Final Scene, Chapter One, Scene One

Susie & Rachel’s thoughts: 

A couple things we wanted to point out – first, note the changed hook.  Neither Rachel nor I like starting a book with dialogue or a full name.  First, with dialogue it often feels too jarring, we don’t know who is talking, and the reader feels like they can’t catch up.  Also, when we’re in deep POV, no one really thinks of themselves (usually) with their full name.  So, look for ways to work in the name, maybe by bringing another character on the screen.  We did it via Twila, the talk show host. 

 

I hope you can  see the difference in effect between the two pieces…

 

Again, if you’re interested in how to write a HOOK, go and read the past HOOK posts, or you can find a HOOKs class download via the My Book Therapy Shop. 

 

Okay, here it is…and look for Monday’s post – Chapter One, Scene two….our hero!

 

 

Chapter One            

 

Just once, MacKenzie would like to take the Oscar walk down Hollywood Boulevard in a pair of holy jeans, a blue devil’s tee-shirt, and a pair of flip-flops. 

She pulled the pulled her wrap tight around her shoulders, even as the February chill found the liberal gaps in her dress and raised gooseflesh.  A thousand lights blinked down at her from the Kodak Theater, and exhaust mixed with the earthy smell from the palm trees lined up like sentries along Hollywood Boulevard watching the parade of limousine maneuvering to the end of the red carpet.  She looked for her driver in the mass of shiny vehicles. Hurry up, Tony.

            Sure, she liked her silver Christian Louboutin sling-backs, and the deep purple satin gown picked by her stylist from some new Australian designer, but MacKenzie could do without the ten pound emerald earrings pulling at her ears, and especially the fact that every flash, every pop of light, meant that some gossip rag had fresh ammunition to litter her shame across the newsstands of America. 

No, not her shame.  After all, she’d been half-way across the world, filming in the back alleys and dregs of Bangkok, trying to expose the underbelly of human trafficking.  While her husband – no, make that ex-husband as if two weeks ago — exposed his heart to the leading lady in his, yes, Oscar-nominated film.

“MacKenzie Grace!” A red carpet host for Hollywood Tonight – what was her name, Twila? — pushed a microphone in her face. 

MacKenzie just barely refrained from shoving her away.  No, smile.  Smile. “Twila.  You look gorgeous tonight.”

“And you should be the one earning an Oscar tonight for your magnanimous smile. How do you feel about your ex-husband being nominated for best actor?”

Twila’s question meant MacKenzie had managed to pull off a gracious smile tonight for the eternal three seconds the camera had panned to her and zoomed while Nils Bruno climbed to the stage. Still, it was long enough to drill a hole clean through her, leave her exhausted and raw as she watched Nils accept the award, nod to his new wife and cleanly excise from his life the woman who’d believed in him, the one who’d ran lines with him, and who footed the bill for his shiny white teeth. 

Now, she added a gracious tone. “The Academy clearly saw his talent.” 

Talent.  Like emptying half her bank account, and totaling her Astin Martin.  That took real talent.  Smile.  

“So, are you interested in co-starring again with him?  Now that’s he’s an Oscar winner? 

Translation: now that Nils Bruno, aka Robby Brunardo, former car-washing burger flopper from McDonalds had outshone her on the big screen?

“Nils is an amazing actor.  Anyone would be privileged to work with him.”

If she smiled any harder, she might grind her molars to dust.

            He used to wear male shaping accessories under his clothes for his publicity shots! she wanted to scream at the top of her lungs.

But a woman trying to charm Hollywood into backing her recent Indy film, the one she hoped would launch her from action-thriller babe to serious actress, shouldn’t publically disparage one of America’s ‘sexiest men alive’. 

She still had his old ratty converse in a box at home.  Maybe she could sell it on e-bay, earn some cash to promote her new film, maybe raise some discerning heads in the industry… 

Oh, who was she kidding?  She’d been Hayes O’Brien, 006, international action heroine for so long, directors probably forgot she’d earned a degree in drama at Duke.  Or that, for a very short run, she’d even been courted by Broadway. 

Then again, maybe everyone had simply weeded through her airbrushed beauty to the truth.  She couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag.

There went Tommy Nave’s nasally sixth grade voice in her head again.   She shivered. 

Greg Alexander wrapped his warm arm around her shoulders.  “Tony will be here in a minute. He’s about five limos back.”

She wanted to lean into him, but she hated to encourage the press.  They already had her dating at least three actors, two of whom she’d never even met.  The last thing she needed was a scandal about dating her agent.

“You’re doing great, Mackenzie,” Greg said, lifting his hand to wave to – oh it didn’t matter.  She looked away.   

            You’re doing great. 

            She managed a wan smile as another flash went off. 

He sounded like a doctor, just another pinch, and yes, this will hurt a bit.  Yes, just a bit.  Watching Nils walk the red carpet – without her — had filleted her insides. Drawing a deep breath actually hurt between her ribs.

Greg lifted his arm, and waved Tony to the curb.  “Okay, sweetheart, you go home, get changed, and I’ll meet you at the Vanity Fair party.”  He held out his hand to MacKenzie, as if to help her into the limo. 

She ignored it, let the footman open the door for her, gathered her dress and slid into the seat.  But before Greg could shut the door, she put her hand out to stop it.  “I’m not going.” 

He’d turned away, migrating toward his next client.  “What?”  Now, he looked as if she might have been speaking Bengali.  “Did you say you weren’t going?” 

MacKenzie began pulling off one of her shoes.  “I’m tired.  I have jet lag, and I’ll just be followed around all night with microphones and cameras, gossip magazines wondering if I’m pining after Nils.”

She waited for a response, but Greg just stared at her, as if still trying to comprehend her words. 

“I just want to go home, soak in a bath, maybe eat some pizza.” Or pie.  Yes, a creamy – maybe coconut cream, or…yes, banana cream! pie.  The closest thing she was going to get to banana  puddin’ this side of the Mississippi.

Greg finally stirred to life – probably at the thought of her reckless consumption of calories. “Kenzie, hon, you need to schmooze, get some face time with the right people if you hope to get backers for your film.  Tonight is the perfect night to generate some buzz. You’ve been laying low for –”

“I’ll call you later.”  She pulled the door closed and leaned back, thankful for the silence embedded in the plush seats.  Tony, his dark hair slicked back and a silver earring in his left ear glanced up at her in the rear view mirror.

“Home, Miss Grace?” 

“Please.” 

She watched the crowd wave as her limousine pulled away. 

Home.  Home was a tidy double-wide with brown shag carpeting, a weather-bare pink velour sofa, and an irritable tabby named Boss probably running its claws down her mother’s orange polyester drapes. There’d be a bowl of cold grits in the fridge, and possibly a container of store-bought animal crackers on the counter with the lions missing, of course.  And her father slumped asleep in his ripped vinyl recliner waiting for mama to get off her shift at the rayon factory.

Longing curled through her they passed the luminous red pagoda of Mann’s Chinese theater, lit up for the Academy Awards, and across the street, Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel, its neon red-sign an icon of the silver screen. 

Places her parents had never seen.

Never would, thanks to the fact that Mama couldn’t figure out how those “tin cans stay in the air.”

MacKenzie eased off her other shoe, and brought her foot up to rub the stress from her cramped toes.  “Could we stop by Patrick’s Roadhouse, maybe pick up a banana cream pie?”

