Exercise #5

We were asked to write a scene with specific details that would apply later on. Chekov’s gun: If you have a gun on the stage, it has to go off at some point. And the character must want something and have a weakness preventing them from acquiring it.


“Rich Sameuls, what’s a multi-millionaire doing in a warehouse with wanted felons?”

My eyes opened. Grimy floors and a ratty armchair made me want to get up. My hands tied with abrasive hemp rope kept me where I was. The smell of gasoline hit my nose and gave me a headache. My clothes were soaked through.

“Hey, Richie boy.”

I looked up, feeling weak. They must’ve heard about my recent influx of cash.

A man stood there in front of a limousine, the cigar in his mouth smelling sour and a suit too big for him — a little man trying to play it big. I needed a laugh, but a cigarette more.

“We put some bacteria under your skin. Hey, get the Doc.”

A reedy man in a lab coat was brought over at gunpoint. What a pitiful man. “You have 24 hours to live without treatment, maybe less. I beg you, give them what they want.”

“Account number, Rich.”

The money wasn’t mine to begin with. It was a dead friend’s, money owed to the Russian mafioso. Getting on their bad side meant death. “I’d settle for a cigarette. Don’t need your pesky antidote.”

“Fine, a cigarette and we leave you to the virus. Or your account number and treatment for your little problem. I have an ambulance waiting outside.”

“Can’t I have both?” I couldn’t give them the account number if I wanted to live. Nor go on living without that antidote. So many problems to deal with.  

“Get your mind onto something, Rich.” They walked into an office behind the limousine, leaving me tied to the chair — amateurs.

I pulled at the sandpapery ropes tying my hands. There was wiggle room, just enough to squeeze my hands through. A guy needed to relax before a cigarette could do any good. Anger killed the mood. If I was going to go, I’d be happy. I broke the wooden handle off the chair and broke a window on the limo with it. Working quick, I opened the trunk.

Mr. Cigar and Mr. Gun came running out.

I pulled the guns from the trunk and peppered the air with lead. Bullets flew back and forth, making a hell of a racket.

Mr. Cigar swung open a door leading outside and pulled Mr. Gun through behind him — cowards.

I ran out there with the biggest guns I could find.

My kidnappers were holed up in the ambulance. There was nothing else around for miles in the blown sand.

My leg was on fire from the bacteria eating into me.

“Last chance Rich, the antidote to your ills or death.”

“Know what I want?”

“Yeah?”

“I want a cigarette!”

I put the grenade launcher to my shoulder and fired.

An explosion filled the darkening sky.

Brushing the gasoline from my hands and face with sand, I pulled a cigarette from my pocket and lit up. With my leg killing me, I got in their limousine with the Doc riding shotgun. The driving wasn’t hard until I was crying out in pain. Turns out, I didn’t have a day.

GK

Exercise #4

We were asked to write a story less than 300 words including words from a list. The protagonist should want something and have a weakness stopping them from getting what they want.


What did it cost for a meal? Some would say a buck twenty-five, but you needed a restaurant, a place with appliances to cash that buck twenty-five. That shouldn’t have been all that hard with a forward thinking brain, which I lacked. Being in the middle of the desert did me no good aboard a car running on gasoline fumes. I hiked through the desert heat, tipping water into my mouth. The memory of water on my lips was all I had now. I schlepped through the desert heat. The heat was a tiger on my back, scratching with its claws of UV rays and sapping the life by eating away at me. A car pulled up alongside — how the angels smiled on me. A hand full of rings waved me to the door of my salvation, except her body seized and her eyes went blank.

I pushed the opposing lock free and got into her Cadillac. I searched for her pulse, and just my luck, she wasn’t pretending — she was dead. I pushed her into the neighboring seat, and I had to drive for her. Driving, looking like I owned her Cadillac was the trick, but who was I kidding when the cops pulled me over.

“I was driving her to the hospital, Officer.”

He dangled a carrot of Why don’t we call an ambulance? and quicker than that I was in the cage of the local jail.

“What’s a guy got to do for a meal?”

My stomach burned up with acid , like it was about to explode.

GK

Exercise #3

We were supposed to write a scene from the first-person point of view and rewrite it in the omniscient third-person point of view, where the writer gives the reader access to the minds of multiple characters within a single scene.


