Saturday, November 17, 2018

November Writing Challenge 2018 - 16 - Outside Your Social Comfort Zone


THE SIXTEENTH CHALLENGE

It’s really fun to see the world’s that you’re all creating. Such talent!

But….

A lot of these are just like the start of barely one thing happening and then it resolves. Try to see if you can write into the NEXT thing that happens. Just one more escalation and complication. You can do it! You’ll be glad you did.

And….

Some (not all) of the dialogue I’m seeing is, um, stream of conscious stuff that seems like one mind talking to itself.
“No it isn’t!”
“Darlin’, it so is you don’t even kinda know”

Today, let’s break that. I want to urge you to break that.

CHALLENGE: Be you, but be outside your social comfort zone.

You’ve been commissioned to write for a company that is amaaazing. You’re their first commission. They picked you because of the unique way you write and the unique things they know about.
This company is ensemble focused, entirely People of Color (variations that are OUTSIDE of you) and fall everywhere on the gender and sexual spectrums. A few have English as a second language. While they want you to write ABOUT something you know really really well, they also want you to write for them as performers/humans/artists.

You’ve spent a month with them on their current project, getting to know them. Getting a feel for each individual’s unique voice. They’re truly the most amazing artists you know, an idyllic mesh of culture and perspective and sex and respect and discipline and frenzy. How do they do it? Who cares! They want you to be part of it.

You almost slept with one of them last night. Thank goodness you didn’t.

Now write the play. For them. With you. For everyone.

If it’s about gardening in Maine because that’s what you know, then that’s what it’s about--- but it’s about THEM gardening in Maine with YOU.

Avoid: White savior plays. Period.

Avoid: Writing characters all the same because all humans are really the same and any differences are just a function of the male patriarchy but really it’s just your excuse not to keep writing like the sexually repressed bland-ass coward you really are. (oh my! does he mean it? He’s been so complimentary in the past!)

Avoid: Letting your brain shut off from fear of writing in a dialect that isn’t yours.

Avoid: Letting that one asshole on Twitter limit you from expression that is inclusive.

Do: become a vessel that has noises in it that aren’t yours and let them flow through your fingers. The editor can come later, but the spirits need openness to arrive.

***********************************

(I actually started to have an idea for this one, but I didn’t fully finish it yet because I was working on another project.  Not the Cymbeline script.  It’s actually an extension/revision of a script called Spellbound that started in the 2016 challenge, and got pushed toward a full first draft during the 2017 challenge, and now, here I am a year later in the 2018 challenge giving it a major rewrite, so it’s more the play about love I was trying to write originally, and less an accidental story about date rape – society changes, your subconscious blurts things out, stuff happens – so, to set up -

MICAH has unknowingly given his good friend AUGGIE (a singer/songwriter type) a love potion concocted by their friend Jeffrey who – well, we won’t even get into his motives at the moment, they’re not germane to the scenes ahead of us.  In order to hold AUGGIE’s amorous advances at bay, MICAH has AUGGIE working on a song for him instead.  AUGGIE is composing the song and teaching it to MICAH at the same time.  But it’s also having the effect of drawing them closer – MICAH’s gay, AUGGIE’s Auggie, and they’ve always been close anyway - boundaries.  So, since without a love potion, AUGGIE is straight, and married to SARAH, who’s pregnant, MICAH has taken to asking AUGGIE to tell him stories about SARAH, thinking it’ll keep her front of mind for the two of them, and thus keep them out of trouble.  (Bonus points, SARAH’s a practicing witch who’s currently helping Jeffrey work on the antidote/counterspell to the love potion.)

Act one ended with MICAH and AUGGIE working on the song and getting perilously close, both emotionally and physically, so MICAH asks for another story about SARAH.

This, the start of act two, is that story.  A very rough earlier version of this scene was posted last year.  Then there’s a brand new connective scene which follows, and then there’s a chunk of something that used to be in act one that’s getting shifted here instead.  Puzzle pieces.

So, start of the new act two for Spellbound, not the Cymbeline thing, aka the writing I was working on yesterday instead of the challenge: )



ACT TWO

SARAH and AUGGIE stand close together.

AUGGIE has the guitar strapped over his shoulders and is holding it in front of him.  He's not playing at the moment, but he could.

                          SARAH
OK, hand it over.

                          AUGGIE
What?

                          SARAH
The guitar.

                          AUGGIE
Why?

                          SARAH
'Cause you're no longer required to entertain anyone?

                          AUGGIE
I forget it's there.

                          SARAH
It's there.  It's a part of you.  Like an extra limb.

                          AUGGIE
Yeah.

                          SARAH
It's also between us at the moment.

                          AUGGIE
Oh.  Right.

AUGGIE, almost reluctantly, disengages from the guitar.

SARAH holds out her hand for it.

                          AUGGIE (cont'd)
I can put it away.

                          SARAH
I know.

She extends her hand again.

