Skip to main content

To Be Me

James Hemlock could not see the world through normal eyes. Everything to him was seen through the lens of a stage drama. When entering a grocery store, his head would tell him that he must enter through the doors stage right, find his vegetables with conviction and exit stage left. Any exchanges he had with the grocers or the checkers or the bagboys was instantly translated into a page of script in his head.

Bearing in mind that he would always appear much more eloquent in his head than in reality, a typical scene in a grocery store would look like this:

The curtain rises.

A grocery store.

Enter HEMLOCK, a successful stage actor and teacher, to buy his weekly allotment of food. He is dashing and walks with a disarming swagger. He’s blonde with a red beard and penetrating gray eyes.

After making his vegetable selections, he moves upstage to speak with the CHECK-OUT GIRL.

Hemlock: ‘Tis a wonderously beautiful day for shopping? ‘Tisn’t it?

Checker: ‘Tis Master Hemlock. ‘Tis.

Hemlock: ‘Tis indeed. And how have you been, Madame Grocer?

Checker: Better times have I seen, good sir, to be sure. If you could spare a farthing, life’s dull ache might be relieved for the price of booze to fill my gullet.

Hemlock: Indeed, poor girl…

Hemlock reaches into his wallet and hands the starving wino of a check-out girl a ten dollar bill.

Checker: Oh, but kind sir, your kindness is too much. I could not consent to a gift as much as this…

Hemlock. Never fear, poor girl. I’ve more where that came from. So, take it and I bid you good day. I shall return for more sweet-meats and greens as soon as my supplies have run dry.

Hemlock exits stage left.

Curtain closes.

This is just how he saw things. Sadly, he was neither rich nor a terribly talented actor. To be honest, he’d never even spoken to the check out girls, although there were times he wanted to. The only place he was comfortable was on stage and in his classroom.

Most of the time, the two were the same. James Hemlock was a high school drama teacher.

Those who can’t do, teach.

The rest if this short story can be read in the book God Bless You, Mr. Vonnegut. It is available digitally and in print.
Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

Anatomy of an Opening: The End of the Affair

Instead of breaking down a scene from a movie, this time we'll break down the opening of a book. (Previously, I've done scenes from City Lights, Citizen Kane, Raiders of the Lost Ark, and Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.  I've also broken down the opening to Starship Troopers.

Graham Greene's The End of the Affair is absolutely one of my favorite books. The writing is lyrical and story heart-wrenching and beautiful. Greene's style of writing is such that he always has me gripped, whether it's the beginning of the book or the end. And he shows you so much about the character in his opening lines.

So, here are the first two paragraphs from the book:
A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which, to look ahead. I say 'one chooses' with the inaccurate pride of a professional writer who - when he has been seriously noted at all - has been praised for his technical ability, but d…

50+ Rules and Tips About Writing I've Collected Over the Years

I have twenty or thirty notebooks and journals filled up with snippets about writing, my plans for stories, bits of dialogue, interesting ideas, plotlines, scraps of short stories, and a dozen other things. I carry one with me at all times and it takes me a couple of months to fill one up.

One of the things I've kept in one of my notebooks was a collection of writing tips and rules that I've collected over the years in my travels. From teachers, from books, from wherever. Most of my career has been spent screenwriting, so a lot of these are most applicable to that, but I wanted to present them so they might be of use to you as well.

I've never stopped collecting these over the years and I never will.

To start the list are Kurt Vonnegut's eight rules of writing. They are the first in my notebook and, I think, the most useful. I'll add a star to those I think are applicable most to screenwriting. Some of these aren't applicable to everyone in every situation, but…

World Building Without Bogging Down Your Novel

I was asked to talk today about how you build a world without bogging down your novel. And it's something you see all too much of, not just in the work of those working toward becoming professionals, but in professionally published manuscripts as well.

Part of the problem is that writers become so in love with their world that they hit you with as much of it as they can right from the beginning. There are dumps and dumps of exposition that are supposed to paint a vibrant world, but too many colors of paint hit the canvas and instead of a beautiful sunset and a happy little tree, you're looking at a big smudge of brown where too many colors mixed.

That's not to say you can't get away with some florid description. Sometimes, my favorite passages in books are descriptions of the world that leave my breath taken.

But you don't need all of it in your book.

The question you need to ask yourself is this: does it add to the story?

If you're creating a fantasy or a sci…