn shone brightly and where the long suffering Mr Wallace had some justice for his misjudged shoulder touch, but that just had to stay on my hard drive. It just didn’t seem right.
I then went tangential and wrote a social expose of school education in the 1990s, with some excellent allusions to the current Royal Commission into institutional sexual abuse. But that all got way too serious and a little bit wanky.
Finally, I produced a piece centred on that now extinct tradition of Muck Up Day. Am I right, isn’t that day of mayhem, gone, buried and cremated? How many times I had to go back to Nick’s Part 1 and Part 2 I cannot recall but it was a lot of times, Nick. Nick, you should know this, you should know that I read your part 1 and 2 too many times – and I blame Martin for that but in the same breath I now think that you, Nick Lachmund, are deliciously deranged. So, of course Patrick raped Peter, didn’t he? Please tell me that was the “set up” in Part 1. Your intended revelation in Part 3.
But I don’t care really. It was challenging and fun to write someone else’s ending – so thanks NITH.
We also learned two other things from Sean in this little interview.
A) The third instalment of his trilogy was going to be called Directorship, Dinner & Diarrhoea
B) Sean’s first ever entry to NiTH, The Quiet Man Who Fed The Octopus (from way back Oct 2014 for the What’s Swimming Down There Award) ended up winning the Hervey Bay Arts Council Award for 2015 (after a bit of editing etc). Sean won $150, so there you have it, NiTH does pay… I guess.
And while we’re not sure just yet whether we’ll ever see the complete Directorship, Dinner & Diarrhoea, we can tell you that Nick’s third installment entitled PETER (Kookaburra College 15 Year Reunion, 201_) will be published early next week.
And speaking of completed trilogies, Barry Quinn has published part 3 of Mimic on his website. Barry wasn’t the only one looking to have the last word on this space opera, and at the risk of an obvious pun, Alicia Bruzzone gave us her take as well. Being one of NiTH’s top ranked authors, we were really excited to hear what she thought of the process.
This was such a great idea for an award. I love having firm guidelines in place to write a short story, so an established block to jump from was perfect.
Barry’s story stood out for me, because if I had to write the end of a story, what better than one called Mimic?
The main concern I had was trying to write something the original author wouldn’t hate. There was a lot to live up to. Being someone else’s project, I didn’t want to be responsible for killing it. So, no pressure or anything.
Having no idea where this was initially intended to lead, I tried to pick up on phrases and hints from the original two to include, threading the stories together. As the setting of Jupiter and the idea of maintaining a usual human habitat seemed to be the main themes, I went with those. I took a little liberty expanding the characters from how they’d already been established, building on them from the initial stories to create more conflict. They’d already been altering as time progressed, I just booted it on a teensy bit further.
Trying to keep it consistent, I did struggle a little with the perspective of the story, because it’s not one I’d usually use. It was a nice little added challenge.
Bring on the next one!
Finally newcomer Chinthaka Nanayakkara threw us a curveball by taking Amy Short’s Two Yards Below from Part 1 and going global with the story telling. It didn’t end there either, Chinthaka had plenty to say about his inspiration, so we’ll leave you with a tale of childhood and relay storytelling.
First time I saw this idea in NITH news, a smile touched my lips. The sweet childhood memories during happy school days heartwarmingly floated into my mind, all in a rush.
It was our English teacher who first taught us village boys this kind of game, writing by her fair hand on blackboard the first sentence of a ‘relay race’ story, letting each one of us add our own below hers, encouraging us to queue an unpredictable series of events that made absolutely no sense at all from beginning to end.
A relay indeed it was, every one of us stepping into the shoes of the previous narrator and continuing with the story where he/she left off. However, even though it was both educative and entertaining, we started to notice how difficult it gradually became to think up a sentence as the nonsense started to pile up. When my turn came, the Teacher flashed me one of her beautiful, knowing smiles and signaled me to wait.
“Chinthaka, your chance would come, son. Just keep your attention on the blackboard. You are going to write the final sentence of this story”
That was tough. About twenty kids like me had read out their sentences by this time and the blackboard was already twice erased. It was a job to keep track of the salient points. And the story continued, undeterred.
Finally her eyes met mine and she raised her eyebrows. “Well?”
With a piece of chalk in hand I walked up to the board, completely disoriented. Then I wrote, “At the moment the characters in this story have grown so much tired of themselves, being difficult to find who is who or which is which, and have come to a decision to meet us at the next lesson.” The class erupted with laughter. Teacher gave me an amused smile. I sat.
With NITH it was not so difficult. Childhood memory saved me, warning me to choose my relay baton carefully. So the story I selected to write Part 2, dealt with a single scene, two characters and a simple incident – a man shooting another on the head.
But I have to give credit to Amy Short here for presenting that simple incident in a cleverly chilling way, making the two characters come alive at climax that I very nearly heard the gunshot.
What I was worried was whether I would be able to add value to her short story the way she expected. In that context I am sure I was a hopeless failure. I may have been partly successful when I found my foothold on the title Two Yards Below – burying those fifty migrants exactly that way so the worms could find them.
I had to think up a reason to put some gravity into these three words; Two Yards Below. So I made Thomas Clifforde bury them for his gruesome pets. Sorry Amy, if I have disappointed you in some way.
But I must admit it was a truly amazing experience, going back to the good old days and writing someone else’s story, taking up the reins from a driver without informing him/her. Thanks NITH, making me a kid again and for giving me a chance to steal someone else’s show. I know you did not mean it and I feel no remorse, only an inspiration to meet every one of you once again, with another thriller.