First-person:

Conversations buzzed around me as I reached into the fridge for my second and last crudité platter. All the wine we had was already in play. There wasn’t much more I could do with all the people walking in through our door. My husband was happy in a crowd, surrounded by strangers and grappling for attention. Brushing against people in the trip from the fridge to the table made me cringe. Setting down the platter and sidelining another group, I dropped into the couch to watch the game.

“Honey, could you get over here?”

Everyone looked in my direction as I waded through the crowd to his side, the receiver to his quarterback.

Dave, my husband put his arm loose around my waist. “This is Monica and her husband. They knew the previous owner.”

“Could we go outside to talk?” Getting their nods, I ushered them outside through the sliding door. I stood there with the little notebook from my back pocket to jot stuff down. I felt like a waitress.

Fifteen minutes later, their fire hose of gossip had dried up and seven pages were full of my scribbled writing. I took them back inside and found Dave sipping punch with the neighborhood Dads. Slipping Dave the notebook, I guzzled a champagne bottle into the punch bowl and the rest of the sugary tea base. Dave took my hand. We went through the party together. Here and there, I caught snippets of the game. Football wasn’t my thing. It was the way I related to people. It was my distraction from the crowd squeezed into our home.

Tired out from the social interaction, I sat down to watch the game and ate some Swedish meatballs.


Omniscient third-person:

Stephanie reached into the fridge for the crudité platter she had left. Her husband, Dave was across the room, entertaining the guest flooding their house warming party. Stephanie went through the room to set the platter were the empty one lay. She made her way to the couch to watch the game.

Halfway across the room, Dave made a discovery. Their neighbors knew the man that lived in the house a few months before Stephanie and Dave moved in. Stephanie would want a break, Dave thought. “Honey, could you come over here?”

Stephanie came over, feeling the press of the crowd once more.

“Honey, this is Mary and Chris. They knew the previous owner.”

“Oh?”

Mary and Chris nodded.

Stephanie brought them out onto the deck and took out a pocket notebook to jot down what they said. Chris hated their previous neighbor’s guts. There was a feud between them. Lawns were mowed without ownership. Sprinkler systems interwove. A few plants poisoned and trash jettisoned where it didn’t belong.

Having collected what they had to say, Stephanie passed their notes on to Dave. The punch bowl filled, Dave took Stephanie around the party, making introductions. All Stephanie wanted was a seat to watch the game. Wasted from the social interaction, Stephanie took the seat she wanted and ate Swedish meatballs. Football made talking to people easier, a common point of reference she felt awkward without.

GK

Exercise #2

Exercise #2

We were supposed to create a scene with three characters, an insider, an outsider, and an eavesdropper spying on them. Each needed a unique characterization.


Scene:

I got dressed in the locker room.

There was a note in my locker. “Someone big is coming to dinner.” What the hell? I had no idea. There was the head chef, Gustavo. His horde was a lone sous chief tonight. “Anything I should know?  Gustavo?”

“We’re bought out tonight.”

Not sure who would do that. I straightened the tables, chairs, and place settings. The table man was missing. I took his spot and waited. After a wait, I got answers.

A man walked in with a woman. I’d never met the man, but I knew him on sight. Mike Andrews. He starred in enough movies to make me giggle. It was disgusting. I didn’t recognize the woman. She wasn’t anyone famous. What was Mike doing with her?

“Reservation for Johnson — I think it’s right there in your book.”

“Sorry. What’s it under?” I flipped open the reservation book. There was a single name. Stop with the stupid already, Nona. “Follow me.” I seated them in the center.

Mike rubbed his beard. What did that mean? I gave them menus. Behind the register, I heard them.

“Is it always like this, Mike?”

“I’d have it different Sam, honestly I would, but that’s impossible now. I got lucky, being here with you after all these years as if nothing had changed at all.”

“Wine looks good to me.”

Mike waved for me.

I took his order.

“We’ll have two glasses of Riesling 01’ if you have it or your house white.”

“01’ Riesling then.” Wine poured. I stood away to wait.

“Sam, how’s life been treating you? I feel we’re so completely different now.”

“I’m happy. Everything has been great.”

“Glad to hear that’s so. My life lies plastered over the news and airways.”

“Breaking up with Gina Skarsgard. She was so pretty. And the buzz about Aforementioned.”

He waved for me and I came over.

A rub of the beard. “Gina wasn’t for me as I wasn’t for her. We diverged where it mattered most, the things we could never agree upon fueled our infatuations. It could never last Sam, nor should it. What would you like Sam, from the menu?” His bright blues eyes turned to me.

