I worked at NeXT the summer of 94. I was in the break room with 2 colleagues when Steve Jobs walked in and started making a bagel. We were sitting at a table eating ours when he out of the blue asked us “Who is the most powerful person in the world?” I said Mandela since I had just been there as an international observer for the elections. In his confident fashion he stated “NO!…you are all wrong…the most powerful person in the world is the story teller.” At this point I was thinking to myself “Steve, I love you but there is a fine line between genius and loco..and I think I am witnessing this right now”. Steve continued, “The storyteller sets the vision, values and agenda of an entire generation that is to come and Disney has a monopoly on the storyteller business. You know what? I am tired of that bullshit, I am going to be the next storyteller” and he walked out with his bagel.
Which is easier to write? Story or a screenplay? I’m not talking about the formatting and differences, just the creative freedom allowed. Seems to me screenplays have a lot more leeway in PoVs and jumping from scene to scene to skip the boring bits. Also, leeway in narration – How loosely should a writer break from the character PoV to insert his presence into the narration, perhaps just to explain certain things or make quick quip.
Lemme know what you think of the intro I’ve written below.
- 3 scene, breaks represented by a space (no transition, just break and start again somewhere else)
- One sudden change in PoV from intro character to main guy. I plan to play between the 2 PoVs later on.
- Random dialogue from sub-characters.
- Random insertions from a narration stand-point.
Too messy? If you don’t notice of the above, that means I’m doing something right. Cheers.
Jake throws Dom’s cape into the air as he leaps onto the stage in a bloom of velvet red and black. With the spotlight shining on him, he gives a wide smile, waving to the silent crowd.
“Boooo, bring back the girls!”
Twirling his wand, Dom turns to face the heckler. “Trouble with men nowadays, they just don’t know how to treat a lady!” Dom lashes out with his wand, sending bouquets of flowers shooting over the audience towards the heckler, drawing grunts of surprised laughter.
“Tough crowd tonight,” Dom grins. Furling his cape, he flings it open with aplomb, sending a shower of poker cards flying through the air. “One… Two… Three.” He grabs at the cards fluttering down. “Four… Five!” With a flourish, he spreads out the cards in his hand, showing the royal flush of hearts.
The crowd starts to murmur, showing their approval with polite applause. From his position, Jake can see the men at the bar beginning to sit up.
“For my final warm up…” Dom runs, jumping off the stage and hooking onto the nearest stripper pole. Dancing a little jig around the pole, he waits for the spotlight to catchup before he spins around, drawing wild catcalls and howls from the crowd. With the audience riled up, Dom pulls his jacket open and thrusts his chest out. Laughter turns to open astonishment as five white doves flies out from his body, flying across the club.
The club remained silent for a split second, before breaking out in thunderous applause. Beside Jake, a dozen girls have squeezed up the stairs to witness the spectacular act.
“Oh wow, how did he do that?” the girl closest to him asks.
Jake grins. “Lady, you ain’t seen nothing yet.”
Dom returns to the stage. “For my first act…”
Jake reaches into the chest. He digs out the special torches, and lights them up with a flick of the switch.
“I give you… fire!”
Jake runs out across the stage, dragging the torches on the ground. The special cool burning spirit inside them spills onto the floor, leaving behind a trail of blue flame in his wake.
To the oohs and ahhs of the crowd, Jake crouches low and spins around, surrounding himself in a circle of flame. Rising up, he deftly juggles the torches before throwing one at Dom.
“Believe!” Dom catches the torch and flips it around, dousing the flame in his mouth.
Jake throws the other one at Dom before running backstage, grabbing two more torches. One of them, unlike the first two, burned with real fire.
“Volunteers?” Dom shouts from the stage. “Who wants to play with fire?” Hands go up across the stage while Jake lights up the rags at the end of the torches. “You sir!” Dom points at the heckler. “Why don’t you come up here and show the ladies a thing or two about magic.”
