Thursday, 19 August 2010

Matt Fitton – Q & A

Matt Fitton has written Living History featuring the Eighth Doctor and Lucie Miller (which if you haven't already read, you really should!), and has very kindly permitted me to ask him some questions.


Hi Matt. You've written for the Eighth Doctor and Lucie. How do you find the characters to write for, based almost solely on voice performances? Is there a difference in using characters whose physicality you can use to help define them?

I actually find those two pretty easy to write for as they've lived inside my head for years! Quite simply, it's made easier because they're excellent performances: the voices are very vivid, with vocal traits and turns of phrase - for example, you can put Lucie in any situation & just know how she would react. While the Eighth Doctor doesn't have such a defining physicality as say, the Fourth or Seventh, there's an elegance & deftness he has in the TVM that I try to capture.

From experience, would you say any particular Doctor is difficult to capture in prose? Are there any you would especially relish tackling? Are there any you'd have no desire to write for?

I know it's traditional to say Troughton, but I think quite a few writers - including one in this series! - have captured him very well. I think, for me, Hartnell would be a challenge - and for that reason, I'd really like to have a good go at him: particularly with Ian & Barbara to bounce off. I just need to find the right story. I'd write for every Doctor quite happily - there's something different to try with each one.

Is the companion dynamic important? Is there ever a need for more than one in your opinion, and why? Does having more companions made it more or less difficult to tell a good story?

Oh yes - other than the Doctor-villain relationship, the companion dynamic is fundamental to almost every story. More than one companion adds to the possible conflicts and relationships within a story: but really it depends on what story you want to tell. Ian, Barbara & Susan are a brilliant team, and really lend themselves to the epic early stories, where there are lots of strands. Equally, I love Ace & Hex in the audios as they each bring a different dynamic to their relationship with the Doctor, and between themselves.

Do you finder it easier or harder to write for established characters or your own creations? Why would you say this is?

In a way, it can be very similar: I feel like I know the established characters inside-out, but then I feel the same about the ones I create too. I like to base bits of them on real people at least to start with: it helps them come to life in my imagination as they find their place in the story. I suppose there are limits with the established characters, but if I really didn't think I could make a particular character work, I wouldn't use them!

What motivates you as a writer? Do you find it easy to just sit and write or does it require a bit of a push?

Coincidentally, Charlie Brooker just wrote a piece this week in the Guardian that sums up my feeling on this. Get a deadline, and it gives you all the push you need to see whether you can actually do it or not!

What are you most proud of when it comes to your writing? And do you prefer a particular format, e.g. prose over script? If so, what appeals about one more than another?

I love writing dialogue, and am proud if I can get funny bits in that really fit with the characters. Writing allows you the ultimate in l'esprit d'escalier: you've got all the time you need to come up with the perfect witty retorts. I suppose for this reason, I do prefer script format: for me , it just feels more immediate.

Do you plan greatly, or tend to see how a story will pan out once you've started it? Do you find best to simply start, or to plot everything in detail beforehand?

Often, I start with a 'what if' concept as the seed and see where it goes from there. I do skip around in the actual writing of a story - knowing I've got to get from A to C, via B, but leaving the details to fill in later - but usually have a good idea of the overall direction pretty early on. I think it's good to at least have the skeleton structure in place for the whole story before you do too much. However, once you start fleshing it out, the characters themselves can often provide unforeseen detours.

Some quick questions to finish:

Favourite Doctor? Why?

Fourth - I grew up with Tom, and he was the Doctor, as simple as that.
Though the Eighth has a very special place too, as McGann took the reins just as I rediscovered my love for all things Who and his EDAs and Big Finish audios made him my ongoing current Doctor into the noughties.

Favourite companion? Why?
This is very difficult: so I'll cheat & put Lucie Miller, Romana II, K9 and Ian Chesterton all equal first for the same reasons: wit, intelligence & resourcefulness!

Top Five Doctor Who stories? Why do you like them?
City of Death: 'Absolutely exquisite.' Tom & Lalla & Douglas Adams working in perfect unison. As timey-wimey as a Moffat story, with a great villain, great guest cast and great location. I can watch this again and again.
Kinda: 'You can't mend people!' After the certainty of Tom, this, for me, is where Peter Davison really nailed it. A more adult, cerebral and downright spooky Who. Years before Richard Curtis got the plaudits for his handling of Van Gogh's mental illness, we got Christopher Bailey's brilliant script coupled with Simon Rouse's excellent performance. And the Part One cliffhanger is possibly my all-time favourite.
Chimes of Midnight: 'Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without my plum pudding...' I admit it: I have a festive relisten every year. The Eighth Doctor & Charley relationship at its peak, some very clever and funny writing from Rob Shearman, with performances to match. (Though it's hard to single out just one Eighth Doctor audio: Neverland, Human Resources and Brave New Town all get honourable mentions as well.)
Human Nature: 'Smith and Joan.' I can have this one twice over! First, as one of the pinnacles of the Virgin New Adventures, and then again to showcase what a brilliant actor we had in the lead role with David Tennant. All courtesy of Paul Cornell's excellent writing.
The Eleventh Hour: 'Hello, I'm the Doctor. Basically... run.' Simply the best debut of any Doctor (bar An Unearthly Child!). I rewatched this recently with my 5yo, and he was riveted throughout. The future is safe in the hands of the Eleventh Doctor.

Favourite author/s? Favourite books?
Many and varied to say the least! Too many authors to list - Adams, Pratchett, Pullman, Austen & Orton, and have recently re-affirmed my appreciation of Roald Dahl, having read most of his works to my little boy - concise, witty and suitably grisly. New discoveries for me are Donna Tartt & Louise Welsh. All time favourite book is Carter Beats the Devil by Glen David Gold, having been a bit of a magic geek in the past.
Who-related: Lance Parkin, Rob Shearman & Paul Cornell - and it's well worth seeking out the non-Who British Summertime, by Paul, and Rob's short stories.

What do you like about Doctor Who? What keeps you hooked?
It's the best sci-fi-fantasy-tragi-comedy-(pseudo)historical-(melo)dramatical-farcical-serio-family-kids programme there has ever been or ever will be. And it thrives on change, which means it will be around in some form or other much longer than any of us!

What is your top writing tip?
Just do it. Get stuff on paper, however bad you might think it is. Remember, if writing is rewriting - it's easier to rewrite once you've got something written down in the first place.


Matt Fitton, thank you very much.

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