                          SARAH (cont'd)
I want you to trust me with it.

                          AUGGIE
I'm not going to treat you like you're my roadie.

                          SARAH
I'm not looking at it like that.

                          AUGGIE
How are you looking at it?

                          SARAH
I'm looking at it like you trusting me with something very important to you.  Like you trusting me not to break it.  Because I care about it as much as you do.

                          AUGGIE
I trust you.

She extends her hand again.

He hands over the guitar.

As she speaks, she carefully places the guitar in a stand. She even secures it in the stand.

                          SARAH
I love this guitar.
This guitar, your music, brought us together.
It's like your baby.
So I'm going to treat it with the care it deserves.

SARAH turns back to AUGGIE.

AUGGIE is shifting on his feet.

She smiles.

                          SARAH (cont'd)
You feel a little naked without it, don't you?

                          AUGGIE
Don't make fun of me.

                          SARAH
I'm not.
I'm not.
It's sweet.
Thank you.

                          AUGGIE
Why is this so weird?

                          SARAH
Because we haven't had a proper date yet, not without the guitar.

                          AUGGIE
We haven't?

                          SARAH
We haven't.  I see you at a gig, or hang out while you rehearse, or write something new.  The guitar's always there.

                          AUGGIE
Between us.

                          SARAH
Figured I ought to do something.
You have that issue with all your female friends?

                          AUGGIE
Didn't think so.
But maybe that's why some of them didn't stick around.

                          SARAH
Couldn't stand the competition?

                          AUGGIE
It's not a competition.

                          SARAH
Oh, I know that.
The guitar can give you things I can't.
I can give you things the guitar can't.
We're operating in different arenas.

                          AUGGIE
I like your arena.

                          SARAH
And I like your music.  So I don't mind.
I just wondered.
Who you were.

                          AUGGIE
Without a guitar attached to me?

                          SARAH
Yup.

                          AUGGIE
So, how am I holding up so far?

                          SARAH
I like it.

                          AUGGIE
Good.
You could probably get closer now.
If you want.

                          SARAH
Oh.

She does.

                          AUGGIE
Like it?

                          SARAH
Yes, I think I do.

SARAH looks over to the guitar.

                          SARAH (cont'd)
Should we shield its eyes?

                          AUGGIE
Nah, that's OK.  That old guitar has seen a lot.

                          SARAH
Oh really?

                          AUGGIE
Really.

                          SARAH
So we should probably add something new to its memory bank.

                          AUGGIE
Gotta be careful though.  You never know what might come back out of it again later.

                          SARAH
You think I'm worth a song or two, do you?

                          AUGGIE
Right now, I can't begin to see the end of the songs I could write about you.

                          SARAH
Careful.  I'm likely to hold you to that.

                          AUGGIE
You go right ahead.

SARAH and AUGGIE hold one another.

They kiss.

The guitar sits nearby.

After they’re kissing for a moment or two, the lights shift.

AUGGIE abruptly pulls his head out of the kiss and looks over SARAH’s shoulder into another part of the dark.

MICAH appears out of the dark.

SARAH, a memory, freezes.

                          AUGGIE
That the kind of story you’re looking for?

                          MICAH
How come I’ve never heard that one before?

The lights continue shifting.

AUGGIE walks over to MICAH as he speaks.

SARAH walks off into the dark.

                          AUGGIE
Variation on a story you’ve heard a hundred times.  Sarah’s amazing, Auggie’s off-balance.

AUGGIE sits with MICAH.

                          MICAH
She’s right.  It’s sweet.  And no two stories are quite the same.  I like watching you fall in love again.  It gives me hope.

                          AUGGIE
Well, if I’d known it was gonna get me closer to you, I might have told it sooner.

                          MICAH
You don’t need to get closer to me.

                          AUGGIE
Yeah I do.

                          MICAH
I mean, we’ve always been close.

                          AUGGIE
Not this close.

                          MICAH
Well, no, but this isn’t –

                          AUGGIE
If you like watching me fall in love, why don’t you look at the face of the man sitting right next to you.

                          MICAH
Auggie –

                          AUGGIE
OK, snuggle up.

                          MICAH
What?

Before MICAH can react, AUGGIE has sidled up next to him and put his head on Micah's shoulder.

                          AUGGIE
If we’re taking a break from music, there is way too much distance between us.

MICAH is torn between moving and staying right where he is - between what he probably should do and what he really wants to do.

AUGGIE settles in, putting an arm or a hand on MICAH in a non-sexual way, but also a way where Micah would have to physically move the arm or hand to get away.

MICAH stays put.

                          AUGGIE (cont'd)
What's that look for?

                          MICAH
Nothing, really.  Just, I've never heard you say, "Snuggle up" before.  Actually, I don't think I've ever heard you call it anything before.

                          AUGGIE
Even though it's a thing.

                          MICAH
Even though it's a thing.

                          AUGGIE
Before, it just seemed weird to call it something, or, you know, to ask.