Goaded by the crowd, the man reluctantly obliges, stumbling onto the stage in a half-drunk state.
“What’s your name?”
“Ladies and Gentlemen, please give a big round of applause to Milly!” Dom says, throwing one of the feathered boas on the floor around the man’s neck.
Ba Dum Tsss! The drummer plays, while the crowd roars with laughter.
Jake dances around the man. “Ladies and Gent…whoops!” Jake fumbles with the torch, swishing the flaming end past the man’s ear.
“Jesus!” The man squeaks, scampering to the side.
“Wrong club pal, Jesus’s is dancing over on Cloud Nine.”
Ba Dum Tsss! The audience is loving this.
Dom grins, feeding off the crowd’s energy as Jake hands him the fake torch. “Milly, the secret to magic…” Dom says, walking up to the man, “Is that you gotta believe.”
Jake smiles, he loves how Dom says that.
“Here, lemme show you.” Dom pushes the flame in front of Billy.
“Get away from me!” Billy runs, disappearing off the stage.
Dom laughs, “Sometimes, you just got to believe folks.” With a drumroll in the background, Dom lifts the torch to his face.”And tonight, I will make you believe. In magic.” Taking a deep breath, he blows hard into the flame.
The audience gasps audibly as a spectacular display of blue flames shoot forth from the torch and dances over their heads. Like a dragon, Dom waves his head left to right. producing a fiery display that sweeps through the air.
The crowd goes wild. Jake tries to shout above the noise, “Ladies and Gentlemen, give it up for Mago the Magnificent!”
Dom swallows the flame, ending his performance. Taking a bow, he moves to stand beside Jake.
“Skip the hoops. Bring out the saw.”
– I am having a lot of fun writing this, didn’t know writing about magic can be so relaxing.
– Left myself plenty of loose ends in this intro, along with the rabbit in part 1, to play around with the story. Will remove the bits I choose not to follow up on next time.
– Last post of the week. Cheerio.
“Hurry up boy, we’re late for the show!”
“I’m coming,” Jake pants, trying his best to keep up. Behind him, he drags along the heavy wooden chest, filled with the wondrous gadgets that are the tools of Señor Dom’s trade.
The Señor looks at him and sighs, shaking his head impatiently. “This way.” He pats his face dry with a handkerchief, turning into the alleyway leading to the club.
Jake grunts. Covered in sweat, the brown-haired boy with the disheveled locks mops his brows. Aside from the trunk, he is also carrying the Senor’s cape, wand, and top hat in his other hand.
A rabbit sticks its head out of the hat. “I’m hungry, when do we eat?” Timmy puffs his cheeks the way rabbits do when they speak. He looks expectantly at Jake, wiggling his paws as he begs for a treat.
“Not now Timmy! After the show.” He pulls up to the alley just as the Señor stops at a faded blue door, squinting at the sign.
“Ah, this is the place.”
Jake looks up. The Tigress. He breathes a sigh of relief and pulls the trunk to the door, letting it fall with a loud thud.
“Careful with that!”
“Sorry,” Jake mumbles, rubbing his sore arms.
Jake pushes the rabbit back into the top hat, handing it back to the magician. “Rabbit’s whining again.”
He can wait.” the Señor says, glaring into the hat before flipping it onto his head, He smoothens his threadbare tuxedo and straightens his bow tie. “How do I look?” He asks, facing Jake.
Jake pulls at his own faded dress shirt trying to air himself dry. Summer time in Miami is hardly the season to be walking around in this get up. He shrugs. “Like a eighties magician.”
“Coming from you, that’s a compliment.”
Jake smirks and helps the man on his with his cape and hands him his wand. “You know, if you’ll let me find you some new threads…”
“For the last time, stop comparing me to those Hollywood magicians.”
A latch on the door slides opens, revealing a pair of intense eyes. “Yea? You the magic guy?”
“That’s right.” Dom says with a flourish. “Mago the magnifi…!”
“Whatever. You’re late.” The man slams the latch shut.
