How did you get into writing?

That’s the third question anyone asks me upon finding out I’m a scriptwriter:

“How did you get into it?”

The first two, as I’ve mentioned before, are usually:

“What do you mean?”


“So … do you write the story and someone else writes the words?”

Which is the kind of moronic question I reserve my blank ‘what the fuck are you talking about?’ face for. It’s right up there with “Well if evolution’s true and man did evolve from monkeys, why are there still monkeys around?”. What are you, fucking eight? I knew the answer to that before I had pubes … and other such rants about stupid people.


“How did you get into writing?”

The answer is: LEGO.

Lego Evolution

Which, despite the picture, isn’t the same answer as the answer to the question about monkeys and evolution – the answer there is ‘ask something sensible or fuck off’.

When I was a kid there were only three toys: Star Wars figures, Action Man and Lego.

There were probably others, but who cares? A list of three is easier to deal with.

The cool thing about Lego is Lego is ALL toys. Everything you can imagine, you can build – given enough bricks and ingenuity.

This was brought home to me over the weekend when an early finish to the ’til Death re-write prompted an impromptu visit to my parents’. Being the doting grandparents they are, they’d gone rummaging around in the loft, found a box full of Lego and separated out the Duplo bricks for Alice to play with.

Whilst digging around in the Lego, my mum found this:


and after a further spot of digging, I unearthed these:




The first one, obviously, is a Lego TARDIS. The second one is a hatstand, complete with 4th Doctor scarf and hat – all that remains of the separate and extensive TARDIS interior, and the third is a grandfather clock created to double as the Master’s TARDIS.

An old (and not very funny) joke in our house was if you couldn’t find anything it would invariably end up in the Lego box – primarily because once scattered all over the room, the Lego would stay there until my brother and I were forced at knife point to put it all away; a process which involved grabbing handfuls of anything small, untangling them from the nasty polyester carpet and hurling them into the box.

And because of that, all sorts of crap is now preserved in that old Lego box …

Although when my Mum came up with the idea of putting all the Lego on a curtain before play (meaning the corners could be gathered together which scooped all the Lego up in one go) that ‘crap accumulation’ process stopped. Cleverer people than me could probably pinpoint the exact date when it happened by examining the amassed fragments of toys in a Jurassic Park, fly in amber type process.

But there is still a lot of stuff preserved, a history of games I played and toys I once owned. A brief search on Sunday revealed Superman’s boot circa 1978, the rudder from an Action Man Sea Wolf submarine, a Bayko brick (a particularly nasty construction set which involved sticking foot long, razor sharp pins into a board and then tripping, spearing your face and killing yourself), a Scalextric … thing (it’s green and diamond shaped?) and half a Thundercat’s logo stuck to bits of Lego.

But it’s the TARDIS and the Thundercats thing which got me thinking. You see, I didn’t just build things with Lego – I stuck bits of paper to them too. When I built the Thundertank (which had working claw grapples, opening cockpit and rear section and removable hoverboards) I also made costumes for the characters – likewise for Doctor Who, initially there was Tom Baker’s costume but later on my brother and I created our own Doctors to play with.

“What the fuck has this got to do with writing?” You are doubtlessly, and quite rightly, asking.

Well, in addition to creating costumes and sets, I used to come up with storylines for us to play. These reached their zenith when …

Do you know, I think I’ve blogged about this before.


I could just give up here or I could plough on regardless …

Oh I’ll finish what I’ve started.

My brother, his friend and I built three Lego spaceships and invented a whole world they belonged to. Crucially, we were always convinced these spaceships belonged to a TV series. I used to come up with the stories, then we’d build any sets and costumes needed to tell them. We’d play a bit of music as an intro and again for the end credits and we’d always finish on a cliffhanger.

Over the years the world and the stories became more and more complex until there was a whole mythology around the characters and five years worth of individual stories which built up to an explosive climax.

Which are the best kind.

As time went on I never forgot those stories and always maintained they were better than any of the then current Sci-fi on TV until people got so pissed off with me talking about an imaginary TV series they told me to write it or shut the fuck up.

Preferably the latter.

And as soon as I started the floodgates opened – before long there were more ideas coming than belonged to that one series … besides, I wanted complete control over it and obviously needed to build a better reputation for myself first. So the series went on the back burner and there it stayed until Joss Whedon made Firefly – an exact replica of the series I’d had in my head since I was a mere whippersnapper.


Still, Lego, that’s where it all started for me. I’ve still got that Lego Spaceship in my office and here it is, The Morning Star:

The Morning Star

It still inspires me to keep writing whenever I feel a bit blue and serves as a constant reminder – I’ve been making shit up for a long, long time.

And there you go.

How did you get into it?

Feel free to treat this like a meme if you wish – I’m not tagging anyone because I don’t really like putting people under pressure and can’t bear the crushing rejection when they don’t bother. So if you want to have a go, have a go – if not, don’t.

I’m off to play with my toys.

Categories: Random Witterings, Sad Bastard, Writing and life | 7 Comments

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7 thoughts on “How did you get into writing?

  1. terraling

    Thank God for the internet. Years ago I used to recall a friend’s toy called Toss-a-cross, a sort of outdoor noughts and crosses. No-one ever believed that they would sell such a thing. Now I search for it, and up it pops on Amazon.

    Sticking the fabric etc to lego. Weird! I used to make airfix models for Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica etc., and do quite realistic battle damage. I remember one time using a knife from the kitchen, sticking it in the gas fire to make it hot, and using it to produce some blaster damage on a Colonial Viper (and then blowing black powder paint for scorch marks.)

    Well, the knife was ruined and I didn’t know what to do with it, how was I not going to get caught. For some reason I decided going to the end of the garden and hurling it as far down the street as I could was the best course of action. Later that afternoon, Dad comes home from work, in the back-door — brandishing a charred knife just like the ones in our kitchen. I think we’ll stop there, otherwise, too much backstory.

  2. See, that’s why I used to want to be a visual effects designer – a job I firmly believed was just making Airfix models and then blowing them up.

    I curse the day computers took the fun out of movie making.

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