"Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another, 'What! You too? I thought I was the only one.'" ~ C. S. Lewis

Monday, April 12, 2010

Jarvis

As promised I am going to share a little bit more of my SIP (Script In Progress). I've fiddled around with plays and musicals before. (Naomi and I are writing a musical called Fairylandville, which she did most of the script and we're working on the songs together - setting them all to classical music pieces. So if you have a favorite classical piece, let us know and we'll see if it will work for any of the songs.)

But I've never really sat down and spent an effort on finishing one. It is proving quite challenging. I think this is for one major reason - I've sort of worked on this play before. Many years ago (when I was like 14) I wrote a short story. I thought it was hilarious at the time. I read it to my family and set it lovingly aside. A few years ago I pulled it out and wondered if it would work better as a play. So I started taking the dialogue straight from the short story and entering it in play form. I rather liked it, though it wasn't nearly as funny as it had been when I was 14. As I begin writing a second narrator pops into view. I wasn't really expecting that, but I had all of these asides in the short story and the 2nd narrator gave voice to these asides.

About a year ago I pulled it out and grimaced. How on earth could I have ever thought it witty? But I still liked the basic premise of the story and I loved the idea of having two narrators and of having them become the main characters of the play.

A friend of the family introduced us (like 10 years ago) to the radio play "Jungle Jam and Friends". If you have never hear of it or have never heard any of their shows you should find them. They are so funny and enjoyable for the entire family. My favorite is their Christmas special, "Three Wise Men and a Baby". You will never hear the story of Christmas again without thinking of some of the gems from this play. Plus it has gorgeous music. But I digress.

The reason I bring them up is because, in the radio plays, the narrator plays an integral part in the show, often interacting with the characters. I believe that this show really influenced the way my play began to develop.

I shuffled through more ideas for Script Frenzy than I would care to admit, but I kept coming back to "An Unlikely Fairy Tale" (and ugh on that title. I'm still waiting for a good one to come along. It's on the verge of my brain but hasn't crystalized as of yet.). Except I knew that things would have to change. First, I had to develop real personalities for the narrators. In the original they didn't even have names. I knew that the first was most definitely a guy and it made sense to make the second narrator a girl. She came together fully formed. Gloria was her name and she is sassy and sarcastic and impulsive. The guy took a little longer. But I love him now. He is Jarvis (!post title! lol) and he is a little bit geeky, but cute geeky and proper and traditional, but with a sense of humor and a willingness to change over the course of the play (though he is resistant of course.) If there are any Buffy fans out there, I kind of envision him as a younger and more eloquent Giles (*sigh*).

So the problem I'm running into now is that I have a story and a early play draft that I am kind of using as an outline. But as Jarvis and Gloria start taking over, the plot begins to stray from that and I think I'm trying too hard to keep them on track. What I need to do is just let them have their say, because I'm lovin' where they've taken me so far.

When your characters start to take over do you fight them? Or do you just let it go where it will? Does it frustrate or excite you? 'Cause I'm a little bit of both right about now :)

So, here's an excerpt from the opening of the play.


JARVIS

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls. Sit back, relax and allow the story to carry you away.

Once upon a time there was ...


GLORIA

(runs on stage, interrupting)

No, no, no! You can’t start the story that way. That’s the most overused line in all of story telling. Please! If I had a dollar for every time someone started a tale with “once upon a time” I wouldn’t be here right now. I’d be on some beach somewhere with a nice cold lemonade, watching the sun set over the ocean. Or maybe Vegas.


JARVIS

I beg your pardon, but who are you?


GLORIA

The narrator, of course, duh! Why else do you think I’m out here on the stage even before the curtain has gone up? My name’s Gloria! Hi! (holds out hand to JARVIS)


JARVIS

(shakes her hand briefly) Jarvis, nice to meet... wait, did you say you were the narrator?

I’m afraid you are mistaken. I am the narrator for this story.


GLORIA

Well, apparently you got replaced. And with openers like that, it’s no wonder.


JARVIS

Once upon a time is not overused. It is classic. This is a fairy tale, therefore it is perfectly appropriate to use it at the beginning.


GLORIA

Yeah, whatever. If you want to stay stuck in the 1600’s then by all means, just keep going.


JARVIS

And I suppose you have a better idea.