Jake suppresses a snigger. Behind the door, He can hear the sound of keys jingling as a burly man in a suit opens up. He has a bald tattooed scalp.
“You’re on in five. Sign in with Dorothy first.” The man indicates with his thumb. “The one in the green feathers.”
The señor smiles, trying to be polite. “Err…Dressing room?”
“Mirrors in the bathroom. Come on, we’re behind schedule!” He pushes Dom unceremoniously through the door before looking down at Jake. “Whoa, this is a men’s club, why you bring a kid here for.”
“He’s my assistant.” Dom says, signaling for Jake to bring the trunk in.
“No can do old man. The boss will have my ass for this if he finds out.”
“But he’s part of my act.” Dom protests. “I need him.”
Jake tunes out of the argument as a pair of dancers walk pass the door, flaunting their bits. One of the girls looks over at him and gives him a teasing wave. With his mouth hanging open, he waves back.
“Come on, he’s older than he looks.”
The tattooed man narrows his eyes. “Alright, but if I can catch him trying to get into the booze or the ladies…”
“He won’t” Dom slaps Jake hard across the head, pulling him out of his stupor. “Get the stuff!”
Master and apprentice settles into the bustling room as a dozen dancers in nothing but pink feather boas run pass, climbing up the stairs leading to the stage.
“Zoobies on stage. Mago, you ready?” A lady draped in green feathers and the face paint shouts, looking around.
“Here!” Dom says, raising his hand and waving at Dorothy.
“We’ll be making some changes to your act.” The green lady says, referring to her board. “No big deal, just some dancers to spice things up.”
Dom shrugs, turning to face Jake. “You ready kid?”
Jake is looking all around him, a wide grin splitting his face. “Yea, sure, whatever you say… ow!
Dom slaps Jake on the head again. “Cape.”
Jake ties the cape around the magician’s neck, taking extra care to make sure the props are tucked properly in their sleeves. Satisfied, he hands Dom the wand.
“Checked the batteries?” Dom says, making his final adjustments.
Dom snaps the hidden lever on his wand as a bouquet of plastic blooms burst forth from the tip of the wand, drawing applause from a few dancers relaxing nearby.
Jake smiles at them. “So we’ll start with fire, go into hoops, levitate the table, make yourself disappear, and end with the rabbit?”
Dom shrugs. “Management wants me to pull the stops, thought we might wanna jazz it up a bit to get some extra tips.”
“So skip the table, and bring out the saw… got it.”
Dom looks proudly at the boy, putting a hand over his shoulder. “Soon Jake. You’re almost ready to be a magician.”
“About time,” Jake says with a chuckle “Maybe then, mama don’t need to work no more.”
“Perhaps.” Dom says, smiling.
“Mago the Magnificent!” Dorothy shouts, “You’re on!
“That’s us.” Jake says, helping Dom to make some final adjustments. “Let’s kill this crowd tonight.” He drags the chest up the stairs and places it just off-stage, before unlocking it with the key around his neck.
A quiet applause signals the end of the last act as The Zoobies run off stage. One of the girls comes up behind Jake and gives him a kiss on the cheek. “Good luck!”
Jake turns to see the girl who had walked pass him at the door. He smiles at her. “Maybe we can hook up sometime,” he says, blushing at his own boldness.
“Maybe.” The girl giggles, running off to join her friends.
Dom comes up the stairs in time to see a flustered Jake smiling after the girl. “Keep your hands off the merchandise kid. Barrett will kill you if you touch any of them.”
Jake laughs. “You’re just jealous.” he says, watching as the announcers walks back out onto the stage,
“Here we go kid, big smile.”
“Gentlemen of the Tigress. For one night only, I give you your next act. Magoooo… the magnificent!”
– Was thinking of writing a piece about magic ever since watching Oz.
– Trying to tow the line between fantastical and possible here, like Oz
– Gonna try going for a very simple theme here, something like the Old Man & The Sea.