Tony flashed her a smile, again in the mirror and it was the first genuine thing she’d see all day.

She closed her eyes, forcing herself not to see Nils with Isobel. 

“A whole pie, or just a piece, ma’am?”  Tony said, pulling up to the Roadhouse.  The place teemed with people, some eating out on the patio, and hers wasn’t the only limo in the parking lot. 

“Just a piece would be perfect.” 

It wasn’t her mama’s banana puddin’, but then again, the roadhouse didn’t have her mama’s secret ingredient, the taste of love, in stove-top cooked cream, stirred with a wooden spoon, her mama’s hand cradling hers.

Oh brother, she was turning into a country-song right before her eyes.  Next thing, she’d dissolve into a y’all while she was fixin’ to dive into her paeh.

Tony returned with the pie in a Styrofoam container and she didn’t bother to wait until she’d changed out of her dress to dive in.  She did manage to restrain herself from licking the cream from the container with her tongue.  She used her finger, instead, just for Mama. 

They pulled into her winding, Cyprus-tree bordered drive and stopped at her front portico.

The lights sprayed down from the hovering palms as she stepped out onto her terracotta-tiled porch, and handed Tony the empty container and her fork in a bag.  Then she scooped up her shoes, dangling them from her fingers and tiptoed up the walk.   

The front door opened without pause – Tony must have unlocked it remotely — and she dropped her shoes onto a padded rattan bench, flicked on a light.  “Marissa?” 

No response from her housekeeper.  Tony walked in behind her, carrying her purse.  “Everything okay, Miss Grace?” 

She glanced at him, and something about the way he looked past her, to her open living room made her pulse turn to slurry.  “What?”

The light pressed away the shadows of the main room, glaring on the white leather sofa, the mahogany side tables, a shiny bookcase filled with souvenirs from Paris, Monaco, South Africa.  Overhead, the fan stirred the smells of the freshly potted  gardenias, brought in for her arrival home yesterday.  Beyond that, the dark bank of windows lead to the pool area, but her gaze fixed on the center of the room, at the white, misshapen mass atop the glass coffee table.

“Did you have that shipped, because it wasn’t in your luggage.”  Tony touched his hand on her arm ever so briefly, then moved past her, toward the object. 

“No…I’ve never—“

He reached it, and yanked the cover off.

MacKenzie fought the swirl of delight.  Nils hadn’t forgotten.  No, he’d remembered their joke, her first red-carpet appearance when she’d nearly ended up on her face in front of Meryl Streep.  MacKenzie the Elephant.

So, he’d given her an elephant for the Oscars every year since.

An elephant in bronze on her coffee table.  A china elephant in her kitchen.  An impressionist print of an elephant over her fireplace.

And this year, a nearly life-sized stuffed baby elephant, wrapped in a magnificent yellow bow. 

Oh, Nils. 

So, maybe she’d forgive him for not mentioning her tonight in his litany of thank-yous.  He clearly remembered what they’d had together, knew what she’d meant to him.  “I can’t believe – “

But Tony had finished reading the card, and when he turned, his expression stopped her cold.  Chilled her to the bone. 

No – not again —

And that’s when she heard the ticking. 

Tony had slapped his arm around her waist and was already tackling her to the floor when the bomb exploded. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Chapter 1: Scene One, Susie’s Response

My turn! 

 

These are all great thoughts that Rachel has inserted, and going through them has made me think through all my motivations, and how I draw out the scene.  I kept a lot of her insertions, or changed others because of her take on the scene.  Occasionally, I opted not to make changes because I liked the flow of the story better my way, but I definitely considered her thought. Because I’m a suspense writer, I like having actions very tight, and more and more I’m going away from the physical + emotional response, and more into a metaphorical or simple action that betrays their emotions.   But it’s a matter of taste and voice.   A great editing partnership works when both parties are working together to strengthen a scene.  Awesome!

 

My comments to RH’s comments are highlighted in yellow.  The edited text is in blue.

 

Chapter 1.1

 

           “Just once, I’d like to take the Oscar walk down Hollywood Boulevard in my jeans, a blue devil’s tee-shirt, and a pair of flipflops.” Who is she talking to? I’d like to have the setting before the dialog. Can you move “a thousand lights” as the opening line and have MacKenzie Grace walk into the light, reporters calling her name? That way, we are deep in her POV, and she doesn’t have to introduce herself.   MacKenzie Grace pulled her wrap tight around her shoulders, even as the February chill found the liberal gaps in her dress and raised gooseflesh.  A thousand lights blinked down at her from the Kodak Theater, and around her, limousines honked and maneuvered to the end of the red carpet.  Exhaust mixed with the fragrances of a thousand starlets and the earthy smell from the palm trees lined up like sentries along Hollywood Boulevard.   “Hurry up, Tony.” Who is Tony? 

 

Okay, I like your comments – but I’m going to start it in her pov, making a statement about her life:  (Which is how I really like to start a book. =)  And, since we’ll add dialogue below, I like establishing her identity here before she starts talking. 

 

 

           Just once, MacKenzie Grace, would like to take the Oscar walk down Hollywood Boulevard in a pair of holy jeans, a blue devil’s tee-shirt, and a pair of flipflops. 

She pulled the pulled her wrap tight around her shoulders, even as the February chill found the liberal gaps in her dress and raised gooseflesh.  A thousand lights blinked down at her from the Kodak Theater, and exhaust mixed with the earthy smell from the palm trees lined up like sentries along Hollywood Boulevard watching the parade of limousine maneuvering to the end of the red carpet.  She looked for her driver in the mass of shiny vehicles. Hurry up, Tony.

 

Love the shoe idea!

 

            Sure, she liked her silver Christian Louboutin slingbacks, and the deep purple satin gown picked by her stylist from some new Australian designer, but MacKenzie could do without the ten pound emerald earrings pulling at her ears, and especially the fact that every flash, every pop of light, meant that some gossip rag had fresh ammunition to litter her shame across the newsstands of America. 

No, not her shame.  After all, she’d been half-way across the world, filming in the back alleys and dregs of Bangkok, trying to expose the underbelly of human trafficking.  While her husband – no, make that ex-husband as if two weeks ago — exposed his heart to the leading lady in his, yes, Oscar-nominated film.

 

Let’s open this up some and having MacKenzie talking to a Red Carpet reporter. It’s those walk on characters that can broaden a scene, give us movement and dialog. J  Great idea!

 

“MacKenzie, MacKenzie!A red carpet host for Hollywood Tonight – what was her name, Twila? — shoved a microphone in her face.  MacKenzie just barely refrained from shoving her away.  No, smile.  Smile.

“Gloria, so lovely to see you.” Smile. Forced, if necessary.

MacKenzie you should be the one earning an Oscar tonight for your magnanimous smile. How do you feel about your ex-husband being nominated for best actor?”

 

(Delete, especially when the camera panned her direction and zoomed in on her expression as Nils Bruno landed his first award for Best Actor.)  I like this line, and I wanted to show that she was in the audience, so, I’m going to put it back in and amend it:

 

Twila’s question meant she’d managed to pull off a gracious smile when the camera panned her direction and zoomed in as Nils Bruno climbed to the stage.

Three seconds.  The camera turned on her for roughly as long as their marriage had lasted. Still, it was long enough to drill a hole clean through her, leave her exhausted and raw as she watched Nils accept the award, nod to his new wife and cleanly excise from his life the woman who’d believed in him, the one who’d ran lines with him, and who footed the bill for his shiny white teeth. 

