And now it’s time for The Great British Write Off, presented as ever by Jim Crace and Salman Rushdie. Over to you, Jim and Sal!
Sal: Welcome, welcome, welcome to our Writers’ Yurt, for the penultimate round of this year’s Write Off. And, with just three of our presumptive pensmiths left in the running, tension is running high.
Jim: That’s right, Sal, and understandably so. With a two-book contract and £3,000 advance to play for, the stakes simply couldn’t be higher.
Sal: Last time we saw Liam leave the competition, after his ambitious Multi-Generational Family Saga collapsed in the middle, leaving a soggy mess of plot holes and accidental incest.
Jim: It was as painful to watch as to read. After he’d done so well in the Haiku round, too! But Write Off is a harsh mistress. To win this competition it’s not enough to give your muse a few press-ups – this is a full-body work out!
Sal: Ha ha ha, so very true. So, what challenge awaits the three remaining hopefuls this time, Jim?
Jim: It’s an old Write Off favourite: the Young Adult Dystopia.
Sal: Ah yes. Some may call it a little old-fashioned, but there’s nothing like a Young Adult Dystopia when you need a channel for millennial rage! Whether set in the aftermath of a nuclear war or ecological catastrophe, or on another planet entirely, there are any number of oppressive and arbitrary regimes out there, all crying out for a steel toe-capped reboot from a rag-tag band of teenaged revolutionaries.
Jim: Writers! You’ve all been provided with a laptop computer, a thesaurus, a cat, a fully-charged Costa card and a doodling pad. Let the creative juices flow!
* * *
Sal: The contestants have been hard at it for some time now, but it seems that Louise is still having trouble assembling her ingredients.
Louise: What flavour should my heroine be? Feisty, bad-ass, kick-ass, spunky? They’re subtly different, but I can’t always tell the difference.
Sal: If it helps, Louise, I don’t think you’re alone in that.
Louise: Perhaps I could go for… empathetic computer programmer?
Sal: A brave choice. I’ll be interested to see what the judges make of it. [Winces to camera.]
Jim: Mandy, meanwhile, is also having trouble. What’s the problem, Mandy?
Mandy: I realise that all the young people have to be separated into groups in a public rite of passage, with the entire course of their future lives resting on the outcome. Without that it’s not a YA dystopia at all, to my way of thinking. But I can’t find a basis for sorting them! Would blood type be okay, do you think?
Jim: Well, it’s not for me to say…
Mandy [riffling through her notes]: “In the capital, Haemoglobulos, sixteen-year-old Platelet Sangweeny is one of the despised O-types, or Universal Donors, working in the lowliest jobs under the inflexible rule of the elite A+ers...”
Jim: I think you may have found a unique voice, there, Mandy.
Sal: Meanwhile, on the other side of the yurt, Gary is taking frequent nips of liquid inspiration from a hip flask. After shining in the first round with his Heartwarming Musical about a young man’s love of macramé, set in the roughtie-toughtie cage-fighting community of Barrow-in-Furness, Gary has struggled to maintain momentum.
Jim: That’s right, Sal. Gary wobbled badly in the Legal Thriller round, with a plot that turned on a little-known sub-clause in the Patents (Compulsory Licensing and Supplementary Protection Certificates) Regulations, 2007. “I never knew that boredom and extreme violence could be such intimate bedfellows,” as Mary Berry put it. This time, though, he has a confident glint in his eye.
Gary: It’s all about sex, isn’t it? It’s always all about sex, of course. But in children’s books food has to be used as a substitute, so my climax is going to be a hot-dog eating competition in which my hero goes up against President Wurst. Frankfurters at dawn! For the winner, supreme executive power. For the loser – indigestion, then death.
Jim: I’m not sure that Gary has quite got the measure of YA Dystopia, Sal, but you know the result is going to be one of a kind. Personally, I can’t wait.
Sal: Talking of which... [Looks at watch] Writers, you have just three months left!
Jim: And at that thrilling juncture we must leave our writers for the moment. Tune in next time, to see who is going to make it through to our Grand Final and the chance to ghost-write a Celebrity Autobiography for last year’s X Factor winner, and who will be going home with nothing but the taste of failure and this handsome “My Book was a Write Off” T-shirt.
Jim and Sal: See you next time! And remember, keep on writing!
Fade to “Paperback Writer” by the Beatles