– Still too many as, when and whiles. Not sure if that is better or just quick full stops and short sentences.
The glare from the setting sun cuts through the window, bathing the clutter in the office in a warm orangey hue. Remly, lost in his thoughts, looks up from his desk. Time. He straightens his shirt in the mirror and walks out into the hallway.
Passing by the grimy sign hanging on the wall, Remly dances his fingers across the tarnished bronze, feeling the shallow grooves of the letters beneath his touch. In faded text, the legacy of this agency lays etched. James & Manson – Private Detectives.
Walking into the room beside, Remly spies Albus brooding at his desk, the bald patch on his head turned towards the door. Whether Albus notices the younger man coming in or not, Remly cannot tell. Waiting patiently, he admires the evening sky, watching it cool into a navy blue.
As the light fades, Albus stirs from his stupor, wiping the streaks off his face with rugged hands.
“Well kid, this is it.”
Remly looks down at the floor, kicking at the imaginary dirt as Albus pulls his coat on, eyes transfixed on the sky.
“Never thought this day would come you know. Been here for over forty years.”
Remly smiles, “Forty-one to be exact. Twenty-eight with dad, thirteen with me.”
Albus turns and grins, wrinkling his eyes. “Forty-one years with the best damn partners a man could have wished for.”
“You can always visit,” Remly says, walking towards the desk. Albus produces a bottle and two glasses from his drawer and pours out the drink, handing one to Remly.
“Ain’t gonna be the same kid. It’ll just be me yapping and taking up your time. You gonna spruce up the place?”
“Maybe.” Remly says, looking down into his glass.
“Well, at least the old girl’s in safe hands.” Albus sighs, running a hand across his mahogany desk. “Been with me since day one you know. A present from the boys down at the station.”
“Still keep in touch?”
Albus eyes glaze. He shrugs, stretching out to make a toast. “James & Manson is all yours now Remly. Remember, if you ever need anything…”
“You’ll be the first to know.”
“Good.” Albus says, blinking back his tears. “We’re proud of you, you know that?”
Remly grins, “Too bad pride doesn’t pay the bills.” He downs the smoky-brown fire in a single gulp and grimaces. “…where you get this stuff?”
“It’s been sitting around.”
“For what, a decade?”
Albus smirks, downing his own with a satisfied smile. “Strong stuff. Bet your old man would have appreciated it though. Now that’s a man who knows his whiskey.”
“Enough to die from it.”
The moment lapses into silence.
“Well,” Albus coughs, putting on his hat. “Guess I better get going. Me and Margery have a plane to catch, and I haven’t packed.”
“Oh, where are you taking her?” Remly asks, in a friendlier tone.
“Hawaii!” Albus beams, years falling off his face. “Just me and the Mrs on the beach.”
Remly grins, “Send me a postcard then. Haven’t had a chance to see paradise myself.”
Albus breaks into a hearty laugh and shakes his head. “You ain’t gonna find paradise out there Remly. You gotta find it in here.”
Remly gives a weak smile as Albus taps a finger over his chest. “Sure you don’t want me to call you a cab?”
“Save it kid. Buy yourself a nice dinner tonight. God knows you’re gonna need it.”
Remly gives an appreciative smile. “Thank you Albus.”
“You too junior.”
The two men share a quiet hug.
Albus shields his eyes. With a final pat on Remly’s back, he breaks away, walking out the front door of his office for the very last time.
Glancing after the retreating back of Albus, Remly sheds a tears, forcing himself back into the real world. His partner might be gone now, but life goes on. It always does. Bills still need to be paid, and clients need to be informed. Looking around the musty old office, Remly worries about making the rent this month.
For years, James & Manson has languished, surviving on scraps thrown their way by their limited client list. Debt collectors, job agencies, and anyone else who needs the low down on the dirt, they call Albus. The work might not be flashy, but it puts food on the table.