Now, she added a gracious tone. The Academy clearly saw his talent.” 

Talent.  Like emptying half her bank account, and totaling her Astin Martin.  That took real talent.  Smile.  

“So, are you interested in co-starring again with him?  Now that’s he’s an Oscar winner? 

Translation: now that Nils Bruno, aka Robby Brunardo, former car-washing burger flopper from McDonalds had outshone her on the big screen?

“Nils is an amazing actor.  Anyone would be privileged to work with him.”

If she smiled any harder, she might grind her molars to dust.

 

Thought: Or he waxes his eyebrows. Wears male shaping accessories under his clothes because he’s got a flab ring around the middle he can’t get rid of. (saw it on Rachael Ray at the gym.) Love this!

 

            He used to wear male shaping accessories under his clothes for his publicity shots! she wanted to scream at the top of her lungs.

 

But a woman trying to charm Hollywood into backing her recent Indy film, the one she hoped would launch her from action-thriller babe to serious actress, shouldn’t publically disparage one of America’s ‘sexiest men alive’. 

She still had his old ratty converse in a box at home.  Maybe she could sell it on e-bay, earn some cash to promote her film, maybe raise some discerning heads in the industry… 

 

(Delete: Oh, who was she kidding? Feels a bit chicky) 

But, I like it.  It gives us a sense of the real girl inside.  I’m keeping it. 

 

Oh, who was she kidding?  She’d been Hayes O’Brien, 006, international action heroine for so long, directors probably forgot she’d earned a degree in drama at Duke.  Or that, for a very short run, she’d even been courted by Broadway. 

Then again, maybe everyone had simply weeded through her airbrushed beauty to the truth.  She couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag.

 

Thought: How about Max Factored (in the movie she wouldn’t be photoshopped) I don’t know – I have mixed feelings about putting a makeup label in there – she seems more about natural beauty.  Maybe airbrushed?

 

Let’s see Greg from MacKenzie’s point of view. Great what you have, but add a dialog response.

“What would I do without you, Greg Alexander, agent extraordinaire.” MacKenzie didn’t want to imagine life without him. She’d lost enough already. ,(Delete: tucked his blackberry into his pocket, slid in closer to her, and) He wrapped a warm hand around her shoulders.  She WANTED TO (Delete: didn’t) lean into him – better not encourage the press.  I am going to change this up, add a picture of Greg first, then Greg. 

 

Oh, no, there went Tommy Nave’s nasally sixth grade voice in her head again.   She shivered again. 

Greg Alexander wrapped his warm arm around her shoulders.  “Tony will be here in a minute. He’s about five limos back.”

She wanted to lean into him – better not encourage the press.  They already had her dating at least three actors, two of whom she’d never even met.  The last thing she needed was a scandal about dating her agent.

 

 

Add a physical reaction. Walking faster, bumping past autograph seekers. What’s happening outside the awards? Where is she? Can you add a thought like “Doing great for a woman with no future” or something to give us another picture into her heart yet leave us wondering.  I’m not sure I want to dig too deep with that – I think keeping the reader wondering what is going on – and of course, we know about her hubby – is enough.  Besides, I think her agent is about encouraging her… 

 

“You’re doing great, Mackenzie,” Greg said, lifting his hand to wave to – oh it didn’t matter.  She looked away.   

            You’re doing great. 

            She managed a wan smile as another flash went off. 

He sounded like a doctor, just another pinch, and yes, this will hurt a bit. 

 

(deleted) She felt as if she’d had her insides filleted watching Nils march down the red carpet, looking resplendent  in his tails. 

 

Challenge: Sometimes words like “felt” or “let” draw us a step away from the character. In this case, it works, but can we power it up one? Go straight to how she feels. Watching Nils accept his award filleted her insides. Drawing a deep breath hurt between her ribs.” I like Rachel’s note here.  I also didn’t like ‘felt’ —  

 

 This will hurt a bit. Watching Nils arrive before the show and walk the red carpet – without her — had filleted her insides. Drawing a deep breath actually hurt between her ribs.

 

Because it wasn’t an actual wound, I needed to make the pain real instead of imaginary.

 

When was the television on? Can you add a reference here? Was it when she was driving into the ceremony? I like this comment – hopefully this is clearer.

 

She had turned off the television in the limo while they inched down Hollywood Boulevard before she did something stupid – or perhaps smart? – and ordered Tony to turn her around, take her home.  

 

Besides, well, she didn’t exactly know where “home” might be anymore. 

Greg lifted his arm, and waved Tony to the curb.  “Okay, sweetheart, you go home, get changed, and I’ll meet you at the Vanity Fair party.”  He held out his hand to MacKenzie, as if to help her into the limo. 

She ignored it, let the footman open the door for her, gathered her dress and slid into the seat.  But before Greg could shut the door, she put her hand out to stop it.  “I’m not going.” 

 

 

It’s always good to have dialog lead if possible. Let’s move “What?” to the beginning, before the action. He’d (Delete: been already) turnEDing away, (Delete: his attention) migrating toward his next client.  “What?”  (Delete: He looked baffled, as if she might have been speaking Bengali.) It’s clear by the dialog and setting Greg is surprised by MacKenzie’s declaration. Try when writing action tags or responses to consider if the scene and dialog broadcast the character’s reaction to the reader.

Rachel is right – however, this is also a matter of style.  I like to add the immediate, startled reaction with an italicized, What?  Then, because she was recently overseas, I wanted to bring on that element.  But, it could be pared down…

“Did you say you weren’t going?” 

“I’m not going.”  MacKenzie (Delete: began)  pullEDing off one of her Jimmy Choos.  “I’m tired.  I (Delete: still) have jet lag, and I’ll just be followed around all night with microphones and cameras, gossip magazines wondering if I’m (Delete: still) pining after Nils.  (Delete: The answer, by the way, is no.) We can delete this line because Greg probably knows her answer is no,  (Delete: She waited for a response, but he just stared at her, as if still trying to comprehend her words.) Greg seems to be sharper than this.  

Yes, Greg is sharper than this, but he is baffled that she’d do this, esp. on such an important night.

 

He’d turned away, migrating toward his next client.  “What?”  Now, he looked as if she might have been speaking Bengali.  “Did you say you weren’t going?” 

“No.”  MacKenzie began pulling off one of her Jimmy Choos.  “I’m tired.  I have jet lag, and I’ll just be followed around all night with microphones and cameras, gossip magazines wondering if I’m pining after Nils.”

She waited for a response, but he just stared at her, as if still trying to comprehend her words. 

 

 

 (Delete: Greg,) I just want to go home, soak in a bath, maybe eat some pizza.” Or pie.  Yes, pie. Add this line to the last of the dialog above. And tell me what kind of pie. The richness if a story is sometimes in the details! J  Good idea!

 

“I just want to go home, soak in a bath, maybe eat some pizza.” Or pie.  Yes, a creamy – maybe coconut cream, or…yes, banana cream! pie.  The closest thing she was going to get to bananna  puddin’ this side of the Mississippi. 