My heart beat fast. Sweat wet my palms.

“I’ll have the quail with the roasted vegetable medley as your menu presents it. And you Sam, what meets your appetite?”

“The fish, please.”

I told the chef the order. With my phone on record, I listened in. Why were they having dinner?

“I’ve always dreamed of dating you, Sam and in as many years, I never believed we would. You were the cheerleader, pretty and confident as you should be. I cowered backstage, rehearsing lines of Shakespeare and drowning my sorrows with fast food. We were never meant to be in days gone by.” Tears came to his eyes.

Sam took his hand. “We’ll never go back there.” She kissed him.

It made my lips tingle. The plates weighted my hands. I set them down.

“What’s your name, our lovely waitress?”

“It’s Nona.”

“Thank you for attending to us this evening.” Ultimate guilt trip.

I walked away. Snapping a picture, took a second. It covered the rent. It was horrible.

“What do you do with your days, Sam?”

“Work. Retail.”

“I can’t imagine how that must be for you — never had that experience myself. Worked in coffee shops while I was waiting to make it acting. So many things could’ve stopped me from making it. In the end, it was all worth it.”

“I can’t believe it’s you. You’re the Mike Andrews. And you have a crush on me? How did that happen?”

“I’m still the same person underneath this artifice that makes a famous actor. That theatre nerd is still me. Without him, there is no Mike Andrews. There was never anything there between us, and now after I’m a famous actor, you can’t keep your hands off me. It makes me think—“

“Hold on a minute. You’re using me too, baby. You want to conquer your past. You want closure. You’ve surpassed that theatre nerd. You want the Queen to prove it. I’m using you. You’re using me. Are we going to do this?”

“Sam, there’s something about you that turns me off. Maybe we’d not, hook up for old time’s sake. Ne’er-do-wells would exploit any weakness and deliver me to the public as a suckling pig to be devoured and cast as the bad boy. Serious roles wouldn’t become me. I’m sorry, but this cannot and will not work out. Nona!”

I came over.

“Can I have the bill for the dinner, Nona?”

“Coming up.” I went to get the bill, and Mike followed me.

“Wait, Mike, please.” Sam ran over. “I’ve wanted you from the seventh grade.”

“How could that have even been possible, Sam? I transferred in ninth grade, after the point you claimed to start wanting me. How do you expect me to trust you after such a bold and ridiculous lie? Come Nona, I’ll take you out for drinks, the present company excluded of course.”

Sam fumed.

I walked to the limo with Mike.

Mike waved down a cab. Sam was put inside. We walked back inside for drinks and dinner at the Chef’s table.

Mike caught me deleting the picture and recording.

“I’d rather you didn’t delete those, Nona. Allow yourself the luxury of recording on and keeping them for posterity. If not for you, then please give it over.”

“You talk like you’re two-hundred years old. Why, Mike?”

“Really, must you?”

“Exactly.”

Mike laughed.

GK

Exercise #1

I’m starting a new series on my blog featuring exercises from this Coursera Specialization I started a year ago and haven’t finished yet from Wesleyan University. Maybe this will get me to go back and complete that Specialization. We’ll have to see about that.

We were supposed to construct a character sketch based on the things a person interacts with in their daily lives. Here’s my attempt.


We were closing in a couple of minutes. There was an unattended laptop across by the window. What else could be expected in a coffee shop, a bunch of freeloaders sipping free wifi and the coffee they paid for would leave things every now and then. We were pouring the last orders. Still the laptop owner hadn’t returned for his abandoned laptop.  The clock spun out the minutes to eight. The shop emptied out, and I went around the tables, sliding trash off the tables and into the trash can in my hand.

That computer. Two chilled coffee drinks with the straws bit down.  I made my way around the room to it, stopping everywhere else on the way. The screen was on a blank page with that blinking line, waiting for something to be typed.

I put down the trashcan to study the book by the compute, Story Genius. Standing there, I could imagine him, sitting in the corner of a busy coffee shop.

I found his phone on the table and unlocked it. There was a picture of him, a thick head of hair and sharp square plastic frames for his glass. There was a woman. They were holding hands and so happy.

I called the first two numbers in the address book. Cold calling in the middle of the night? I was curious. Not desperate to return the laptop or anything like that. After a few rings each, I got an opportunity to leave messages. For all I knew, I was calling the phone in my hand.

