We here at the Guild try to encourage each other to write whenever possible. To that end we issue prompts once a year. These can be items — I wrote a funny story about demon babies and witches based on a such a prompt (a baby soother) — photographs, snatches of dialogue, or even randomly selected words/phrases. At our March 27th meeting (rescheduled to April 3rd) I offered the following exercise:
Gene Roddenbery, the creator of Star Trek, didn’t start out as a writer. He was a police officer for years before deciding that television was his true calling. Not having a lot of money or free time he couldn’t afford classes in writing so he taught himself using a simple trick — he watched TV. First he would watch with the sound off and try to write dialogue to fit the action. Then he would sit with his back to the TV and write action to the dialogue he heard. In that spirit I ask you to think of a favourite movie and write part of it (the opening, a favourite scene, etc.) in prose. Don’t mention what movie it is and see if we can guess the title just from the brief (500 word) sample. Below is an example I wrote many years ago — it’s a bit rough, but conveys the opening shot of one of my favourite movies (hint: it stars Richard Pryor, John Candy, and Hume Cronin).
The sun gaped like open wound in the sky. Bloated and sickly it hung against the washed out blue background. A blue only matched by overused urinal cakes, with not a porcelain white cloud in sight. What little warmth the gaseous orb shed fell limp upon the mostly yellow, threadbare grass.
That stretch of dying growth, which only a true believer would call an “out-field,” worked hard to make the shitty dirt look magical and inviting. Like every other aspect of the old ballpark, it failed miserably.
Crooked chalk baselines marked the field’s wobbly diamond. The fence, a collection of mostly vertical boards that had been painted years ago with a colour now little more than a memory, threatened to collapse with every stale breath of wind.
There were two dugouts. Twin pits not even fit for an animal. Both moldy. Neither had a working fountain … just rusting pipes that groaned and dinged before releasing a trickle of thick, disgusting slime.
Each dugout was built around a long bench, roughly cut pine, little more than a squared off log. The bench was a place most of the players were intimately familiar with, having spent plenty of time sitting on it – or others like it – throughout their careers. Knots covered its length, explaining why it hadn’t been cut for timber. Small holes marked where various species of insects resided … those that weren’t busy afflicting the players.
Behind the dugouts lurked the fans. A surly lot, more interested in the overpriced beer than the laughably inept action on the field, they jeered the home team and tried to find a comfortable spot in the unforgiving steel and concrete stands. Built to house six thousand, it echoed pathetically with a few hundred in the seats. The public address system screeched like a scalded cat, thankfully failing to convey the announcer’s incoherent ramblings.
All things considered, it was a ballpark worthy of the city of Hakensack.
None of this was noticed by the scrawny figure standing alone by the scared rubber of the uneven mound. Sixty-two feet six inches from home plate, give or take a foot, he was oblivious to his surroundings. Standing in a much-mended uniform, complete with a more pink than red bull rampant on his breast, he existed in his own little world.
Montgomery Brewster was unaware of the curses rising from the half empty stands or the obvious disrepair of the stadium around him. In his mind he was back at Wrigley Field pitching for the Cubs. Living, once again, the high life of The Show.