A Novel Idea!
By EWEN CAMPION-CLARKE and DAMIAN SANCHEZ
We see a shot of Sydney, then various shots of people getting ready to go to work/school/church, etc. All through this, a radio can be heard.
RADIO: And its forty minutes past seven o’clock on Monday, January 14, 1980! What do you mean, that’s wrong? Look, this is my damn radio station so just screw you! Ah, where was I? Yes, and today marks the first day of a new publication company, Vermin Publishing. The first submission automatically gets 20 grand paid to the author!
We see Andrew, Nigel and Dave watching TV, which is showing static. This last sentence plays from a transistor radio. They exchange looks and then run off.
RADIO: As Martin Luther once said, ‘The multitude of books is a great evil. There is no measure or limit to this fever of writing; everyone must be an author, some for some kind of vanity to acquire celebrity and raise a name, others for the sake of lucre or gain.’ What a wanker, huh?
We see a stage in front of a woman sitting behind a table. A sign says VERMIN PUBLISHING AUDITIONS.
WOMAN: OK, who’s first?
Andrew comes on stage.
WOMAN: All right, what’s your name then?
WOMAN: OK, what’s your submission?
ANDREW: Two words: funky robots...
He storms off stage. Nigel walks on.
NIGEL: Hi, baby! I’m Nigel. You’ll need to know that because you’ll be screaming that name at the ceiling later.
WOMAN: [STARES AT HIM] OK, what’s your submission?
NIGEL: I hope you like it, but I’ve got to warn you, I won’t work for anything under 50 grand...
NIGEL: [CONFUSED] What?
He walks off stage, shaking his head. Dave walks on.
DAVE: [CAUTIOUS] Dave.
WOMAN: So, Dave, tell me your submission. It better be within the guidelines, though.
DAVE: Why should I follow YOUR guidelines? I’ve written my own...
He starts to pull out a folder.
Andrew walks on stage, now dressed as Noel Coward – a dressing gown, slicked back hair, outrageous gay-sounding English accent.
ANDREW: What-ho, baby. My submission is set entirely in a toilet block in a park next to Cook’s River...
ANDREW: [DEPRESSED] Toodle-pip.
Nigel comes on stage, wearing black, with sunglasses and beret.
NIGEL: [IN FRENCH ACCENT] Zoot alors. I am French, mon fille.
WOMAN: And your submission?
NIGEL: Tray cool. Well, I ave read ze novelization of Battlefield Earth and I thought to myself, ‘Well, ma friend, if HE can get away wiz it...’
NIGEL: I fart in your general direction!
He walks off. Dave walks on with sunglasses and a moustache.
DAVE: Well, it’s kind of like a Stephen King novel, except the murder victims REALLY suffer...
[From now on we just cut to the three in various bad make-up]
Nigel, wearing a school girl’s outfit.
NIGEL: It’s called ‘How the Gynecologist Found His Groove’...
Dave, dressed as a tramp.
DAVE: It’s only partially about being an educative children’s book. The rest of it is about the alienation of an author suffering from writer’s block...
Andrew, wearing a giant banana costume.
ANDREW: I don’t like books that much...
Cuddles, wearing his own clothes.
CUDDLES: You’ve got to be hip. Get with the youth of today. Quentin Tarantino, Youth TV, that’s what the kids want...
Nigel, dressed as Cuddles.
NIGEL: It’s totally shagadelic, man...
Nigel, wearing a long red scarf.
NIGEL: I was thinking about Mahatma Ghandi. You say he’s a pacifist? Let me tell you, NO ONE is a pacifist...
Dave, wearing a duffel coat and his hair really fizzy.
DAVE: Well, it’s set during and about the birth of Jesus Christ and what really happened...
Nigel, dressed as Dave.
NIGEL: I know every single person on the planet will love this idea – Spiderman loses his memory and has to have every single adventure he’s ever been on explained to him...
Andrew, wearing a black suit and bowler hat.
Nigel, in a gondolier’s outfit.
NIGEL: It’s set in the afterlife...
Dave, dressed as Andrew.
DAVE: Well, I’ve always hated John Howard...
ANDREW: I’m only doing it for the money and the chicks...
