Following is my attempt to do the Shortcut to a Scene exercise by Whitcomb. I did all three parts except for actually putting the scene together, which I will do in the next post. This time I put my reactions to the exercise embedded in brackets throughout the exercise.
Goal of the scene:
Rob, the victim’s husband, relates his questioning that day by the police. He is worried he might be a suspect because they couldn’t alibi him at work where he said he was.
[Reaction: Here I got a little confused: is this supposed to be my goal as an author to convey or the goal of the protagonist? I put my goal as the author, what information I wanted to convey.]
Protagonist Drew is worried about Blanca, Rob and Laurel’s housekeeper who discovered Laurel’s body and is also a suspect. The conflict is that no one (Drew’s mother-in-law, her best friend and Rob’s mother, Arlene, and even Drew’s husband, Seth) can’t understand why she is going to help Blanca. They are afraid that if she is removed as a suspect, then Rob will emerge as a stronger suspect.
[Reaction: This part was very helpful to clarify.]
What is left unresolved:
The identity of the suspect
[Reaction: Here I also was a little confused. Should this be what is left unresolved more broadly – the identify of the suspect, which chose – or what is left unresolved in this specific scene, which may be whether Drew continues to support Blanca. It doesn’t seem like there is any question that she will, given the set-up though.]
Part II: Dialogue
Seth: Did you write an e-mail?
Rob: No, I was just dictating my notes.
[Reaction: I found I was unable to stay with only dialogue, and I had to insert Drew’s observations (indicated whenever I used “I” voice.)]
I didn’t know anyone who did that anymore and laughed at the idea of anyone typing anything for me.
Arlene: They can’t think it’s you. You’ve never done a violent thing in your life. What about that maid?
Drew: I had Rosa call her.
Arlene: Whatever for?
Drew: I felt sorry for her. She’s trying to get her family back here. She sends them money.
I would have said it more boldly if Rob wasn’t there. Poor Blanca obviously put up with a lot working for Laurel.
Arlene: How is it different from your babysitter?
I smiled. It was like a good challenge question from a student.
Drew: She has her green card. And she doesn’t rely on me for income. She works at the child care center at my gym, and I have to work around her hours. Blanca’s worried that since the police questioned her, she'll be deported.
Arlene: They’re not that easy to get rid of.
Seth: I doubt if they can take you seriously, Rob. There’s no evidence of a problem between you and Laurel. It’s not like the neighbors heard you arguing or anything like that.
I wondered how hard the police had worked to get hold of the neighbors, to find out if they’d seen anything. I’d had no luck myself when I’d knocked on the neighbor’s door. I wondered who lived in those places. Everyone must have to work all the time to afford the neighborhood. I remembered that when the emergency vehicles came, they didn’t draw out the neighbors like they usually did, only a few passersby.
Seth: And they still haven’t found the murder weapon.
Rob: But I was the one who was supposed to notice if something was missing. I could have said nothing was missing and used it myself.
Drew: There’s no evidence on Blanca either. Yes, she discovered the body, but she didn’t have blood on her.
Barbara: Maybe she changed.
I shook my head.
Drew: Then she pretended to run out screaming? It didn’t seem like an act.
If it was, and she had more time, maybe she could join a Spanish theatre group.
Seth: She knew the area. Wasn’t she the one who walked Weezie? Maybe some bush or some plant?
He misinterpreted my look.
Seth: Hey, I’m just playing devil’s advocate. You’ve got to consider all sides when you’re in court.
What I was really thinking was, how could I get back and search the area for bloodied clothes?
Part III: Freewriting
[I couldn't bring myself to use the term "heartstorm." This was the hardest part since I couldn’t figure out an appropriate setting. There was a summary a chapter back or so that covered dinner at Seth and Drew’s house so I wondered if it was repetitive to have a dinner scene at the house. Then I was thinking of them going to a restaurant, but she had just mentioned that it was impossible to take her son to a restaurant, and, if I did that, she would just be running around and chasing children and not be able to talk.]
We ordered pizza, although Seth wasn’t happy. Not that he didn’t like pizza, but he was trying to control his consumption of white flour and sugar. He didn’t want to turn out diabetic like his mother. We used to order deep dish, but we recalled our motto since having children: It’s all about them. It’s frustrating to survey a plate of food you can’t eat.
I was glad I changed with the greasy finger prints smeared across my legs. There was a glue stain permanently etched into them, as well, when Alyssa and I had attempted one of our projects, a collage that I thought would be more amusing to work on, and which required actual glue.
I popped up and down like a Jack in the Box. “More!” “Juice” I took away one of Alyssa’s cannabilized pieces. She would pick off the cheese and of course, the pepperoni and leave all the bread. Making sure to cut the cheese strands into small pieces, so Noah wouldn't choke.
The Wiggles, grown men dancing with brightly-colored pompoms with their secondary characters, Wags the Dag, Dorothy the Dinosaur, Henry the Octopus (whose warbly underwater voice sounded suspiciously like the lead singer of the B-52’s), and Captain Feathersword. Out of a cast of irritiating characters, he won the award for most annoying. We were playing the whole collection of Tivo’s Wiggle shows about 10 times a day (but each show, I justified was really only 20 minutes long and not the half-hour as advertised. Thus, this only came out to three and a third hours of T.V. a day when he had vowed in her infancy that we would follow American Pediatric Guidelines to limit TV watching to one hour a day.
Next post, I will weave these elements together. Feel free to contribute your attempts at the exercise, as well.