                          MICAH
So you'd just shove up against me and keep burrowing until I relented and threw an arm around you.

                          AUGGIE
Something like that.

                          MICAH
So it's OK, as long as we don't draw attention to it or give it a name.

                          AUGGIE
Kinda.  Before.

                          MICAH
And now?

                          AUGGIE
I guess we're not pretending anymore?

                          MICAH
The rules of being a guy are very complex and confusing, I'm not gonna lie.

                          AUGGIE
Been too long since we did this.

                          MICAH
We haven't really done this since -

                          They think.

                          AUGGIE
My bachelor party. 

                          MICAH
Yes.  Your wedding.  Your pregnant wife.  Let’s focus on that.

                          AUGGIE
End of the night.  Everybody else passed out drunk.  You and me -

                          MICAH
Stone cold sober.

                          AUGGIE
Wide awake and terrified.

                          MICAH
No reason to be.

                          AUGGIE
No.

                          MICAH
But everything was changing.

                          AUGGIE
Up until then -

                          MICAH
We managed to avoid admitting that to ourselves.

                          AUGGIE
And the last time before that -

                          They think.

                          MICAH
That shouldn't count, should it?

                          AUGGIE
That counts.

                          MICAH
You weren't really yourself.

                          AUGGIE
It was months.  It counts.

                          MICAH
You were a mess.

                          AUGGIE
Kristen just broke up with me.

                          MICAH
Yeah.

                          AUGGIE
I thought she was the one I'd be marrying.  Someday.

                          MICAH
'Cept you couldn't keep your dick in your pants.

                          AUGGIE
I was 22.

                          MICAH
So was she.

                          AUGGIE
Women mature faster.

                          MICAH
Men only seem to use that factoid when it's convenient for them.

                          AUGGIE
I was a dog.

                          MICAH
Yup.  And she realized that.

                          AUGGIE
I was a terrible boyfriend.

                          MICAH
Yup.

                          AUGGIE
*You* didn't give up on me.

                          MICAH
I wasn't sleeping with you, or by extension trying to avoid a venereal disease.  Or getting my heart broken.

                          AUGGIE
I was a really terrible boyfriend.

                          MICAH
Well, you paid for it.

                          AUGGIE
I still don't know why that breakup hit me so hard.

                          MICAH
Yes you do.

                          AUGGIE
Yeah.  I do.

                          MICAH
We talked about it.  Endlessly.

                          AUGGIE
Hey.

                          MICAH
Just kept going round and round the same conclusion.

                          AUGGIE
Was I boring you?

                          MICAH
No.  You were in pain.  You weren't terribly original, but you were in pain.  You knew what you did.  It just took a while to sink in.  I didn't mind spending time with you.

                          AUGGIE
Like this.

                          MICAH
Yeah.  Like this.

They settle in.

                          AUGGIE
Oh God.

                          MICAH
What?

                          AUGGIE
I was taking advantage of you.

                          MICAH
What?  No.

                          AUGGIE
I was.

                          MICAH
Didn't hear me complaining, did you?

                          AUGGIE
I needed to be held, and you held me.

                          MICAH
Hey, you let me cry on your shoulder, quite literally, more times than I can count.

                          AUGGIE
But this.  That time -

                          MICAH
If there'd been a blow job or a hand job involved, maybe.
But snuggling? 

                          AUGGIE
Wait?  Was the prospect of a hand job or blow job on the table and I missed it?

MICAH swats AUGGIE.

                          MICAH
I didn't feel like you were taking advantage of me, no.

                          AUGGIE
But you wanted more.

                          MICAH
See, if straight guys were less uptight about this, we'd probably all be better off.
As it is, it needs to be some gay/straight combo platter where someone has to be totally fine with it, and the other guy just has to relax for a minute and let the walls down.

                          AUGGIE
Have I been holding you back?

                          MICAH
No.

                          AUGGIE
Really?

                          MICAH
My social life has always been weird.

                          AUGGIE
Sending out the wrong pheromones.

                          MICAH
Straight guys like you gravitate toward me.

                          AUGGIE
Hey, there are no straight guys like me.

                          MICAH
You are an original, yes.  But you're a type.

                          AUGGIE
Your type?

                          MICAH
Straight guys are all the intimacy, none of the sex.
Gay guys are all sex, no intimacy.

                          AUGGIE
You just need to meet a better class of gay guy.

                          MICAH
You ain't kiddin'.

                          AUGGIE
I was taking advantage of you.

                          MICAH
I was fine.  You got better.  It was OK.
And you're not taking advantage of me now.

                          AUGGIE
No.

AUGGIE kisses MICAH's shoulder, or hand.

                          MICAH
Auggie?

                          AUGGIE
Yeah?

                          MICAH
I think you need to tell another story about Sarah.

                          AUGGIE
No more stories.

                          MICAH
Then let’s work on the song.



(to be continued)