GLORIA

Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner folks! That’s why I’m here.

(turns to audience)

Folks, today we plan to take you where no one has gone before. We’re going to seek out new plot lines and new character developments. To boldly...


JARVIS

You might want to stop there. You’re bordering on copyright infringement.


GLORIA

Well, look who swallowed a dictionary. Fine, do it your way.

(exits)


JARVIS

(clearing throat)

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, forgive the interruption and let us begin again.

Once upon a time, in a far away land...


GLORIA

(reentering)

Is it always in a far away land?


JARVIS

What?


GLORIA

Well, it usually says in a far away land. How come none of them take place right here in our back yard? I mean, this is an interesting place. Why can’t the story take place here? And what does “far away land” mean? Is it just a way of telling everyone that stories like this don’t actually happen, so don’t get your hopes up. Cause that’s pretty depressing. I can’t believe you would crush little children’s hopes and dreams that way. Look at this crowd! They’re nearly crying from disappointment.


JARVIS

It does not look like they are crying.


GLORIA

They’re crying on the inside. It’s too depressing out here.

(exits)


JARVIS

(clearing throat again)

Once upon a time, in a far away land, there lived a girl named Jane.

(curtain raises on interior of Stepfamily’s house. There is a bedroom to one side and a sitting area to the other. JANE is scrubbing the floor, her hair tied up in a handkerchief.)

Jane’s father and mother had died and she lived with her Evil Stepmother Harriet and her Evil Stepsisters, Ann and Nan.


GLORIA

(entering)

I can’t take it anymore! Really? Cinderella again! Do you know how many times this story has been redone? It’s sickening really. But I wouldn’t expect a man like you with no artistic sentiment to understand that. You’re all about tradition. You might as well be playing a fiddle on a roof!


JARVIS

It is not the story of Cinderella.


GLORIA

Hm, let me think. Orphan, check! Evil Stepmother, check! Not one, but two Evil Stepsisters, check! Floor scrubbing, check! Sounds like Cinderella to me. All you need is to slap in a fairy godmother and a crystal shoe and you’re in business.


JARVIS

There is no fairy godmother in this story. No glass shoes and no Cinderella.


GLORIA

Hey, I just call them like I see them and I say Cinderella.


JARVIS

Well, perhaps if you allowed me to get more than two words out at a time you would see that it is not Cinderella.


GLORIA

Are you saying I talk too much? Are you? Are you?

(GLORIA steps closer and closer to JARVIS poking at his chest.)


JARVIS

(shouting)

Yes!


GLORIA

(smirking)

I knew there was emotion in there somewhere.


JARVIS

I cannot believe that you would think that after two minutes...


GLORIA

After two minutes of you droning on the audience would have fallen asleep.


JANE

Excuse me?


JARVIS & GLORIA

What!?


JANE

Do you think maybe we could continue the story?


GLORIA

Well, that is the general idea.


JARVIS

We would be well into the story if it were not for all of your interruptions.


GLORIA

If you call that a story, then all right. I just came here to do a job.


JARVIS

Fine, then you do it. You start the story your way.

(Walks to edge of stage, crosses arms and waits)


GLORIA

I will, thank you very much.

Once upon a time... Gah! Now you’ve got me doing it! There was a time and there was a place and there was a girl. Her name was Jane. She lived happily with her mother and her father.

(JANE stands. MOTHER and FATHER enter. They all stare at each other for a long moment until the silence is uncomfortable.)


JARVIS

You see, it is not that simple. You must have conflict to make the story interesting. Otherwise it would simply be ‘and they all lived happily ever after.’ Happy perhaps, but not interesting to watch.


GLORIA

If you could just give me some time, I’m sure I can come up with something good.


JARVIS

Right now we have an audience waiting. I promise you that it will not be a Cinderella story. May I continue?


JANE

Yes, please.


GLORIA

Thanks for the vote of confidence.

(JANE shrugs)

What if she is the evil stepsister and the other two...


JARVIS

No. That’s not how it goes. Be quiet and watch.


GLORIA

(huffs with hands on hips, but is temporarily silent.)


JARVIS

All right then, let me see. Jane was an orphan (MOTHER and FATHER exit) and she lived with her Evil Stepmother and two Evil Stepsisters. Jane was a very ordinary girl. There was nothing about her that would make her stand out in a crowd.


