Thursday, November 26, 2015

Writing Challenge – WHAT vs. Why How (not really)

WHAT will a character do is a better dramatic question than why DID they do or how will they FEEL after.

Challenge: Write a play where we don't know WHAT they will do given their options.
Bonus- NEVER AGAIN write a why or how play
Bonus- Make the climactic moment the MOST INCREDIBLE IMAGE ANYONE HAS EVER SEEN
Bonus- Involve a turkey in some way

(Author’s note: again, a lovely challenge; again, circumvented by these new characters I met two weeks ago who will not shut up, day after day.)


The morning after.

After breakfast.

JAKE and KEN, back in bed, with Ken’s laptop, sharing and reading from the screen.  The middle of the play they start reading after the soldier play.

     (as the character Byron)
I want to ask you a question.  And I need an honest answer.

     (as the character Gabby)
It's yours if I've got it.

     (as the character Byron)
Do you believe -- really believe -- in heaven?

     (as the character Gabby)
I believe -- irrationally -- without a shred of proof, but with all my heart -- that there is a place without pain.  If you want to call that heaven, then -- yes.
(after a brief pause, reading the stage directions leading into the next scene)
Emphasis shifts to another pool of light where Vincent stands at Byron’s grave.
The basketball is still there.
He kneels, staring at the headstone.
He reaches out to touch the basketball.
He rolls it up into his lap, wraps his arms around it and crouches there, rocking silently, staring at his friend's grave.
Emphasis shifts to Cian and Andrew at the movies...

KEN stops, noticing that JAKE has gotten very quiet and withdrawn.

                          KEN (cont’d)
You OK?

Sorry.  Can we stop for sec?

Sure.  Of course.
I’m kind of flattered it took the whole soldier play plus half of this one before you needed a break.
Is it the graveyard stuff?
I promise this one has a happy ending.

No, it’s fine.  I just –


Does your world ever feel small?

How so?

There are times –
Times I think if I disappeared –
No one would miss me.
You ever feel like that?


What do you do?

You feel like that right now?

No.  God no.  This is –
This has been –
I –

It’s OK.
I’m feeling pretty overwhelmed myself, to be honest.
Kind of giddy.
And incredulous.
Afraid to blink.

The feeling?
The smallness?
Before I saw the play last night, before I met up with Jasper –
This place.
This big, empty place.
Where a guy and a dog used to be waiting for me.
I’m a little afraid about how I’m gonna feel again when you leave.

And I will have to leave.
I’m in no hurry.

And I don’t just want you to stay because –

No, I get it.
It’s two different things.

What do you do?
When you start to wonder if you matter?

Well, if I were you, I’d probably look at my silver medal, and my different sponsors, and any number of videos of amazing things I’d done –

That’s bullshit, though.

You take up space in the world.
You’ve made a mark.
You cast a shadow.
People would miss you.
Even if that’s a bullshit measure, people would miss you.

People that matter.

You determine the people that matter.
Your parents, your sister, Jasper.
Even Billy and Moose.
They may have broken away from you but I’d be willing to bet there are days Moose stands by the door still waiting for you, willing you, to come home.
If he saw you again, he’d be on top of you in a second.

Dogs are easy.

Dogs still count.
Dogs hate shitty people.  They can tell.
That dog knows you matter.

I’m asking what you do.
You aren’t me.
What do you do?
When you feel like quitting?

Quitting in what sense?

In all senses.
Giving up.
Checking out.
Going to a place without pain.

Get out your phone.

That’s what you do, you get out your phone?

Yes, I’m going to show you.  Get out your phone.

                          JAKE does.

                          KEN (cont’d)
OK, this is my friend Jamie’s trick, but it always works.  Open your contacts.

                          JAKE does.

                          KEN (cont’d)
Look at those names.
All those names.
If you feel like calling “bullshit” again, maybe subtract your agent or the sponsor contacts, maybe the pizza guy, the doctors, the people you hire for things.  But even so, even after that, look at all those names.
Think of how you matter to those names.
Think of how long you’ve known them.
Think of the time you’ve shared with them.
Think of your history.
If you called them, any one of them, and got them, live, on the phone, and told them that you needed them, really needed them, they would be there.
We’re busy, but no one’s ever that busy.
Not when the stakes are that high.
But you need to be willing to ask.
You need to give them that chance they would kick themselves if they missed.
You matter.

KEN takes the phone.
Starts punching something in.


Giving it back, don’t worry.

                          KEN hands back the phone.

                          KEN (cont’d)
Look under M.

                          JAKE does.

Markus, Ken

Now you have one more.
Look, I’ll be honest, on any number of levels, you scare the fuck out of me.
This, what we’re talking about, isn’t one of them.  This is the least scary thing about you.  This is the one where I actually feel on the most solid ground, so thank you.
Against all reason, I feel like we’ve got a lot more in us than one amazing weekend, but even if this is all we get, you have changed my life, so thank you.
And don’t you dare check out on me now.
I’m not gonna tell you how to live your life, but since you asked, the closet doesn’t make this any easier, this feeling.  The closet cuts you off from people you need.  It keeps you from feeling fully connected to them.  And it’s lying, which is one more thing to feel bad about when you’ve already got enough making you feel bad.  So maybe start sharing that part of yourself with people who are not just guys you sleep with.  You don’t have to go hog wild.  Pick one.  Anyone.
It’s scary.  But you will feel lighter.  I promise.
I know you’ve got a lot riding on this, so know that I am not pushing you.
This, these four walls, me, this is safe.
If you need safe.
On some really basic level, I lie for a living.  I can handle one more.

JAKE hits a number on his phone.

Somewhere nearby, Ken’s phone rings.

KEN starts to reach for it.

JAKE stops him.

Let it go to voice mail.

                          KEN does, sits, watching JAKE.

                          JAKE gets the beep.

                          JAKE (cont’d)
It’s me.
File under G.
Gilmore, Jake.
You scare me, too.
But add me to your list.

                          JAKE hangs up.

                          JAKE (cont’d)
Now you’ve got one more, too.

My world feels kinda huge right now.  Yours?

No limits.

Get over here.

They’re not leaving the bed for a while.

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