Nigel, wearing a black suit and bowler hat.
NIGEL: Look at this watch and repeat after me: I am a writer and you will publish my submission, I am a writer...
Eve, dressed normal.
EVE: It’s set in the far future on this weird planet that turns out to be Earth, only no-one knows...
Nigel, dressed in sunglasses and a moustache.
NIGEL: I’ve been thinking about it for ages and I still can’t come up with anything. Have you got any ideas...?
Andrew, dressed as Eve.
ANDREW: Well you know how some stories are frocks and some are guns. This is Arnold Schwarzenegger in a floral dress...
Eve, arms folded.
EVE: Whatever John Marsden’s doing next, I can do it better...
Dave, wearing his underpants.
DAVE: It’s a dark and stormy night...
Someone we haven’t seen before.
MAN: I’m Tom Paulin. How can you have gone so long without mentioning the troubles in Northern Ireland...?
Nigel, dressed as the woman.
NIGEL: I refuse to devalue my ideas by writing them down. If you’ve got a tape recorder ready, I’ll give you it down the phone, or here and now if you like...
Andrew, in a wheelchair.
ANDREW: I got the idea from listening to a Delta Goodrem song...
Cuddles, dressed as Noel Coward.
CUDDLES: For a start, nobody dies and there isn’t a mystery for Sherlock Holmes to solve...
Andrew, dressed as Cuddles.
ANDREW: It’s mostly in German...
Eve, dressed as Morticia.
EVE: Think of me as the next Jeffrey Archer...
Nigel attacks the woman.
NIGEL: What the hell is all this in the guidelines about not using Buffy?! She gives me the fucking *horn* goddammit...
WOMAN: Next! Next! Next! NEXT!
She stares at the empty stage for a moment.
WOMAN: Look, is there anyone else?
Dressed in their own clothes, Andrew, Nigel, Dave, Eve, Cuddles, and the man come out on stage, and begin to sing.
ALL: Please sir, or madam
Won’t you read my book?
It took me years to write
Will you take a look?
It’s based on a novel
By a man named Lear
And I need a job
So I want to be...
We see a shot of Sydney, then various shots of people getting ready to leave work/school/church, etc. All through this, a radio can be heard.
RADIO: And its twenty past six, 1980! Yes, Vermin Publishing, on its third day has offered six applicants the chance to submit their novels for the winner does get 20 grand. I won’t bother telling you who they were, but let’s just say I wasn’t included, so you must kill them all, my slaves!
Dave is writing on the computer. Nigel enters.
DAVE: [TYPING] Hey.
NIGEL: Andrew says dinner’s up in a minute.
DAVE: [STOPS TYPING] He’s not going to do that bird regurgitation thing again, is he?
NIGEL: [QUICKLY] No, no, he’s learnt from last time.
NIGEL: What’re you up to now?
DAVE: I’m writing for this book competition.
NIGEL: Oh yeah? [SQUINTS AT SCREEN] ‘Hamlet’. Snappy title.
DAVE: [TYPING AGAIN] Thanks.
NIGEL: [READS] ‘Hamlet, Prince of Denmark by David M. Restal.’
DAVE: [STOPS TYPING] What??
NIGEL: Nothing. Just thought it was by Shakespeare, that’s all.
DAVE: Nige, remember what they say.
NIGEL: Who say what?
DAVE: You know, monkeys and typewriters...
NIGEL: [SADLY] Oh, Dave, I never said anything like that! You’re a good writer, man and this is up-to-the-date...
DAVE: Not that, Nigel! You know – give some monkeys a typewriter and sooner or later, they’ll type out Shakespeare.
DAVE: Would those monkeys be plagiarizing?
NIGEL: Um, well...
DAVE: [STARTS TYPING] Exactly. Besides, it’s 500 years old. It’s GOT to be out of copyright by now. Anyway, this is a radical rewrite. Lots more funny codpieces and stuff.
NIGEL: Still, you’re gonna have to shorten it to get it entered.
DAVE: I’ll do that.
Nigel leans on Dave shoulder (to Dave’s irritation) and studies what he is typing. He frowns.
NIGEL: Well, you can get rid of THAT for a start!
NIGEL: It’s dead wood, scrap it!