JANE

Hey!


GLORIA

See, this is what happens when you let a man tell the story. If I were the narrator then I could make you a beautiful princess in disguise. Then the mysterious prince in disguise would sweep you off your feet and away to his castle in the clouds.


JARVIS

(snorts)


GLORIA

What?


JARVIS

Ooh... a princess and prince in disguise. Now who’s being a traditionalist? Because you are really breaking new ground with that storyline, Shakespeare.


GLORIA

Well, well, well. The stiff knows sarcasm.


(c) 2010 Rebecca Thompson

All Rights Reserved

11 comments:

Amie McCracken said...

Hee hee. I could totally see it.

You should go check this blog post out, just for research maybe.

http://inwhichagirl.blogspot.com/2010/04/gbs-fairy-tales-matter-of-opinion.html

Raquel Byrnes said...

I've never had a character take over, but I have realized that I didn't know them as well as I'd thought. Keep up with the writing...you've got some good stuff happening in there.

E. Elle said...

When I took Playwriting in college, I fell in love with it. I've always been good at dialogue and playwriting was where I could really hone that skill. So cool that you write plays, too!

And as for characters taking over... yeah, uh, they bulldoze me. I just let them go and eventually we all come back together. But I need to let them have their fun - especially when they're actually being pretty darn insightful!

AchingHope said...

I was just thinking of Jungle Jam the other day! Ah, good times.

And yes, characters take over. They are very rude that way.

B. Miller said...

Hahaha! Very cute. I liked the scene you posted! I could definitely see it on stage.

Sometimes my characters take over, and I love it when that happens! Less work for me... ;)

Jenn said...

Awesome. I can see this on stage. Let me know when I can audition for Gloria's part! LOL :P

Not that I have any stage experience, but she just seems so…fun:P

Grammy said...

Ha! Really cute and very pictorial! It gives me an idea how plays are written. I was in a few in high scbool but hadn't thought about how scripts are written at that time.
Keep writing, it looks like a great play!

Blam said...


"Once upon a time... Gah! Now you’ve got me doing it!"

Nice. 8^) I like where this is going.

I'd say to let the characters and story take you where they will. For one thing, you're writing. Why sit there wondering how to make what "should" happen next happen, when the flow is at least going somewhere? I'm not saying thinking is bad, of course, and maybe you really do need to follow the plot you're straying from, but at worst you're coming up with another story in the meantime; I can only speak for myself, but often I find that I'm writing one story with part of my head while the rest, and my fingers, are writing another — or even while I'm watching TV or reading a book, and, oddly enough, it's not the other narrative that's giving me active foreground answers to the story not being written (through, say, plot points to steal) but the simple act of denying that background story that forces my mind to figure it out. This holds true for nonfiction, too, and it's probably how half my current blogposts are born, the downside being that more pieces get started than finished; when money and/or real deadlines are involved, obviously, you can only allow the wandering to go so far, but it's still worthwhile, and if you're just being creative I say let it flow.

VW: normen — Guys from Scandinavia.

Blam said...


I forgot to subscribe to the comments.

VW: jaccul — The whirlpool at Vlad the Impaler's castle.

SonshineMusic i.e. Rebecca T. said...

@Amie: I checked out that post. Really interesting - thanks for the link :)

@Raquel: Thanks for the encouragement.

@E. Elle: Yeah, this is the longest I've ever spent on a play and I'm loving not having to write scene descriptions - just let the dialogue flow. I think it's gonna help in my prose. And I like that: bulldoze. That is certainly what Gloria has been doing :)

@AchingHope: We need to get some Jungle Jam for our road trip to Polaris!

@B. Miller: It is less work, isn't it. I love when they practically start writing themselves (unless I want to fight them. Then we just all get in a tizzy)

@Jenn: I'll let you know when the auditions are :P It might be a long commute to New York, though.

@Grammy: I'm glad you enjoyed it :)

@Blam: Thanks. I feel like there is something profound in your comment, but I'm gonna have to come back to it tomorrow when I have had some sleep and the carpet cleaning chemicals are no longer clouding up my brains. :) and I love your VWs as always :)

Falen said...

wtf. i KNOW i commented on this yesterday - where did it go?
And now i can't remember what it is i said...
stoopid comments...