 

(Delete: Greg finally stirred to life – probably at the thought of her reckless consumption of calories.) “Kenzie, hon, you need the press MacKenzie also needs Hollywood big guns on her side moe than the press. Wouldn’t Greg want her there smoozing, getting face time with the people she wants to back her movie?  on your side when you go out knocking on doors to find backers.  Tonight is the perfect night to generate buzz. You’ve been laying low for –”  I really like the “reckless consumption of calories” – that’s a big part of her life.  *g*  But I like the movers and shakers comment….

 

Greg finally stirred to life – probably at the thought of her reckless consumption of calories. “Kenzie, hon, you need to schmooze, get some face time with the right people if you hope to get backers for your film.  Tonight is the perfect night to generate some buzz. You’ve been laying low for too –”

 

 

“I’ll call you later.”  She pulled the door closed and leaned against the seat, thankful for the silence embedded in the plush seats.  Tony, his dark hair slicked back, a silver earring in his left ear glanced up at her in the rear view mirror.  

“Home, Miss Grace?” 

“Please.” 

 

(Delete: She pressed her arms against her waist.) We need a physical reaction, or a beat here before we get into internal thought.  

 

            She watched the crowd wave as her limousine pulled away. 

 

 

 

 Going straight to “home” and in internal thoughts feels like deeper POV. Home.  (Delete: No,)

Hhome was a tidy double-wide with brown shag carpeting, a weather-bare pink velour sofa, and an irritable tabby named Boss probably running its claws down her mother’s orange polyester drapes. There’d be a bowl of cold grits in the fridge, and possibly a container of store-bought animal crackers on the counter with the lions missing, of course.  And her father slumped asleep in his ripped vinyl recliner waiting for (Delete: her mother) Mama get off her shift at the rayon factory.  Love this! Good picture of her home life and her parents.

 

Home.  Home was a tidy double-wide with brown shag carpeting, a weather-bare pink velour sofa, and an irritable tabby named Boss probably running its claws down her mother’s orange polyester drapes. There’d be a bowl of cold grits in the fridge, and possibly a container of store-bought animal crackers on the counter with the lions missing, of course.  And her father slumped asleep in his ripped vinyl recliner waiting for mama to get off her shift at the rayon factory.

 

Longing curled through her they passed the luminous red pagoda of Mann’s Chinese theater, lit up for the Academy Awards, and across the street, Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel, its neon red-sign an icon of the silver screen. 

 

This location needs to come earlier in the scene so we get a picture of her setting. Lovely description!  I would, but she’s only driving by it now, and I want to continue to build storyworld, inserting it as she moves through the scene. I think it works here.

 

 

Places her parents had never seen.

Never would, thanks to the fact that Mama couldn’t figure out how those “tin cans stay in the air.”

 

   Not sure what tin cans … oh, airplanes?  Yes…

 

MacKenzie eased off her other shoe, and brought her foot up to rub the stress from her cramped toes.  “Could we stop by Patrick’s Roadhouse, maybe pick up a banana cream pie?”

Tony flashed her a smile, again in the mirror and it was the first genuine thing she’d see all day.

She closed her eyes, forcing herself not to see Nils with Isobel. 

“A whole pie, or just a piece, ma’am?”  Tony said, pulling up to the Roadhouse.  The place teemed with people, some eating out on the patio, and hers wasn’t the only limo in the parking lot. 

“Just a piece would be perfect.” 

 

 

It wasn’t her mama’s, but then again, the roadhouse didn’t have her mama’s secret ingredient, the taste of love, rolled out on the yellow formica counter.  . Good. I’d also love a small memory here of making the pie with her mama.  A line or two?

(Delete: Oh brother, she was turning into a country-song right before her eyes.  Next thing, she’d dissolve into a y’all while she was fixin’ to dive into her paeh. ) Don’t think this adds anything and leans toward a chick sound. The prose is strong without it.

 

I’m not sure – I like the country home feel of it…that she used to be a country girl.  I think we need to keep it.

 

It wasn’t her mama’s bannana puddin’, but then again, the roadhouse didn’t have her mama’s secret ingredient, the taste of love, in stove-top cooked cream, stirred with a wooden spoon, her mama’s hand cradling hers.

Oh brother, she was turning into a country-song right before her eyes.  Next thing, she’d dissolve into a y’all while she was fixin’ to dive into her paeh.

 

 

Tony returned with her comfort food Suggestion: instead of telling us it’s her comfort food, show us. What is her physical response to the thought of yummy banana cream pie?

Tony returned with her pie and her mouth watered, her middle gurgled and the idea of Nils winning an Oscar didn’t seem like such a big deal any more.

Something like that. Check those places where you can “show us” how an object effects our emotions.

Pie – comfort food.

Shoes – leather gold.

Ice cream – heaven on earth.

Or whatever. See what I mean? Name the object then describe how it effects the protagonist.

Rachel is really on the right track here.  Although, sometimes I think we put too many physical responses in a story.  I’d like to reveal it through her attitude.  Yes, it’s showing, but sometimes I like to pull back and let the reader infer the meaning. 

 

So…I’m going to keep her reactions in how she eats the pie…very much like a child, craving her “comfort food,” leaving out the physical reaction, because we can infer it from our own memories of eating pie (or something else with our fingers).

 

Tony returned with the pie in a Styrofoam container and she didn’t bother to wait until she’d changed out of her dress to dive in.  She did manage to restrain herself from licking the cream from the container with her tongue.  She used her finger, instead, just for Mama. 

 

They pulled into her winding, Cyprus tree bordered drive and stopped at her front portico.

 The lights sprayed down from the hovering palms as she stepped out onto her terracotta-tiled porch, and handed Tony the empty container and her fork in a bag.  Then she scooped up her shoes, dangling them from her fingers as she tiptoed into the house. 

 

The front door opened without pause – Tony must have unlocked it remotely — and she dropped her shoes onto a padded rattan bench, flicked on a light.  “Marissa?” 

No response from her housekeeper.  Tony walked in behind her, carrying her purse.  “Everything okay, Miss Grace?” 

She glanced at him, and something about the way he looked past her, to her open living room made her pulse turn to slurry.  “What is it?”

 

 

Can we have some of her physical reaction here? What’s going on? Thoughts racing, hands shaking, nerves running under her skin. Heart beating.

Again, I don’t love to write in too many physical reactions.  Let’s keep it just in the showing, pulling back to use metaphor to show the scene….which lends itself well to Rachel’s next comment:

What is the feel and sight of the house. Rich browns, low lights. Just a slight touch of senses of the room.

 

The light pressed away the shadows of the main room, glaring on the white leather sofa, the mahogany side tables, a shiny bookcase filled with souvenirs from Paris, Monaco, south Africa.  Overhead, the fan stirred the smells of the freshly potted  gardenias, brought in for her arrival home yesterday.  Beyond that, the dark bank of windows lead to the pool area, but her gaze fixed on the center of the room, as if under a spotlight, the white, misshapen mass atop the glass coffee table.

“Did you have that shipped, because it wasn’t in your luggage.”  He touched his hand on her arm ever so briefly, then moved past her, toward the object. 

“No…I’ve never—“

 

(Delete: He’d reached it and now pulled the cover off. ) We see that Tony is in  motion.

But we miss a beat if we don’t have him do something that stop her words and shows the next action…

He reached it, and yanked the cover off.