The laptop bag occupied the opposite end of the table with the chair pushed in. I traced the power cord coming from the laptop under the table to plug-in on the opposite side.  Picking up the dated computer with the weight to match, I put it behind the counter with everything else he’d left.

The things we carried said a lot. My life was the pieces I left behind.

GK

Finding Meaning, Again.

For so long, I’ve been motivated by two principle fears — fear of failure and the fear of being alone. At various times I’ve said I’m an introvert, but I’m starting to wonder if that wasn’t fear in disguise. If I never tried to be social, I could never fail at it or prove that I’d always be alone. So far that strategy worked. I was alone.

Then, things started to change. I realized that basically every single thing I did was motivated by fear (read Defeating Codependence). That making a choice was no longer an option. That was the thing I needed to realize to radically change the way I was.

For awhile after that, I lacked the fear based motivation I’d always had. My writing practice fell apart. I stopped reading novels, reading my emails, and the blog posts I used to read. I started playing this computer game, Eve Online. Important things for my day to day wellbeing like medical stuff I do multiple times a day went on like usual. I hoped things would change, and feared they never would.

I started wanting things again for myself though after months just going through the motions. Things I’d never been allowed to want when I was motivated by fear. I started to despair that maybe it was far too late to finally connect with the person I’d buried for so long, me.

Yesterday, something happened. The best thing that happened all day was I figured out something that was puzzling me about the game I was playing, Eve Online. That made me so angry. For a long while, I couldn’t figure out why. That’s when it hit me. Through my lack of motivation, I’d abandoned the things that give my life meaning. Those things are mediation and writing and maybe gaming added in as well. Then my motivation returned. No matter the cost, I’ll do the things that make me happy, now and whenever I look back on it.

Find the thing that makes you happy right now. Do it before it’s too late. And never let anybody or anything stop you. Finding meaning and happiness is the purpose of life.

GK

What Gets Me to Write

Knowing my “Why”

Knowing why you write is the most important realization you can make as a writer to get your words out into the world and to attract an audience. Your why leads back to what you believe. Anything that starts with a deep belief has the power to change the world. These are the reasons why I write and the beliefs tied to each one.


To find meaning in my life.

There needs to be a meaning to everything in my mind, or it risks falling into nihilism. What’s the point if nothing means anything beyond the observable and provable?

That questioning spirals into negative self talk, dragging me back into the wells of depression that meaning helps me escape.

I believe meaning comes from what we assign meaning to. Each person’s life is separate. A set of viewpoints should never be imposed on anybody, but actions that harm others still need to have consequences.

To not feel alone.

Writing helps me connect with readers and the imaginary characters I create.

We can never see a person as they actually exist. The brain constructs a model, a character if you will of that person and updates that simulacrum to match the inputs from the real world. We never interact with a real person before thinking how our model of them would react.

Writing about a character utilizes this faculty even more than interacting with an actual person, because it’s impossible to interview a fictional character. It all comes from the writer’s observations and empathy.

I believe people connecting with other people will make the world a better. Huddling in groups that only share our world view isn’t the way forward.

To feel what I never can.

I live a limited life as it is. Things required to keep me alive and my lack of ability keep me limited in real life.

In my imagination, on my computer, those limitations are smaller until they vanish. I can be anybody, anything, or all powerful in my imagination and hold onto it by writing it down.

I believe it’s better to have experienced something good even if it’ll hurt in the end.

To be heard how I want to be.

I have a speech impairment that limits how well I can be understood.

To get through a day and have my needs met is an exercise in patience, creative wording, and knowing the limits of what can be understood.

Sure, I could use a communication device that tracks the movement of my eyes, but not more than an hour, with the exact placement, and the time typing in something I

want to say.

Otherwise, I move my lips with a trace of sound to be understood.

On my laptop with a mouse and waccom tablet, I can type at a reasonable speed exactly what I want to say, how I want to say it.

Writing fiction gives me a perfect conduit to feel like I can be understood.

I believe everyone deserves an equal voice.

To reach flow.

Flow is a state by which someone is driven by a focused energy to be immersed and enjoy an activity without regard for anything else going on.

Achieving a state of flow requires something challenging, measurable, and rewarding.

Writing fills those three criteria for me.

I believe good things happen when people are challenged, have measurable goals, and are rewarded for their accomplishments.

Thank you for reading.

GK