DAVE: DEAD WOOD!
NIGEL: Dude, you can’t waste valuable word counts on standup stuff in the middle of the action!
DAVE: The soliloquies?
NIGEL: Yeah! [SCROLLS UP AND DOWN] THAT one has to be the worst!
NIGEL: [READS] ‘To be, or not to be: that is the question’. God, it’s like talking to John Howard about Seachange! Yawnsville! You can’t say that, it’s just... gibberish!
DAVE: Short gibberish! I need room to move in this word limit, you know.
NIGEL: Damn right ‘it’s the question’! What the hell is he talking about? He’s just standing there jabbering about God-knows-what and we’re just staring at him!
DAVE: Dude, that is some of my best work there!
NIGEL: Well, you could pep it up a bit, couldn’t you?
Shoving Dave out of the chair, Nigel begins to tap out happily.
DAVE: [SOURLY] HG Wells was right! ‘No passion in the world is equal to the passion to alter someone else’s draft!’
NIGEL: [TYPES FURIOUSLY FOR A MOMENT] Look, [READS] ‘To be a victim, or not to be coward’. Much better!
DAVE: What? That doesn’t make sense! To be a victim of what? To be coward about what? Answer me that!
NIGEL: [TAPS AT KEYBOARD] There. ‘To be a victim of all life’s earthly woes, or not to be a coward and take Death by his proffered hand’.
DAVE: Get stuffed! That line was perfect!
NIGEL: Now, what do we have here? ‘Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles.’ What in the name of Amy Acker is he’s talking about?! He’s going to put on a bow and arrow and potter down to the seaside?!? This is Prince Hamlet, not King Canute! He might as well kill himself if that’s the best idea he can come up with! [EYES WIDEN] What a brilliant idea! D-man, let’s have him commit suicide in the first act!
DAVE: [FROWNS] In the first act??
NIGEL: Why not? The ghost is cool, the sword fights are cool, that crazy chick in the see-through dress who does the flower jokes and then drowns herself... But who gives a stuff what happens to Hamlet? You trying for a Soprano-type character?
DAVE: [THROWS HANDS UP IN THE AIR] Fine! Let’s kill off Hamlet! He comes out on stage, says ‘Aye; there’s the rub. To die, to sleep...’ and then fall off the battlements! Happy?
NIGEL: [TYPES] Hmm. Emphasize the action and the travel, put in something about the plague and we have...
He makes a dramatic series of taps and Dave moves to stop him.
NIGEL: ‘Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take up arms against those cursed doubts that do plague on man and set sail on a sea of troubles.’ Much better. Brilliant!
DAVE: NO! You’ve ruined it, Nigel! RUINED! R-U-I-N-E-D! RUINED!
Dave grabs Nigel and points to the door.
DAVE: Out! Get out of my room!
NIGEL: Hey, I just saved you thinking up another 12 words!
DAVE: Great! It’s now total crap!
NIGEL: That’s Shakespeare for you.
Andrew enters with a covered tray. Frantic, Dave begins clicking UNDO.
ANDREW: Dinner time! What are you all doing in here?
DAVE: [CLICKING MOUSE] Rewriting Hamlet. And Nigel’s screwing it up!
ANDREW: [PUTS DOWN TRAY] Really. What’s he been doing? [READS] ‘To be or not to be: that is the question. Whether it is nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune or to take arms against a sea of troubles and by opposing...’ WHAT?
DAVE: [FOLDS ARMS] Good, eh?
ANDREW: Good? GOOD! You can’t put a line like that in the play!
DAVE: A line like what?
ANDREW: A line like ‘or to take arms against a sea of troubles’!
DAVE: WHY NOT?
NIGEL: Because it’s crap?
ANDREW: Because it’s a freaking mixed metaphor! And you can’t put mixed metaphors in one of the greatest works of fiction in English literature!
NIGEL: [STARTLED] Is it? I just thought it was crap.
Andrew shoves Dave out of the seat and begins to type.
ANDREW: Anyone can justify crap. No one can justify a mixed metaphor. Let me have a go.
NIGEL: You can’t be serious!
ANDREW: You bet I’m serious. Mixed metaphors are very serious things you know, and you just don’t go round putting them in one of the great English plays. It’s just not on.