Dragging Albus’s rolodex across the table, Remly fingers through the yellowing cards. Now that both founding members of the agency are gone, Remly needs to find out which of the regulars will be sticking around. Picking a card out at random, he makes the call.
“Wachowski! Long time no hear from ya. How’s the bailor business?”
A gruff voice on the other end answers. “Ain’t got nothing for you Manson, better luck next time.” He hangs up.
Remly picks out another card. “Milo? Remly here, James & Manson. Naww, just calling to check if…” Same answer. Stung by the rejections, Remly pulls out three more cards from the pile.
Two of them shoots him down immediately. Last one.
“Words on the street that you’re flying solo now Remly. The boss ain’t too thrilled about that, says you lack experience.”
“Krippie, come on. We’ve been working together since I was a kid! You know my dad.”
“I like you Remly. Sorry.”
Five strikes in a row. Remly’s psyche is shot. He slams the receiver down and makes a grab for the bottle, pouring himself a double. He fumes, chugging down the whiskey and feeling the fire burn down his throat. “To you dad,” he croaks, raising his glass. “And to so-called friends.”
The warmth spreading inside of Remly makes him feel good. It helps him to relax. He pours another double and gulps it with gusto. Just one more. By the time Remly stops, half the bottle is gone.
“Sorry dear, won’t happen again,” Remly slurs, chuckling as he mimics his father. Leaving the mess on the table, he stumbles out of the office, ready to call it a night. He promises himself to call again tomorrow, though the prospect of being rejected again weighs heavily on him.
But tomorrow can worry about itself. Tonight, Remly has his mind set on steak. At least the thought of one anyways, as he looks into his wallet. Sighing at his sad state of affairs, he wonders how Albus managed to save up enough for Hawaii.
Grabbing his coat and hat from the other room, Remly shuffles out the front door, making doubly sure to lock up everything behind. Without Albus to look over his shoulders now, Remly feels the need to be extra careful. Fumbling with his keys, Remly lets out a smile. Barely an hour, and already he misses the old man.
He gives the door a swift jerk, hearing the lock falling into place. Someday, when finances allow, he will replace this damned door, and the grimy sign out front. Better yet, he might just move out, eave the ghosts behind and make a fresh start. Smiling at the thought, he makes his way down the hallways, whistling to himself a nameless tune.
The elevator shaft is a distance away, across to the other side of the building. Why this is so, Remly never asked. But it does mean his rent is cheaper. Being far removed from nosy neighbors and prying eyes only sweetens the deal.
The fact remains though, Remly will be out on the streets if business continues to slide. He thinks about letting out one of the offices as a temporary measure, but that would mean having to share the signage space out front. After forty-one years, Remly is not ready for that. Not yet.
What James & Manson really needs is a new gig. A big fat client to move the agency out of its doldrums and into a new life. And Remly wants it now. Taking his cigarettes out from his coat pocket, he lights one up as he rounds the corner, distracted by his problems.
Remly looks up just in time. He skips a step and turns aside, narrowly avoiding a collision. The figure appearing around the corner turns and glares at him, muttering his discontent.
“Pardon me,” Remly says, breaking away from his thoughts to offer an apology. But the elderly gentlemen in the white suit ignores him, hobbling away on his walking stick. Instinctively, Remly’s investigative senses come alive. Trimmed beard, studded ivory cane, a spot of the latest Eau de Cologne. Remly smells money.
Intrigued, he moves into the shadows along the walls, taking another drag on his cigarette. He eyes the old man hobbling from unit to unit, scrutinizing the names and signboards.
“You looking for something?”
The old man turns around, searching for the voice.
“Would be easier for you to just ask.”
Spotting Remly in the dark, the man replies in a thick English accent. “This is none of your business young man.”
Remly blinks, keeping his cool. “You’re trespassing on private property here, so I suggest you remember your manners.”
The man straightens his back and stares defiantly, “And who might you be?”
“A nobody.” Remly grins. “But at least I pay the rent. So who are you looking for.”
