Friday, June 14, 2013

"I love it when a plan comes together."

It's Friday.  All of my kids are done with school with for the summer, the massive storm that was supposed to flatten DC didn't happen (sorry Marvel fans), and today's original writing is a complete scene in feature script format.

I've been reading a lot lately about the importance of pre-writing and planning.  After yesterday's post, I sketched out this story as a straight up "flash fiction" piece and had to laugh at myself.  I kept struggling with tenses.  Screenplays use the present tense for everything (except certain lines of dialogue) and most fiction is written in the past tense.  The 300 words I spewed out were all over the time-space continuum.

What I found, however, was that having written that yesterday, and reflecting on it this morning prior to boarding the train, I was able to write the entire scene straight through without having to stop and think about what was going to happen.  I already knew the characters and the start/finish lines.  It freed me up to edit and tweak the dialogue and action once it was finished.

Those suggestions about pre-writing?  Good advice.  I encourage you to take the time to plan your ideas.  They don’t stifle creativity if you understand planning is about picking a place to start and end with an idea of what you want to cover along the way.  Be willing to veer off the path when it seems like a good idea, if you get lost it won’t matter because… you’ve got a map.

The experts say that a well-crafted scene is like a microcosm of the film itself, with a dramatic arc, conflict, and change for the characters involved.  Have I accomplished that?  You be the judge – I present the super-short one scene film, “Desserted”.

By Jon Stark
June 14, 2013

Linen table clothes, real knives, and waiters that bring you water without being asked.  The business lunch herd heading back to work.
A thirty something couple lingers with coffee and smiles.  We meet KEVIN, rolex and rumpled.  LYDIA in black dress and careful make-up.
You know you want some, just get it.
She looks up from the dessert menu.  Locks on his smile.
It's why we come here.
I don't think I do.
Then why do you keep looking at it?
Because right now I want it.
It's later I won't.
You're a nut.
She draws back.
I'm serious.  Right now it looks delicious and if I get it I'll probably enjoy every moment, but I know that I don't really want it.  When I'm done I'll...
He leans in, reaches for her hand.  She pulls it away, but holds his gaze.
So now you're saying you don't like cheese cake?
You don't get it.  When we came here it was all I could think about... but right now, even looking at it, even wanting it, I know that I'll regret it the next time I put my dress on.
He stifles a chuckle.  Then, comprehension, arriving fashionably late.
Her eyes are full - of color, of tears, of him.
(very quietly)
Every time I look in the mirror I ask myself why I keep coming back here.
He turns away, looking at anything but her.  The waiter reengages, misreading his helpless face.
Are we interested in anything else this afternoon?  Perhaps the chocolate cherry cheese cake?
Kevin stares at her hopefully.  She looks down, following the path of her tears.
No.  It looks like we're finished here.

The End


  1. Since this is the first screenplay I've ever read, I don't feel qualified to comment intelligently. So I guess I'll go ahead and comment unintelligently. Am I looking for a deeper meaning? For example, is this irony about our ambivalent feelings about food and dieting, etc. Or is this exchange a symbol of the end of their relationship? Or am I sounding like an English teacher?

    Thanks for the intro into this type of literature; I enjoyed reading it.

    1. The challenge with writing short pieces is that they must be self contained. You have to establish the entire context in a brief period. This scene is supposed to be a break-up. I suspect that if this came at point where we already knew they were having problems that would be obvious, but with no other information, I haven't communicated clearly enough. And it isn't just you. :) Nobody seems to have gotten it.

      The good news it that it leaves me with plenty of room for improvement and a critique that I can use.

    2. I'm sure it's not that you haven't communicated. I thought after I pushed "publish" that perhaps the context would make it obvious, and I'm sure it would. It's like any other literature, I imagine, including the Bible. One short passage or verse must be considered in context.

      Keep writing!