The Towering Inferno

My entry for this week’s #whimword. Any similarities to the plot of the movie of the same name are completely coincidental and the plot summary from this wikipedia article has nothing to do with anything.

Writer Robert Douglas returns to Hay Literary Festival for the launch of his new book, The Glass Tower, published by book-magnate Duncan James. At 1380 chapters (1,800,000 words/5000 pages), it is the world’s tallest tale. Shortly after his arrival, a dramatic irony starts an undetected fire on the 1000th page. While Robert accuses the books copy-editor, Simon Rogers, of cutting corners, Simon insists the book is up to standards.

Over champagne, publicist Big Dan turns on the charm offensive. His sub-plot quickly threatens to overwhelm the main story and Robert orders it shut down. Smoke is seen on the 1000th page which Robert and illustrator Gideon Williams flick through to investigate. They fail to prevent a spoiler alert, leading to a fire flash killing Gideon.

Ill-equipped readers arrive to tackle the blaze. Workshop organiser Harry Michaels helps Robert to evacuate the characters from the pivotal scene on the 3055th page, directing him to imagine them in a lift. Publicist Millie Lisolette, who is being wooed by critic Harvey Claireborne, rushes to the 2072nd page to check on her young family. Simon admits to Duncan that he cut commas to stay under budget.

Robert imagines characters in lifts until the fire renders their reactions unbelievable. The fire traps Big Dan and his secretary/mistress Lorrie in his office on the 1650th page, killing them.

Robert rushes to rescue Millie and the family from page 2072 but they are misled by a red herring and find themselves back in the pivotal scene. With fire suppression efforts becoming ineffective, the book loses conceptual power and Harry is forced to pull out his back up exercise on ‘found poetry’.

A penultimate chapter rescue results in disaster as characters rush the helicopter, causing it to crash, setting the page ablaze. Robert writes an alternative ending allowing twelve people, including Robert’s girlfriend Susan, Millie, and the children, one trip down. An explosion leaves this sub-plot hanging by a single cable with a hundred pages left. Millie falls to her death. Harry is able to save the rest.

Simon tells Duncan that he will save himself with a spin off, but Duncan punches him. The fire reaches the pivotal scene and Simon forces his way onto the sequel, leading to a struggle. A minor character is pushed to his death by Simon, who is killed by an explosion moments later.

A Hay Official summons Duncan with a plan to explode the million-dollar cinema rights to extinguish the fire. Knowing it could result in his bankruptcy, Duncan arranges a meeting for Robert with Netflix. The series editor sets about extinguishing the flames.

On the ground, Harvey is heartbroken to learn that Millie did not survive. Harry gets him to write a short story about Millie’s pet cat. Duncan calls his father for another loan. Robert tells Susan that he does not know what will become of the novel, perhaps it should be left in its fire-damaged state as “a kind of shrine to all the bullshit in the world”.



Hypnosis script for a spoken word evening

Having recently been reminded of the necessity for any would-be writer to have an online presence and yet knowing also the difficulty of placing work elsewhere if it has previously been posted on a blog, I have decided to set in motion the Newton’s Cradle of regular blog posts by finding a handy list of topics online.

Topic One: Self Improvement/ Self Hypnosis

Hypnosis script for a spoken word evening

(which misappropriates a hypnosis script from here)

[Speak slowly and calmly to your audience]

This session will increase your ability to wander around a poem more easily. It may well be that you even find yourself able to sleep at a poetry reading, poetry readings offer a uniquely interesting place to sleep. You are sitting here listening to the sound of my voice, perhaps wondering how it is that you are going to fall asleep. As you listen to these words I would like you to focus your gaze on the blonde haired woman two rows in front of you. That’s good, in a few moments I will begin counting, when I say the number one, I would like you to close your eyes, and then on the number two, slowly open them. Continue to open and close your eyes in this way throughout the poem until your eyes feel so heavy that it would be easier and more comfortable to just let them remain closed and to listen.

