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The Playwrights Forum > The Art & Craft of Writing > The Playwrights' Gym - Re-writes > The Crowded Conversation

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The Crowded Conversation  Rate Topic 
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 Posted: Thu Oct 26th, 2006 08:23 pm
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BillySundae
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Mana: 
Below is a revision of part of The Crowded Conversation (which is itself one of the revisions-- I didn't care for the title). There's only four pages or so, out of 9. What I tried to do was make some of the speeches less 'speechy' and more conversational. Let me know if I'm on the right track.

 


ED


 

                                    You know how come. I hate…

 

I dislike how Julie treats me.

 

BOB


 

                                    And all of that would change at your mother’s?

 

I was married to Sue for twelve years. She too is a stickler for keeping a clean room and doing chores; all the things that Julie insists you do. So, how would being there be any different?

 

ED


 

                                    I …don’t … know…. It just would.

 

BOB


 

                                    Well, I need a reason.

 

ED


 

I’m fifteen. I ought to be able to make my own decisions about where I live?

 

BOB


 

                                    Try again.

 

ED


 

                                    You’ve had me since you all divorced. It’s her turn.

 

BOB


 

                                    Don’t think so. One more chance.

 

Bob and Ed, father and son, look at each other.

 

How about the real reason?

ED


 

I don’t like Julie. I love you. I like being with you, I just can’t stand her!

 

BOB


(not making it easy)


 

                                    Her?

 

ED


 

                                    Julie.

 

Silence. No reaction from Bob.

 

                                    Alright… Mom.

 

                                    I don’t like Mom.

 

BOB


 

Why not? She is the one who has been here, since you were four years old. Even while your biological Mom was serving time in jail, Julie was here taking care of you: Making your meals. Buying your clothes. Holding you when you woke up with bad dreams. Putting on band aids when you fell and got hurt. What’s not to like?

 

ED


 

                                    So she did all that.  Wasn’t she supposed to?

 

BOB


 

Yes. But she didn’t have to. You weren’t her biological child; she had no personal obligation to help raise you.

 

ED


 

                                    She married you. Didn’t that obligate her to raising me?

 

BOB


 

                                    No.

 

ED


 

                                    No?

BOB


 

No. All our marriage obligated her to was to having to have you in the house. But, of course, the truth is that she did as much as I have.

 

ED


 

How can you say that? She has refused to take me to school. She refuses to be involved with PTA, or orchestra or football or any of the other things I’m involved in.

 

BOB


 

That’s not true. But even if it were, what does that have to do with your wanting to move out?

 

ED


 

I just think that since I have been with you since I was two that fairness says I should stay with my biological Mom until I’m 18.

 

BOB


 

Right now you stay every Thursday and Friday night and every other weekend with Sue. That’s seven days out of every fourteen. If you went to stay with her, then you would spend Thursday and Friday nights and every other weekend with me—seven days out of every fourteen. So what’s the difference?

 

ED


 

Actually, its now six out of 14 days I spend with her. So, I’d get to spend more time with her.

 

BOB


 

                                    Ed, what is this really all about?

 


ED


 

                                    That’s really all this is about: more time with my real Mom!

 

 


BOB


 

Well, if that’s all its about, we’re just talking about a difference of 13 days a year. You can spend two extra weeks a year with Sue each summer and it won’t be necessary to go to court to get custody changed. How about that?

 

ED


 

                                    Well, I don’t know…

 

BOB


 

You don’t know what? Whether or not you really want to spend more time with Sue?

 

ED


 

                                    No. Its…

 

BOB


 

                                    What’s really the issue here, Ed?

 

ED


(blurting)


 

If I stayed with my real Mom full-time, you wouldn’t get child support anymore, would you?

 

BOB


 

                                    No. I wouldn’t get child support any more. That’s true.

                                    But why would that matter to you?

 

ED


 

Mom says that if she didn’t have to pay you child support that she could afford to live in a nicer place.

 

BOB


 

Forgetting the issue of child support—which is none of your business—why do you want to live at Sue’s?

 

 


ED


 

But that’s the reason. Mom is unemployed now. She can’t afford child support.

 

BOB


 

You’re not responsible for taking care of your mother. She has made her own bed—let her lie in it.

 

ED


 

                                    But I have to lie in too, Dad. And I don’t like it!

 

BOB


 

Well, don’t stay there as much. You only have to spend one afternoon a week and every other weekend with your biological mother. The court hasn’t required that you spend so much time there, you have.

 

ED


 

I know. But I love my Mom—both my moms, actually—and I want to spend time with her. But I’m so tired of being embarrassed about where she lives and what she does for a living. I don’t really understand what you do. But you’re making a good living and I admire that. I know you love me. And I like that too. But, well…

 

BOB


 

Sue has done some things I know that she probably regrets. But I don’t think she has any regrets about you. On that I’m sure we both agree.

 

ED


 

                                    You’re changing the topic, Dad.

 

BOB


 

                                    Yeah. I suppose so.

 

 

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 Posted: Wed Nov 1st, 2006 04:16 pm
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matthew matthew matthew
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Mana: 
I tend not to read others' work on here but was bored at work and drawn to your piece.  I loved the title - a good start - and wasn't disappointed.  I hadn't read the original and have only now taken a quick look to see how it might end.

First off, I loved the start  ... being thrown into the conversation, although I fear that this may just be just what you have posted rather than the intended start.  And the intial sparse dialogue is simply great, although I wish it could have been maintained later on.  Somewhere around the middle I felt there was exposition overload (about the real mom being in jail and the new mom bringing him up) that was already covered elsewhere (or could have been with some minor tweaks).  And I wondered about the conversation veering on to other father-son topics (girlfriends? college?) before moving back to the subject at hand.  But maybe not.  Just a thought.  It already has the makings of a beautiful short piece.