NIGEL: Look, what do you know about mixed metaphors?
ANDREW: More than you.
NIGEL: You’re a bloody loony!
ANDREW: [SHRUGS] A bloody loony a day keeps the mixed metaphors away.
DAVE: Who cares if it’s a mixed metaphor? Nigel, you’ve totally ruined the play! All of it! And that’s no mean feat. You want to rewrite Hamlet without Hamlet, go ahead!
NIGEL: Okay, so the H man has his moments – that mad stuff is pretty cool, just that one speech could be shortened a bit. Not too sure on those awful gravediggers, though.
ANDREW: Don’t worry, you can keep that!
DAVE: [FROWNS] What have you done?
ANDREW: Edited it. Eighteen pages and every scene is kept.
DAVE: Even the skull routine?
DAVE: Cool. [READS] ‘Life sucks. I think I’m gonna kill myself. Ah, better not. I think I’ll have a nap.’ That’s it??
ANDREW: The gist of it is there. And its under the word limit.
Dave screams in frustration and leaves.
NIGEL: [CALLS AFTER HIM] Temperamental bastard!
ANDREW: You know, it was Stephen King who said, ‘I’ve never killed anybody. Except in stories.’
A long pause.
ANDREW: Hey, let’s get pissed out of our minds until inspiration for a submission strikes us!
NIGEL: I’m on!
They run out after Dave.
Caption: AFTER A PUB CRAWL STARTING WITH THE LEAST POPULAR PUB IN THE SUBURB TO THE MOST POPULAR PUB IN THE SUBURB – IN TRUTH, THE ONLY PUB IN THE SUBURB, THE GUYS SEEK REFRESHMENTS. Andrew, Nigel and Dave stumble into the pub, quite obviously drunk. They eventually make it to a table and all try to sit in the same chair and end up arguing amongst themselves as to where to sit - there are only two chairs.
BARMAID: So, guys, what’ll it be?
ANDREW: Yes, we’d like... Err...
He attempts to count the number of people at the table several times before resorting to a guess.
ANDREW: [SHRUGS] Five pints of absinthe, please! In half-pint glasses!
BARMAN: Coming up.
She wanders off and returns with a tray of bubbling drinks. She places them on the table and Andrew pulls out a leather purse. He struggles to open it for a while, then shrugs and hands it to the barmaid.
ANDREW: Um, we were talking about writing a book.
DAVE: Oh, yeah. As Gene Fowler once said, ‘Writing is easy. All you have to do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until the drops of blood form on your forehead.’
ANDREW: Oh? I thought Gene Fowler was the one who said, ‘Writers. Worst kind of vampires. Bastards.’
ANDREW: You know! ‘They fill their pens from your vital juices, sucking up your experience, then smear it wantonly across the walls of these crumbling asylums called books.’ That was Gene Fowler. Wasn’t it?
DAVE: That was Jerry O’Flynn!
NIGEL: No, Delano, definitely. Jamie Delano.
ANDREW: No, it was Jerry O’Flynn.
NIGEL: Go stick your head up a dead dingo’s bum, Andrew! You’ve got it all wrong. Jerry O’Flynn was the one who said, ‘What no wife of a writer can understand is that a writer is working when he’s staring out of the window.’
DAVE: Ah, screw you! That was Burton Rascoe and you know it!
ANDREW: Oh, yes. Burton Rascoe. ‘With twenty-six soldiers of lead I will conquer the world,’ that was one of his, wasn’t it?
The others shrug.
NIGEL: I think De Vries said it best with, ‘I love being a writer. It’s the paperwork I can’t stand.’
ANDREW: De Vries?
ANDREW: PETER De Vries?
ANDREW: I thought he was the devil-worshiping druidic maniac who hung around that stone circle until he mysteriously disappeared back in 1978...
DAVE: No that was Leonard De Vries!
NIGEL: Ohhhhhhhhhh. So, it must have been Hemmingway who said, ‘the most essential gift for a good writer is a built-in shock-proof shit-detector.’ [CROSSES HIMSELF] Ah, Ernest!
Andrew crosses to the bar. The barmaid isn’t paying him any attention.