The man eyes Remly suspiciously, “The only reason I’m having trouble is because this blasted building doesn’t seem to have a directory. Do you know when I might find the offices of James & Manson?”
Remly perks ups. He takes one last puff from his cigarette and throws it to the floor, stubbing it out with his boot. “Depends on why you want to find them?”
“That is my private business.”
Remly walks up to the man and extends a hand. “You found him. Remly Manson at your service, what can I do for ya?”
The man steps back. “May I see some identification?”
Reaching into this coat pocket, Remly pulls out a card. “If you’re hoping for a badge…”
The old man squints at the card. “This will do Mr Manson. But I’m actually looking for a Mr Albus James.”
Remly’s enthusiasm wanes. “Albus is gone for the day, if there’s anything I’ll be more than happy to…”
“Thank you, but no,” the old man says, raising a hand to decline. “I’ll like to speak to Albus in private, it’s… well its a matter of utmost confidentiality. Is there anyway I can reach him?”
Think fast Remly. “I can assure you sir, that as a partner of James & Manson, I am just as capable in handling your request, Mr…”
“White, Sullivan White.” The man says, tipping his hat with his cane.
“Mr White.” Remly nods in acknowledgement. “Now, me and Albus have been working together for a very long time, and there’s not a thing in this world we don’t trust each other with. Don’t let this youthful mug fool ya now,” Remly says, forcing a laugh.
The man glances down at the card and back at him. “You’re the Manson?”
“Presently so,” Remly answers, tipping his own hat in response. “Now why don’t we go to the office so that we may discuss this in private.”
Mr White bites his lips. “Perhaps when Mr Albus is available…”
Remly’s heart skips a beat. He weighs the costs in his head, and goes in for broke. “You win Mr White, I’m going to send for Mr Albus right now.”
Surpised, the features on the old man’s face begins to soften. “If it’s not too much trouble.”
“But while we’re waiting, why don’t you join me for dinner and some wine. There’s a nice little restaurant just across the street.”
– This is a repost from a story intro I uploaded earlier in the week.
– Trying out a more economical form of writing. Basic stuff like:
- Cutting out dialogue cues
- Single-word verb approach for action
- Less “Ands” “As” and cluttered link words. Using more periods and commas.
- Letting things go unsaid, unexplained. Particularly in the narrative. This forces the dialogue to come to the front.
- Playing with bigger chunks of dialogue. Only breaks in the sequence should only be actions, not narrative explanations, which I tend to do.
- Essentially, after trimming all the fat, I cut a 3000 word intro to a 2000 word one and made it sound better.
- I think I’ll like to explore this style of writing more, but its tedious.
- The game of subtext – Two big chunks here. Instead of just words, I tried to put some hidden meaning and agenda and leaving it unexplained. Seems to work.
- Any jarring parts? Any parts that just seem to jump?
- Some parts might need to be slowed down. but I’ll cut down first and pad it up later with content instead of word.
Initial Write Ups
Throughout my young writing life, I’ve always been searching for a method to the madness, a system of sorts. Then someone comes along and reminds me what I’m doing all this for. Amazingly, it’s a college professor giving advice unlike any of my own professors! I need to wrap my mind around this now.
Kudos to someone who teaches not for the sake of knowledge itself, but to inspire.
Celebrated novelist & memoirist discusses how he became an artist.
In the beginner’s mind there are many possibilities; in the expert’s mind there are few. . . . This is also the real secret of the arts: always be a beginner. Be very very careful about this point.— Suzuki Roshi, Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind
I’m trying to learn from Lee Martin whenever and however I can, as a writer and teacher. I haven’t yet made it to his celebrated fiction—one of his novels was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize—but I’ve read just about all of his nonfiction. His recent collection of linked memoir essays, Such a Life, is on my creative nonfiction favorites page, but it’s also on my private list of touchstone artistic works. Yes, it’s that good.
Such a Life is my personal textbook on how to write stand-alone memoir and personal essays. That’s how I’ve…
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