 

This was a bit confusing. Can we have a physical motion from MacKenzie? Like, “her eyes scanned the room. There was a bronze elephant on her coffee table… etc., etc.”  I am going to bridge it by adding meaning instead of physical response…

 

 

MacKenzie fought the swirl of delight that found her chest.  Nils hadn’t forgotten.  No, he’d remembered their joke, her first red-carpet appearance when she’d nearly ended up on her face in front of Meryl Streep.  MacKenzie the Elephant.

So, he’d given her an elephant every Oscar year since.

An elephant in bronze on her coffee table.  A china elephant in her kitchen.  An impressionist print of an elephant over her fireplace.

 

(Delete:And now,) Let’s go back to Tony’s action. “Tony tugged a nearly life-sized stuffed baby elephant OUT OF THE CARTON AND SET IT in the middle of THE (Delete: her) family room, wrapped in a magnificent yellow bow. 

I really want the elephant to be OUT of the carton.  She didn’t send it…and I want to tug at the reader’s heartstrings, making them think that Nils remembered, just like she does.

 

And this year, a nearly life-sized stuffed baby elephant, wrapped in a magnificent yellow bow. 

Oh, Nils. 

So, maybe she’d forgive him for not mentioning her tonight in his litany of thank-yous.  He clearly remembered what they’d had together, knew what she’d meant to him.  “I can’t believe – “

 

Let’s have Tony read the card. The reader needs to know. Then give us a physical reaction of MacKenzie as she realizes the elephant is not a Nil’s thank you.  I think it is a stronger suspense device if we find that out in the next chapter.  Right now, we need to think it’s Nil’s.  If we stop, then we aren’t taken by surprise.  We want to capture the reader’s attention. We don’t want to give away too much right now.  But, we could read more into it, just one line that makes us realize there is more to the story…

 

But Tony had finished reading the card, and when he turned, his expression stopped her cold.  Chilled her to the bone. 

Oh no – not again —

And that’s when she heard the ticking. 

Tony had slapped his arm around her waist and was already tackling her to the floor when the bomb exploded. 

 

Excellent.

Yay!  Now, I’m going to clean it up a bit and we’ll post the final draft tomorrow, then, it’s on to Chapter one, Scene 2!

 

Oh, and the discussion on this first scene has been great — we’ll be taking in your comments as we edit this last scene.  As always, if you have any further comments, questions or suggestions, go to www.mybooktherapy.ning.com and add your voice to the discussion!

The Edit: Chapter 1, Scene 1

Hi Book  Bloggers,

We’re off on our Blog-a-Book. We are so excited! This is a GREAT story.

Let’s go over some ground rules.

Susie is writing a rough chapter. On purpose. This gives me an opportunity to give input and help us think through our writing. What kind of questions should we be asking ourselves?

Anytime there is a first draft, it gives us opportunity to see where we’re going with the story and how we can tweak our prose, goals, motivation, and conflict. Also how to layer and deepen POV.

Let’s dive into the story.

Chapter 1.1

“Just once, I’d like to take the Oscar walk down Hollywood Boulevard in my jeans, a blue devil’s tee-shirt, and a pair of flipflops.” Who is she talking to? I’d like to have the setting before the dialog. Can you move “a thousand lights” as the opening line and have MacKenzie Grace walk into the light, reporters calling her name? That way, we are deep in her POV, and she doesn’t have to introduce herself, and we’re pulled into the scene a bit sooner. MacKenzie Grace pulled her wrap tight around her shoulders, even as the February chill found the liberal gaps in her dress and raised gooseflesh. A thousand lights blinked down at her from the Kodak Theater, and around her, limousines honked and maneuvered to the end of the red carpet. Exhaust mixed with the fragrances of a thousand starlets and the earthy smell from the palm trees lined up like sentries along Hollywood Boulevard. “Hurry up, Tony.” Who is Tony?

Sure, she liked her silver Jimmy Choos, Suggestion: Christian Louboutin shoes are the high end Jimmy Choo and really popular now. the deep purple satin gown picked by her stylist from some new Australian designer, but MacKenzie could do without the ten pound emerald earrings pulling at her ears, and especially the fact that every flash, every pop of light, meant that some gossip rag had fresh ammunition to litter her shame across the newsstands of America.

No, not her shame. After all, she’d been half-way across the world, filming in the back alleys and dregs of Bangkok, trying to expose the underbelly of human trafficking. While her husband – no, make that ex-husband as if two weeks ago — exposed his heart to the leading lady in his, yes, Oscar-nominated film.

Let’s open this up some and having MacKenzie talking to a Red Carpet reporter. Walk on characters can broaden a scene, give us movement and dialog. 🙂

“MacKenzie, MacKenzie,” red carpet host for Hollywood Tonight, blocked her next move, shoving a microphone in her face.

“Gloria, so lovely to see you.” Smile. Forced, if necessary.

MacKenzie you should be the one earning an Oscar tonight for her your brilliant, magnanimous smile. (Delete, especially when the camera panned her direction and zoomed in on her expression as Nils Bruno landed his first award for Best Actor.) . How do you feel about your ex-husband being nominated for best actor?”

“There’s a first time for everything, no?”

Gloria laughed too hard. Too loud.

“Nils is an amazing actor.”

Nils, aka Robby, the car-washing burger flopper from McDonalds.

Then again, she’d been a roller-skating waitress from the hills of North Carolina. Are there still roller-skating waitresses? Feels old fashioned.

Three seconds. The camera turned on her for roughly as long as their marriage had lasted. Still, she’d practically ground her molars to dust watching Nils accept the award, nod to his new wife – I was under the impression MacKenzie was just arriving, but now I see she’s leaving the awards. Either one works but can you add a time frame in the beginning? weren’t they supposed to be on their honeymoon? – and cleanly excise the woman who’d believed in him, the one who’d ran lines with him, and footed the bill for his shiny white teeth, from his life.

This line is a bit bumpy. Maybe smooth it out some.

Also, layer in a few of the senses. Is it night? Cold? What is her physical response to this evening? Is her stomach tight? Does she have a headache? On the verge of crying? Do her feet hurt? Just a line or two to get more under her skin and inside her head.

He used to eat out of the dumpster outside Wolfgang Pucks! she wanted to scream at the top of her lungs. LOL!!!

Thought: Or he waxes his eyebrows. Wears male shaping accessories under his clothes because he’s got a flab ring around the middle he can’t get rid of. (saw it on Rachael Ray at the gym.)

But a woman trying to charm Hollywood into backing her recent Indy film, the one she hoped would launch her from action-thriller babe to serious actress, shouldn’t publically disparage one of America’s ‘sexiest men alive’.

She still had his old ratty converse in a box at home. Maybe she could sell it on e-bay, earn some cash to promote her film, maybe raise some discerning heads in the industry…

(Delete: Oh, who was she kidding? Feels a bit chicky) She’d been Hayes O’Brien, 006, international action heroine for so long, directors probably forgot she’d earned a degree in drama at Duke. Or that, for a very short run, she’d even been courted by Broadway.

Then again, maybe everyone had simply weeded through her photo-shopped beauty to the truth. She couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag. Thought: How about Max Factored (in the movie she wouldn’t be photoshopped)

Oh, no, there went Tommy Nave’s nasally sixth grade voice in her head again.

“I just got off the phone with Tony. He’s about five limos back.”

Let’s see Greg from MacKenzie’s point of view.What you have is great, but add a dialog response.