Whether your eyes are closed or open I would like you to keep your focus on that blonde woman. Do not lower your gaze during the numbers on which your eyes are closed, keep your eyes fixed in position and imagine that you are still gazing at her. I will leave the reasons for this up to your imagination.


[As you progress through the numbers, begin to quieten and lower the tempo of your voice]

1. Close your eyes now, but keep them in position.
2. Now slowly open them.
3. Closing your eyes now, notice how comfortable it feels to let them rest.
4. Now slowly open them, continue to gaze at the woman.
5. Close your eyes easily and slowly while you listen to the sound of the poem.
6. You are beginning to feel yourself becoming sleepy.
7. You are beginning to feel sleepy. Breathe in. Breathe out.
8. Nice and slowly. Listen to the sound of your breathing.
9. Listen to the sound of my breathing, these well placed breaths.
10. I have been thinking a lot about my breathing recently. Our breathing is something we are told to be aware of when speaking to an audience.
11. Your eyes are becoming heavier and heavier with each number now, that’s fine.
12. Softly and slowly open them again now. The blonde woman.
13. And close them again, each time you open them it becomes more and more difficult.
14. Notice my breathing. Notice your own breathing.
15. Now try to forget your breathing and notice how difficult that is once you’ve noticed it. Did you always breathe that loudly, what rate do you normally breathe at?
16. You may find it becomes more comfortable to just keep your eyes closed now. That’s fine, just continue to imagine the blonde woman.
17. Notice the sounds around you, notice the shuffling of feet, these sounds seem like distractions but these sounds are not distractions, these sounds are background sounds.
18. These sounds are part of the poem. You are allowed to forget these sounds.
19. You will notice dangerous sounds, and respond to dangerous sounds, but all other sounds can be only background sounds, the sound of this poem is background sound.
20. You are directing your consciousness elsewhere. If there is a sound that indicates danger you will not react to that sound but sit patiently as the building burns down around you.
21. Don’t think about burning buildings. Don’t think about burning buildings. Don’t think…

[Your audience’s eyes should remain closed some time between numbers 10 and 15. Some audience members will try to resist this and continue further, simply tell them that this is not an exercise to see how long they can last, and they should allow their eyes to close when they feel comfortable doing so. If their eyes still open on number 20 tell them to close them and keep them closed on number 21. Then continue with the following]

Now that your eyes are closed, I would like you to continue listening to the sound of this poem as your mind begins to wander. In a few short stanzas you will be so completely relaxed and comfortable that it will be easy for you to fall asleep.

As you fall asleep you will still hear the poem. You are still able to think about the woman, the woman with blonde hair can still be thought about, but you do not have to think about her, as you listen to the sound of this poem you may like to imagine your thoughts floating away, as though they are tied to a hot air balloon that carries the blonde woman effortlessly into the distance.

As you begin to inhabit rather than hear the poem I wonder if you can recall how it feels to lose awareness of the words. Or perhaps, what it’s like when you are so comfortable, so snuggled and warm that you can sink right down into wordlessness. And maybe, sometimes when you listen so intently to a poem everything else seems to melt away, and as you listen to my voice now, perhaps you can imagine how it feels to be without words, allowing you to sink right down into the comfort.

That’s right. I don’t want you to lose awareness of the words… just yet. For now just enjoy the process.

I don’t know if you will fall asleep quickly, or maybe take a little longer to
really enjoy the rhythm and metre.

That’s fine. Just relax and listen to the sound of the poem. You are doing just fine.

To help you to relax I would like you to imagine that you are in an old library, filled from floor to ceiling with books. You find yourself in a safe and relaxing place, where you are free to really relax and enjoy the environment. Find a comfortable chair next to the fire to sit down in to rest, perhaps resting a book open on your knees, that’s fine.

You are safe and secure here, safe to relax completely, and no matter how deeply you sleep, the poem will go with you.