The last time I met Boff was probably at a conference in Bradford in 1998. He had said that he would try to join us on the ‘Walking the Line’ event at the Ilkley Literature Festival in October 2013, but family commitments prevented him from doing so.
I asked him recently for his opinion of ‘Pick-up Technique’, and he very kindly obliged.
You can buy the story here: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Pick-up-Technique-William-Thirsk-Gaskill-ebook/dp/B00CPRHTH8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1390283939&sr=8-1&keywords=pick-up+technique
And read more about it here: http://www.gogglepublishing.co.uk/
Boff Whalley’s latest artistic venture is a play called “Wrong ‘Un”, which is touring at the moment. You can find out more about it here: http://www.boffwhalley.com/
What follows is what Boff wrote, verbatim, presented with his permission. I can promise you that my next publication (a novella which should be coming out in time to coincide with the 2014 Huddersfield Literature Festival in March) will have a few rubber ducks in it.
Finally I watched some performances and read the story.
Now this is what I thought. The story is beautifully written and got me hooked. Straight away. I want to find out what happens to these two people. And then I thought, gradually, actually I don’t like these two people. They’re not very nice.
At that point, about half-way through, I decided I didn’t like the characters and thus found it hard to carry on being involved. I’ve had this problem with a lot of things recently. That book called ‘One Day’ (I think), everyone read it so I thought I should read it too. Yes I am that shallow. Or that interested in popular culture. I finished it but never liked any of the characters in it. The book was a massive best seller. I had a conversation with Alice (Nutter). I asked her, Did you like that book? She said, Sort of, but I hated the people in it. So why did we read it? It was well written. So, following that logic, obviously you’re a good writer.
When I write theatre stuff (this is going to sound really shallow now) I have to make all the characters reasonably likeable. I want people to identify themselves with a character, so they feel compelled to follow that character’s story.
A friend of mine (Mark Catley) who writes for TV soaps etc once described to me the idea of horrible people in literature/theatre/drama having “a rubber duck”. You make a character who’s not very likeable have a rubber duck – a childhood toy, a picture, a memory – that makes the reader/viewer think, “ohhh I had a little rubber duck too! I can see why that person is horrible! I can share in their pain!” He told me this backstage in about fifteen seconds about ten years ago, and I still have it in my head when I write. The idea of giving horrible people a redeeming quality.
Does that make sense?
Anyway, the two women in the story had no rubber ducks. Maybe that was your point. You wanted them to be simply horrible.
But I think if the main character had a rubber duck, and I could have felt I was really ‘with her’ in the adventure, I would have related to how she felt when she found out she was set up. As it was, I didn’t care – I just thought, tough, bitch. Was this what you wanted us to think?
Apart from all that, your writing is obviously brilliant. You know that anyway.
Mind you your video rendition of ‘The Game’ was awful. You, distracted and unprepared, reading your own words like you were reading a biblical passage at some small-town Catholic Sunday School. Most writers are rotten at reading their own stuff. But that’s why books are so good, because it’s the reader’s imagination that voices the characters. And it’s a bloody good writer who can voice those characters better than the reader’s imagination.
But your rendition of the Everything But The Girl song was lovely. Your passive and distracted manner suited the song.
You’re a proper eccentric aren’t you? I’m guessing. That’s a beautiful thing to be.
Anyway you said, “tell me what you think, honestly” so I have done.