“What would I do without you, Greg Alexander, agent extraordinaire.” MacKenzie didn’t want to imagine life without him. She’d lost enough already. ,(Delete: tucked his blackberry into his pocket, slid in closer to her, and) He wrapped a warm hand around her shoulders. She WANTED TO (Delete: didn’t) lean into him – better not encourage the press. They already had her dating at least three actors, two of whom she’d never even met. “You’re doing great, Mackenzie,” Greg said, lifting his hand to wave to – oh it didn’t matter. She looked away.

You’re doing great. Add a physical reaction. MacKenzie walking faster, bumping past autograph seekers. What’s happening outside the awards? Where is she? Can you add a thought like “Doing great for a woman with no future” or something to give us another picture into her heart yet leave us wondering.

He sounded like a doctor, just another pinch, and yes, this will hurt a bit. She felt as if she’d had her insides filleted watching Nils march down the red carpet, looking resplendent in his tails. Challenge: Sometimes words like “felt” or “let” draw us a step away from the character. In this case, it works, but can we power it up one? Go straight to how she feels. Watching Nils accept his award filleted her insides. Drawing a deep breath hurt between her ribs.” She had turned off the television in the limo before she did something stupid – or perhaps smart? – and ordered Tony to turn her around, take her home.

When was the television on? Can you add a reference here? Was it when she was driving into the ceremony?

Besides, well, she didn’t exactly know where “home” might be anymore.

Greg lifted his arm, (Delete: clearly) AND waveding Tony to the curb. “Okay, sweetheart, you go home, get changed, and I’ll meet you at the Vanity Fair party.” He held out his hand to MacKenzie, as if to help her into the limo.

She ignored it, let the footman open the door for her, gathered her dress and slid into the seat. But before Greg could shut the door, she put her hand out to stop it. “I’m not going.”

It’s always good to have dialog lead if possible. Let’s move “What?” to the beginning, before the action. He’d (Delete: been already) turnEDing away, (Delete: his attention) migrating toward his next client. “What?” (Delete: He looked baffled, as if she might have been speaking Bengali.) It’s clear by the dialog and setting Greg is surprised by MacKenzie’s declaration. Try, when writing action tags or responses, to consider of the scene and dialog broadcast the character’s reaction to the reader. “Did you say you weren’t going?”

“I’m not going.” MacKenzie (Delete: began) pullEDing off one of her Jimmy Choos. “I’m tired. I (Delete: still) have jet lag, and I’ll just be followed around all night with microphones and cameras, gossip magazines wondering if I’m (Delete: still) pining after Nils. (Delete: The answer, by the way, is no.) We can delete this line because Greg probably knows her answer is no, (Delete: She waited for a response, but he just stared at her, as if still trying to comprehend her words.) Greg seems to be sharper than this.

(Delete: Greg,) I just want to go home, soak in a bath, maybe eat some pizza.” Or pie. Yes, pie. Add this line to the last of the dialog above. And tell me what kind of pie. The richness if a story is sometimes in the details! 🙂

(Delete: Greg finally stirred to life – probably at the thought of her reckless consumption of calories.) “Kenzie, hon, you need the press MacKenzie also needs Hollywood big guns on her side moe than the press. Wouldn’t Greg want her there smoozing, getting face time with the people she wants to back her movie? on your side when you go out knocking on doors to find backers. Tonight is the perfect night to generate buzz. You’ve been laying low for –”

“I’ll call you later.” She pulled the door closed and leaned against the seat, thankful for the silence embedded in the plush seats. Tony, his dark hair slicked back, a silver earring in his left ear glanced up at her in the rear view mirror.

“Home, Miss Grace?”

“Please.” (Delete: She pressed her arms against her waist.) Going straight to “home” and in internal thoughts feels like deeper POV. Home. (Delete: No,) Hhome was a tidy double-wide with brown shag carpeting, a weather-bare pink velour sofa, and an irritable tabby named Boss probably running its claws down her mother’s orange polyester drapes. There’d be a bowl of cold grits in the fridge, and possibly a container of store-bought animal crackers on the counter with the lions missing, of course. And her father slumped asleep in his ripped vinyl recliner waiting for (Delete: her mother) Mama get off her shift at the rayon factory. Love this! Good picture of her home life and her parents.

Sometimes to get that close-hug of POV, eliminate personal pronouns like he or she. By replacing “her mother” with “Mama” we are deeper in MacKenzie’s head and heart.

Longing curled through her they passed the luminous red pagoda of Mann’s Chinese theater, lit up for the Academy Awards, and across the street, Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel, its neon red-sign an icon of the silver screen. This location needs to come earlier in the scene so we get a picture of her setting. Lovely description! Places her parents had never seen.

Never would, thanks to the fact that Mama couldn’t figure out how those “tin cans stay in the air.” Not sure what tin cans … oh, airplanes?

MacKenzie eased off her other shoe, and brought her foot up to rub the stress from her cramped toes. “Could we stop by Patrick’s Roadhouse, maybe pick up a banana cream pie?”

Tony flashed her a smile, How does he do this? Show how he does. In the review mirror? and it was the first genuine thing she’d see all day. Good!

She closed her eyes, forcing herself not to see Nils with Isobel, nor his smile and the prodigal swirl of joy at his win. Not sure what prodigal swirl of joy means. I get there’s a back story here but can you add more or use a different word? He’d worked hard for his nomination. And, judging by the double-digit messages he’d left on her machine, perhaps he hadn’t forgotten the woman who’d helped him land his first role. Earlier, she indicated he had “excised” her from his life. So why did he call her? Seems he had forgotten her.

“A whole pie, or just a piece, ma’am?” Tony said, pulling up to the Roadhouse. The place teemed with people, some eating out on the patio, and hers wasn’t the only limo in the parking lot.

“Just a piece would be perfect.” It wasn’t her mama’s, but then again, the roadhouse didn’t have her mama’s secret ingredient, the taste of love. Good. I’d also love a small memory here of making the pie with her mama. A line or two?

(Delete: Oh brother, she was turning into a country-song right before her eyes. Next thing, she’d dissolve into a y’all while she was fixin’ to dive into her paeh. ) Don’t think this adds anything and leans toward a chick sound. The prose is strong without it.

Tony returned with her comfort food Suggestion: instead of telling us it’s her comfort food, show us. What is her physical response to the thought of yummy banana cream pie?

Tony returned with her pie and her mouth watered, her middle gurgled and the idea of Nils winning an Oscar didn’t seem like such a big deal any more.

Something like that. Check those places where you can “show us” how an object effects our emotions.

Pie – comfort food.

Shoes – leather gold.

Ice cream – heaven on earth.

Or whatever. See what I mean? Name the object then describe how it effects the protagonist. EX: Susie shoved a spoonful of ice cream into her mouth. She was floating, high above the ground, the cool sweetness easing the memory of her day. (ta-da, heaven on earth.) 🙂

in a Styrofoam container and she didn’t bother to wait until she’d changed out of her dress, or he’d pulled into her winding, Cyprus tree bordered drive and stopped at her front portico to dive in. She did manage to restrain herself from licking the cream from the container with her tongue. She used her finger, instead, just for Mama. Excellent.

The lights sprayed down from the hovering palms as she stepped out onto her terracotta-tiled porch, and handed Tony the empty container and her fork in a bag. Then she scooped up her shoes, dangling them from her fingers as she tiptoed into the house.