Anyway, thanks loads for the read.  I really enjoyed it.

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 Posted: Wed Nov 1st, 2006 07:34 pm
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BillySundae
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Mana: 
I did post the entire piece elsewhere, so you're right you were plopped down in the middle of the play.

I like your insights though and I'll incorporate them when I get some time in the next day or two. I work as a tutor in a writing center and today has been extremely busy. But I won't forget your advice. Thanks.

BillySundae

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 Posted: Thu Nov 2nd, 2006 03:06 pm
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matthew matthew matthew
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Mana: 
BillySundae wrote:  I work as a tutor in a writing center and today has been extremely busy.

Now that's my kind of job.  I've just been made redundant from my job that pays regularly and are facing up to the harsh realities of eventually having to find something that probably won't sit as comfortably with my writing as my previous role.  Ho hum.

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 Posted: Sun Nov 12th, 2006 06:53 pm
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Paddy
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Mana: 
I love the idea of this, but if feels a bit dispassionate.  Also...I have a fifteen year old son...and I don't think you've caught this boys voice.  I forgot what play it was when I started reading, and my first thought was why is Ed, a grown man, going to go back home to live with his mom.  It was interesting that the first couple of lines felt like that...two guys talking about one's failed marriage.  Then, I realized what play it was.

I still think it's too formal, not enough interrupting, not enough familiarity between the two.

Paddy

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 Posted: Mon Nov 13th, 2006 01:12 pm
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BillySundae
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Mana: 
Good insights, Paddy. I didn't think the piece worked but I couldn't figure out why. Now I thnk I can fix it. Thanks.

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 Posted: Thu Nov 16th, 2006 06:55 am
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Poet
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Mana: 
Following Paddy's comment - she's right, the child's voice is not right ('obligated' in an emotional exchange with his dad?) but there's something else here. 

Like Paddy, I have a 15 year old (daughter), and I've had conversations with her when there's a hidden agenda. It takes a lot to draw it from her and I only get to the root at the zenith of a row! Here, Ed gives up too calmly - it's too logical, too thought-out and not emotional. I think that's what Paddy meant - there doesn't seem to be enough tension; Ed should be really worried about bringing it up, more defensive of the fake reasons and more reluctant about the real one.

Which leads me to the second and (for me) more important point. I don't think it's just the child - I think that Bob (who sounds like he's been through the mill) would be bloody livid! I don't see my 15 year old as a child any more - I expect near-adult thinking and behaviour from her, and if she'd thrown this at me (criticising my second wife and basically throwing everything back in my face, then suggesting I subsidise the ex-con ex-wife) I'd be apoplectic!

I liked the twist (it would have been easier to write a dad-went-to-jail piece with a troubled 15 year old boy) but maybe, with a lot more emotion in this, you have a nice point to make about the son being the ultimate victim of mom's crime (whatever it was) and the marital split (for whatever reason)?

Last edited on Thu Nov 16th, 2006 06:56 am by Poet

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 Posted: Thu Nov 16th, 2006 02:15 pm
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BillySundae
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Mana: 
Poet, your insights are on target. In part I think the problem may be trying to "fit" the play to ten minutes. Undoubtably, it is possible to fit a row into ten minutes. But, someone else (nic, I think) made the point that I was trying to put too much background into such a short piece. So I'm going to work on expanding the work-- perhaps to 20 minutes and see if by building the conversation more slowly, to a bigger flashpoint that perhaps the play will work better. Then I'll post it again. 

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 Posted: Fri Nov 17th, 2006 11:34 am
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Poet
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Mana: 
Billy

Hope I'm not sticking my nose in - but bearing in mind your above comments, why not start with the row, to give you both the emotional hook for the dialogue, some of the backstory and the positioning for the voices? It's only a minor tweak to the opening...

Father and son, Bob and Ed, are sat watching tv. Bob glances angily at Ed, who notices the look but looks down and fiddles with a pair of sunglasses nervously.

Pause.

Ed looks up and catches Bob looking back at him.

BOB: There's no point trying to pretend it hasn't been said between us. Do you think it will go away now? Phhh - pathetic! I still can't bloody believe it! You're fifteen! Fifteen, do you get it? What do you know? How dare you -

ED: I said I was sorry, Dad!

BOB: Sorry? You're sorry? Oh, he's sorry, so everything's fine then! Bring on the band and let's have a party, I'll bake a -

ED: All I said was that I hate -

BOB: Jeez, you'd really better watch that mouth, boy! It's going to get you into more trouble than you can handle if you  -

ED: Ok! Ok! All I -

BOB: Don't you dare -

BOB: DISLIKE! Dislike, ok? I dislike how Julie treats me!

ED: How she treats you? How SHE treats YOU? Oh, and I suppose you'll be treated differently at your mothers, will you? Saint Susan kisses it all better does she?

________

You can then more-or-less revert to your existing conversation; but in just 4 exchanges you've established a pre-existing tension that day, a defensive child, an insulted and angry father, a previous marriage which broke up acrimoniously and hinted at another woman on the scene with whom the child has issues - and I think you might find the rest of the dialogue more-or-less rewrites itself from the voices.

Any use?

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 Posted: Fri Nov 17th, 2006 06:45 pm
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BillySundae
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Mana: 
Yes indeed. I wish I'd thought of-- but I'm glad you did.

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