the screenplay

First, economy is a constant partner. Every action is pared to plainspoken verbs. The only real life is in the dialogue, the spoken word. It is the ultimate in Showing (save those tiresome scenes in which we hear the protag's thoughts).

But even the dialogue, the story, belongs mostly to itself, for there is the omnipresence of others to come. A writer never entirely owns a screenplay. Once it's in the hands of the producer, director, and especially the actors, it takes on its own life. The first time you hear and see your written word onscreen is like when your kid comes home from college after his first semester away. His hair is longer, he wears an unfamiliar shirt, and he smells of new people and places and ideas. His very voice has changed with excitement. He's got a life of his own now, and his parents' influence have been reduced to glimpses.

Another good lesson to learn for a novelist, because once someone reads your book, it is no longer just your own. Everyone brings their own insight to the table (or bed or sofa--where ever they like to read).

I wonder what each of you will take from this. Certainly not all of what I intended. But with each reading, each hearing, our stories become richer, more imbued with meaning than one person alone can manage.

From (working title) TIME MOBILE:

Midnight. Quinn kills engine of his motorcycle outside his garage and sighs as he takes off his helmet. His hair is all sweaty and he’s covered in dirt. He goes into the garage and pulls the phone out of his jacket. The phone reads FOUR MISSED CALLS. QUINN punches RETURN CALL without looking at the number.

MALE VOICE Quinn. I’ve been waiting for your call.

QUINN (goes very still) Who is this?

MALE VOICE Refusing to cooperate just prolongs the inevitable. You’ve got something of mine.

QUINN This phone.

MALE VOICE There’s a clever lad. Just put it back where you found it and no harm done, right?

QUINN What about--(stops as he realizes his near-mistake)

MALE VOICE Your new girlfriend. Jennifer. She’s gotten curious about us, thanks to you.

QUINN I think she got plenty curious once Marcus disappeared. What did you do to him?

MALE VOICE He got...cold feet. (pause) We’ll have to think on what to do about Jennifer.

QUINN (suddenly angry) I wonder what the going rate is for a phone that talks through time? It might be my ticket to citizenship in Boulder, maybe even Denver.


QUINN But I can be reasonable. I’ll go find out what the Authority will pay for it and give you a chance to beat their offer. Should I ring you back at this number?

MALE VOICE The Authority will kill you if you go near them with that phone. They’ll assume you’re one of us.

QUINN I guess I’ll take my chances.

MALE VOICE You have no idea who you’re playing with here.

QUINN Yeah, but I know who you’re not, and that’s enough for now. (Snaps phone shut. His hands are trembling. Takes a deep breath and finds Jennifer’s number.)


QUINN (sighs in relief) Yeah. It’s me.

JENNIFER I’ve been calling and calling. Where were you?

QUINN Starting a war.

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