ANDREW: So then, then, I shouted ‘Boooyakasha!’ and I began pacing around like a lunatic, can you believe it?
BARMAID: You wanna pay your tab now?
ANDREW: Sure. How much?
BARMAID: That’ll be $75, skip.
ANDREW: Skip? Hmm... could be a name for a character. I’m writing a story, you see. Muchos money. Thanks! Once it’s published, I’ll get you the $75. Promise!
BARMAID: Whatever... ‘Every writer, without exception, is a masochist, a sadist, a peeping Tom, an exhibitionist, a narcissist, an ‘injustice collector’ and a ‘depressed person constantly haunted by fear of unproductivity’,’ to quote Dr Bergler.
Andrew crosses over to Nigel and Dave.
NIGEL: [BELCHES] Hey, man, what’s happening?
ANDREW: [LOOKS UP] Hey, Nige. I’m writing my magnum opus.
DAVE: Don’t be disgusting!
ANDREW: You know something, Nigel?
ANDREW: I’ve decided to write the worst book ever written. I want something that will, one day, be auctioned off to the Times Literary Supplement for millions of dollars – just so they can publicly urinate on the said manuscript. And I want YOU to help me.
ANDREW: Yeah. I’m gonna make you creative consultant, AND the main character. I shall call him... Legin. A back-stabbing asshole who, who sings! How does that sound?
It is the afternoon as the trio stumble from the pub.
NIGEL: Right. What we desperately need in this novel is... A redneck from Texas! Who romances every single character in the book, living or dead!
ANDREW: Yeah, who starts every sentence with ‘Haaaaaaaay!’
NIGEL: Yes, that’s cool. And ends every sentence with, ‘Wheee, I’m like so excited, ya’ll!’ and everyone tells her to shut up!
ANDREW: And the main protagonist?
NIGEL: Works in the diplomatic core, but can’t stand the hours! Then, he meets the sluttiest whore in existence for some romantic tension. Let’s call her ‘Detective Bitch’ A bit of dull feminine touches – AND some very lowbrow humor.
ANDREW: I know the perfect title: ‘For The Love Of God, Why?’
DAVE: I’m thinking similar things.
ANDREW: Anyone can write a bad book by accident, but to do it deliberately. That takes imagination. Imagination and genius. Imagination, genius and Guinness. More beer!
Dave sighs and, delving into the pockets of his trench coat, pulls out a glass of Guinness and hands it to Andrew.
NIGEL: All the characters will be shallow – there shall be no hint of personality, no redeemable values, no exploration of depth. Just whine, whine, whine, bitch, bitch, bitch! Whine, whine! Bitch, bitch! The main bad guy will be, uh, something clichéd... Got it! A lawyer!
ANDREW: I’ve got to write this down!
He produces a soiled beer mat from his pocket and starts to write on it, taking swigs of his drink.
Andrew, looking none the worse for wear, is tapping out at Dave’s computer, every so often casting a look at the crumpled beer mat beside him. Dave lies on his bed, reading a comic while Nigel paces.
NIGEL: Good news?
ANDREW: I’ve already finished the first chapter, man. Just have to end it on a shocking cliffhanger.
The sun sets.
Andrew is typing, Nigel is pacing. Dave is crouched by the printer lying on the floor as it spits out the novel. It is amazingly primitive and the paper is striped blue and white and lined with punched holes. Dave picks up the printout.
DAVE: [READS] Chapter One: ‘Shut Up, Ho!’ For no real reason, we decided to treat the man who saved us and brought us together like shit. And so, we smiled like the dumbasses we were, trying to provide the fellowship with the black attitude of the black Americans...’
We zoom in on the wall clock. It speeds forward three hours.
NIGEL: We must get that clock fixed.
The stars come out. All the lights in the other houses switch off, leaving the only source off illumination in Dave’s room.
Nigel is dozing. Andrew is eating a pizza and typing in no particular order. Dave stares at what he is reading, not taking a word in.
DAVE: [READING] He may have saved us all on more occasions than we could possibly count. He may have given us a reason to live and purpose and an idea for a new business venture, but why should we return the favor? The chances for a group hug and pretending it never happened were dropping by the minute unless he humiliated himself. And so, our hero began to sing, sing, SING! ‘Okay, hey! Look at me! I’m the hero! I’m a little teapot, short and stout! This is my handle and this is my snout!’ To be continued.