The front door opened without pause – Tony must have unlocked it – Does he not know where Tony is? Seems she’d be following him. Make the parenthetical statement a question. “How did Tony unlock the door already?” and she dropped her shoes onto a padded rattan bench, flicked on a light. “Marissa?”

No response from her housekeeper. TonYe walked in behind her, carrying her purse. “Everything okay, Miss Grace?”

She glanced at him, and something about the way he looked past her, to her open living room made her pulse turn to slurry. “What?”

Can we have some of her physical reaction here? What’s going on? Thoughts racing, hands shaking, nerves running under her skin. Heart beating.

What is the feel and sight of the house. Rich browns, low lights. Just a slight touch of senses of the room.

“Did you have that shipped, because it wasn’t in your luggage.” He touched his hand on her arm ever so briefly, then moved past her, toward what looked like an armchair covered with a dust cloth sitting in the middle of her sunken family room.

“No…I’ve never—“

(Delete: He’d reached it and now pulled the cover off. ) We see that Tony is in motion.

MacKenzie fought the swirl of delight that found her chest. Nisl hadn’t forgotten. No, he’d remembered their joke, her first red-carpet appearance when she’d nearly ended up on her face in front of Meryl Streep. MacKenzie the Elephant.

An elephant in bronze on her coffee table. A china elephant in her kitchen. An impressionist print of an elephant over her fireplace. This was a bit confusing. Can we have a physical motion from MacKenzie? Like, “her eyes scanned the room. There was a bronze elephant on her coffee table… etc., etc.”

(Delete:And now,) Let’s go back to Tony’s action. “Tony tugged a nearly life-sized stuffed baby elephant OUT OF THE CARTON AND SET IT in the middle of THE (Delete: her) family room, wrapped in a magnificent yellow bow.

Oh, Nils.

So, maybe she’d forgive him for not mentioning her tonight in his litany of thank-yous. He clearly remembered what they’d had together, knew what she’d meant to him. “I can’t believe – “

But Tony had finished reading the card, and when he turned, his expression stopped her cold. Chilled her to the bone. Let’s have Tony read the card. The reader needs to know. Then give us a physical reaction of MacKenzie as she realizes the elephant is not a Nil’s thank you.

And that’s when she heard the ticking.

Tony had slapped his arm around her waist and was already tackling her to the floor when the bomb exploded.

Excellent.

The set up of the story is excellent. We are in MacKenzie’s world right away. Doesn’t take a Harvard degree to understand she’s a wounded actress. We are sympathetic for her right away. We want to be her friend. This is the first key to writing a winning story. A relatable, sympathetic heroine.

Now, I’m not a famous actress, but I don’t need to be to relate to MacKenzie. Susie’s masterful characterization skills shine on her rough draft. We see her goal, motivation. I rarely mentioned a lack in those elements.

Each of you will have a strength that shines through in your writing. But for this exercise, we’ll be looking for ways to strengthen our work.

My thinking as I edit

I suggest to the author what I think will strengthen the story. Her work is art and I don’t want to tamper with her artistry, but how can I help her draw strong lines, use bolder colors? I don’t mess with Susie’s voice, just technical issues she might want to consider.

I’ve inserted bits of instruction that I hope will help all of us. I just learned a few of them myself!

Good job, Susie!

Chapter 1: Scene 1!

Here we go…chapter ONE, scene ONE of…??? (okay, we need to name our book!)

Scroll to the bottom after you read the scene and I’ll discuss for a moment the choices I made in putting this scene together.

 

Chapter 1.1

 

           “Just once, I’d like to take the Oscar walk down Hollywood Boulevard in my jeans, a blue devil’s tee-shirt, and a pair of flipflops.”  MacKenzie Grace pulled her wrap tight around her shoulders, even as the February chill found the liberal gaps in her dress and raised gooseflesh.  A thousand lights blinked down at her from the Kodak Theater, and around her, limousines honked and maneuvered to the end of the red carpet.  Exhaust mixed with the fragrances of a thousand starlets and the earthy smell from the palm trees lined up like sentries along Hollywood Boulevard.   “Hurry up, Tony.”  

            Sure, she liked her silver Jimmy Choos, the deep purple satin gown picked by her stylist from some new Australian designer, but MacKenzie could do without the ten pound emerald earrings pulling at her ears, and especially the fact that every flash, every pop of light, meant that some gossip rag had fresh ammunition to litter her shame across the newsstands of America. 

No, not her shame.  After all, she’d been half-way across the world, filming in the back alleys and dregs of Bangkok, trying to expose the underbelly of human trafficking.  While her husband – no, make that ex-husband as if two weeks ago — exposed his heart to the leading lady in his, yes, Oscar-nominated film.

MacKenzie should be the one earning an Oscar tonight for her brilliant, magnanimous smile, especially when the camera panned her direction and zoomed in on her expression as Nils Bruno landed his first award for Best Actor. 

Nils, aka Robby, the car-washing burger flopper from McDonalds.

Then again, she’d been a roller-skating waitress from the hills of North Carolina. 

           Three seconds.  The camera turned on her for roughly as long as their marriage had lasted. Still, she’d practically ground her molars to dust watching Nils accept the award, nod to his new wife – weren’t they supposed to be on their honeymoon? – and cleanly excise the woman who’d believed in him, the one who’d ran lines with him, and footed the bill for his shiny white teeth, from his life. 

            He used to eat out of the dumpster outside Wolfgang Pucks! she wanted to scream at the top of her lungs.

But a woman trying to charm Hollywood into backing her recent Indy film, the one she hoped would launch her from action-thriller babe to serious actress, shouldn’t publically disparage one of America’s ‘sexiest men alive’. 

She still had his old ratty converse in a box at home.  Maybe she could sell it on e-bay, earn some cash to promote her film, maybe raise some discerning heads in the industry… 

Oh, who was she kidding?  She’d been Hayes O’Brien, 006, international action heroine for so long, directors probably forgot she’d earned a degree in drama at Duke.  Or that, for a very short run, she’d even been courted by Broadway. 

Then again, maybe everyone had simply weeded through her photo-shopped beauty to the truth.  She couldn’t act her way out of a paper bag. 

Oh, no, there went Tommy Nave’s nasally sixth grade voice in her head again.    

           “I just got off the phone with Tony.  He’s about five limos back.”  Greg Alexander, agent extraordinaire, tucked his blackberry into his pocket, slid in closer to her, and wrapped a warm hand around her shoulders.  She didn’t lean into him – better not encourage the press.  They already had her dating at least three actors, two of whom she’d never even met.  “You’re doing great, Mackenzie,” Greg said, lifting his hand to wave to – oh it didn’t matter.  She looked away.   

            You’re doing great.  He sounded like a doctor, just another pinch, and yes, this will hurt a bit.  She felt as if she’d had her insides filleted watching Nils march down the red carpet, looking resplendent  in his tails.  She had turned off the television in the limo before she did something stupid – or perhaps smart? – and ordered Tony to turn her around, take her home.

Besides, well, she didn’t exactly know where “home” might be anymore. 

Greg lifted his arm, clearly waving Tony to the curb.  “Okay, sweetheart, you go home, get changed, and I’ll meet you at the Vanity Fair party.”  He held out his hand to MacKenzie, as if to help her into the limo. 

She ignored it, let the footman open the door for her, gathered her dress and slid into the seat.  But before Greg could shut the door, she put her hand out to stop it.  “I’m not going.” 