Nigel sits up and stretches.
NIGEL: Well, what do you think?
DAVE: Should I change that to ‘spout’?
NIGEL: Nahhhhhhh, I want gritty, realistic drama in my book.
ANDREW: [TYPING] Chapter Two: ‘Crap! I hope you rot in hell!’ Detective Bitch was gone, but did anybody care? No, actually. They were all so... damn fickle, they didn’t remember how they had saved each other’s sorry arses at least ten times in the previous chapter, and thus were ready to kick each other in those same arses...
NIGEL: Dude, we need an office romance for Legin.
ANDREW: Fine. He’s developed a soft spot for the redneck, even though he fell madly in love with that girl that he can’t seem to remember her name. What about Detective Bitch, though? His one true love of all the bad characters?
NIGEL: [BLANKLY] So?
ANDREW: Brilliant, Nigel! Of course, it makes sense. [TYPES] ‘Oh, redneck, you’re the most beautiful woman in the world...’
It is still dark outside. A tired Dave enters, carrying a steaming tray of – coffee, tea and a glass of cold curry sauce. Nigel, Dave and Andrew take their respective drinks and return to their previous positions – pacing, the bed, and typing.
ANDREW: [RUBS EYES] Right. Chapter Twenty-Four: ‘Where Do Babies Come From?’ The redneck and Legin had a few drinks, mayhaps a little too many spiked vodkas, smoked marijuana once too often, played strip poker just that bit too much... One thing lead to another and now...
NIGEL: Yes, make that black American have a big secret that could destroy all the characters in the novel.
ANDREW: Fantastic. [TYPES] ‘Oooooh! Oooohh!’ said Sullivan. ‘Look at me! Look at me! I have a biiiiiiiiig secret! A secret that could destroy us all!’
NIGEL: So, now... what is he going to do with this big secret?
ANDREW: He could start by telling the others first, so they could sit down, discuss it and find out how to solve it?
NIGEL: Ah, bor-ring! Have him bottle it up inside himself, and hope it goes away, playing victim when it all goes wrong.
ANDREW: And his soul is symbolically corrupted by some shagging?
NIGEL: Now you’re getting the hang of it, Andrew! Now, for the steamy sex action scenes between Legin and his decrepit grandmother in the polar bear enclosure of the zoo!
It is now midday.
Dave scratches at his stubble as he peers at the printout.
DAVE: [READING WITH HORROR] ‘Oh, gawd! I know this is totally wrong, but please! Take me, now!’ ‘I can’t. Someone chopped off my balls.’ ‘Oh, Legin! You’re so seks-say! Do me!’ ‘Hoboy!’
He throws down the page and starts to vomit copiously.
The sun sets until it is early evening.
Andrew is typing at the computer, eyes wide and unblinking.
DAVE: I just don’t buy the nephew turning up and always acting tough around older people. In reality, younger people get to be hushed up in an instant!
NIGEL: Hey, it’s MY childish fantasy, so screw you!
ANDREW: And I’m finishing the last page of the last chapter of ‘For The Love Of God, Why?’. Now, the final surviving characters turn to each other after the massive battle. [TYPES] ‘I’m gonna kick your ass, Legin!’ ‘Didn’t I just save your soul?’ ‘Yeah... but what have you done for me in last couple of minutes. Huh?!?!’
NIGEL: And Legin says, ‘Hooboy...’
ANDREW: [TYPING WITH A FLOURISH] ‘Hooboy...’ the end!!
DAVE: [HOPEFULLY] It’s over? It’s finally over?
NIGEL: Yep. Print it out, and we can mail it off. I bet none of the other applicants have got theirs’ in so quickly.
DAVE: Does that mean you two freaks can finally get out of my room and leave me alone?
NIGEL: Sure. Thanks for the computer. Come on, Andy, let’s mosey!
They click print, and shut the steaming computer down. Dave dims the lights and is in bed and fast asleep by the time the others are gone. A long pause. The door clicks open. Someone stealthily enters the room, switches on the computer and begins to type...
- to be continued...