He’d been already turning away, his attention migrating toward his next client.  “What?”  He looked baffled, as if she might have been speaking Bengali.  “Did you say you weren’t going?” 

“I’m not going.”  MacKenzie began pulling off one of her Jimmy Choos.  “I’m tired.  I still have jet lag, and I’ll just be followed around all night with microphones and cameras, gossip magazines wondering if I’m still pining after Nils.  The answer, by the way, is no.”  She waited for a response, but he just stared at her, as if still trying to comprehend her words.

“Greg, I just want to go home, soak in a bath, maybe eat some pizza.” Or pie.  Yes, pie.

Greg finally stirred to life – probably at the thought of her reckless consumption of calories. “Kenzie, hon, you need the press on your side when you go out knocking on doors to find backers.  Tonight is the perfect night to generate buzz. You’ve been laying low for –”

“I’ll call you later.”  She pulled the door closed and leaned against the seat, thankful for the silence embedded in the plush seats.  Tony, his dark hair slicked back, a silver earring in his left ear glanced up at her in the rear view mirror. 

“Home, Miss Grace?” 

“Please.”  She pressed her arms against her waist.  Home.  No, home was a tidy double-wide with brown shag carpeting, a weather-bare pink velour sofa, and an irritable tabby named Boss probably running its claws down her mother’s orange polyester drapes. There’d be a bowl of cold grits in the fridge, and possibly a container of store-bought animal crackers on the counter with the lions missing, of course.  And her father slumped asleep in his ripped vinyl recliner waiting for her mother get off her shift at the rayon factory. 

Longing curled through her they passed the luminous red pagoda of Mann’s Chinese theater, lit up for the Academy Awards, and across the street, Hollywood’s Roosevelt Hotel, its neon red-sign an icon of the silver screen.  Places her parents had never seen.

Never would, thanks to the fact that Mama couldn’t figure out how those “tin cans stay in the air.”   

MacKenzie eased off her other shoe, and brought her foot up to rub the stress from her cramped toes.  “Could we stop by Patrick’s Roadhouse, maybe pick up a banana cream pie?”

Tony flashed her a smile, and it was the first genuine thing she’d see all day. 

She closed her eyes, forcing herself not to see Nils with Isobel, nor his smile and the prodigal swirl of joy at his win.  He’d worked hard for his nomination.  And, judging by the double-digit messages he’d left on her machine, perhaps he hadn’t forgotten the woman who’d helped him land his first role. 

“A whole pie, or just a piece, ma’am?”  Tony said, pulling up to the Roadhouse.  The place teemed with people, some eating out on the patio, and hers wasn’t the only limo in the parking lot.  “Just a piece would be perfect.”  It wasn’t her mama’s, but then again, the roadhouse didn’t have her mama’s secret ingredient, the taste of love.

Oh brother, she was turning into a country-song right before her eyes.  Next thing, she’d dissolve into a y’all while she was fixin’ to dive into her paeh. 

Tony returned with her comfort food in a Styrofoam container and she didn’t bother to wait until she’d changed out of her dress, or he’d pulled into her winding, Cyprus tree bordered drive and stopped at her front portico to dive in.  She did manage to restrain herself from licking the cream from the container with her tongue.  She used her finger, instead, just for Mama. 

The lights sprayed down from the hovering palms as she stepped out onto her terracotta-tiled porch, and handed Tony the empty container and her fork in a bag.  Then she scooped up her shoes, dangling them from her fingers as she tiptoed into the house. 

The front door opened without pause – Tony must have unlocked it – and she dropped her shoes onto a padded rattan bench, flicked on a light.  “Marissa?” 

No response from her housekeeper.  Tone walked in behind her, carrying her purse.  “Everything okay, Miss Grace?” 

She glanced at him, and something about the way he looked past her, to her open living room made her pulse turn to slurry.  “What?”

“Did you have that shipped, because it wasn’t in your luggage.”  He touched his hand on her arm ever so briefly, then moved past her, toward what looked like an armchair covered with a dust cloth sitting in the middle of her sunken family room. 

“No…I’ve never—“

He’d reached it and now pulled the cover off. 

MacKenzie fought the swirl of delight that found her chest.  Nisl hadn’t forgotten.  No, he’d remembered their joke, her first red-carpet appearance when she’d nearly ended up on her face in front of Meryl Streep.  MacKenzie the Elephant.

An elephant in bronze on her coffee table.  A china elephant in her kitchen.  An impressionist print of an elephant over her fireplace.

And now, a nearly life-sized stuffed baby elephant in the middle of her family room, wrapped in a magnificent yellow bow. 

Oh, Nils. 

So, maybe she’d forgive him for not mentioning her tonight in his litany of thank-yous.  He clearly remembered what they’d had together, knew what she’d meant to him.  “I can’t believe – “

But Tony had finished reading the card, and when he turned, his expression stopped her cold.  Chilled her to the bone. 

And that’s when she heard the ticking. 

Tony had slapped his arm around her waist and was already tackling her to the floor when the bomb exploded. 

 

 

Susie’s thoughts ~

When putting this scene together, I had to incorporate a few things. 

ü  First, I needed to show her in her HOME world…what is her life normally like?  We need to experience who she is before the inciting incident, so we can watch her change.

ü  Also, I wanted to hint at her greatest fear – meaning, that she’d never be an actress of merit.  We’re going to develop this more, but I wanted to hint at it here. 

ü  I also wanted to show us the smallest glimpse of her backstory – that she is from North Carolina, and that she comes from humble beginnings. 

ü  And, I wanted to show her breakup, and how that might feel. 

ü  Finally, I wanted to hint at the suspense – the fact that she is in danger. 

 

I also used my standard Acronym to create a great HOOK build the scene.  To read more about how to create a great hook, read the back issues of the HOOKS archives in My Book Therapy (or, go to the My Book Therapy Shop to download a class on how to create a great hook!)

 

Here’s my acronym in action: SHARP

 

S – Stakes:  She has an Indy film she feels passionate about, and she has to find backers to promo it.  But, after having lost her spouse to another woman, she feels a bit like a pariah in the Hollywood community.  All the same, she needs to keep up appearances in order to keep her connections.  (and good press helps.)

H- Heroine Identification:  She has been publically humiliated, and it’s worse when her ex wins an Oscar and doesn’t even acknowledge the fact that she helped him get there.

A – Anchoring:  Hollywood Storyworld on Academy Awards night.  Glitzy red carpet, lights, limos, Hollywood Boulevard. Also, she’s familiar with the world, so we need to have her interact in a non-awkward way.   

R – On the Run…we’ll start with her already broken up with her spouse, already feeling the brunt of her rejection, and AFTER the awards ceremony so we can move into the scene quickly. 

P – Problem or Story Question – everyone who is anyone is going to a party, but she’s going home…and she really wishes she was going home.  Meaning, she’s lost who she is, and isn’t sure how to find it again.  How does a woman who feels she’s lost herself find herself again? 

 

Now I’m going to hand the scene to Rachel, who will make some edits and post her input.  And, it’s Q & A time at VOICES – post your questions about Scene 1.1 and we’ll do our best to answer it. 

 

I’m going to add a thought here – this is just a rough draft. As we go through this process, we will certainly come back and change things…we won’t know what the final product is until we get finished with the story, it gets rewritten and edited…

 

So, it’s not too late to give us your input!  Every Voice counts.