Show, Don’t Tell

This week in the writing course is on scene and the idea of showing more than telling. But – as before – they give a list of rules to do this.

According to Brando Skyhorse, all scenes need these five components in order to have a reason to exist:

  1. An action
  2. Dialogue
  3. Specific intimate details
  4. Inner point of view
  5. Definite starting point and stopping point

The goal was then to take those five points and write a story. Five minutes to tell about a character who wants a concrete object more than anything in the world. Then reveal the character has only twenty-four hours to live. Then five minutes to give the character the choice between antidote and the object of his desire.

I felt it important to try and stick to the time frame outlined in the assignment, which made it essentially impossible to do any editing. I also found it hard to escape the cliche of “24-hours to live” and a magic antidote. So this came out a lot less cohesive than my previous two submissions.

I also went over the 400 word limit in the time allotted, but again, I didn’t want to spend more time than was suggested.

Maybe tomorrow or the next day, I’ll try again, just for practice. Until then, here is the continued story of Mentsh. A flawed man on a mission to get a vinyl record copy of New Order’s full-length Elegia in order to play it as he scatters his friend’s ashes over San Francisco Bay.


The record was almost within reach and he hadn’t been seen yet.

He had waited in the restroom until he didn’t hear anyone and then slid like a liquid down the hall and up the rear stairs which were rarely used, except by staff trying to avoid customers, but that wasn’t until the club would be open a few hours.

As he moved up, step by slow step, he could feel the dirty carpet covered wooden steps vibrate as the DJ tried out different songs for later. Between beats, the muffled voices of girls in the dressing room below him talked about their daily lives while they pushed, prodded, and plucked to be ready for the stage and the pole.

He imagined stories his dad used to tell him about “water cooler talk” but pictured strippers clad in nothing more than clear acrylic high heels next to bankers spilling their water onto the office floor.


Tiger’s voice was almost a whisper, but it carried more weight than he could hardly bear.

“How did you get in here? Did you really think you could just come in and take it?”

She was at the top of the stairs, just next to the DJ booth where a non-descript white male in a black hoody did his best to keep time to the music.

“He’d be sick to hear this, you know,” Mentsh said, flippantly.

“Fuck you.” She tapped a cigarette, the ash flickering as it fell to the floor. “Fuck him.”

Mentsh cautiously mounted the last step to the landing. He had forgotten how small she was. How did she have so much power, he wondered, and that is when he felt the jab.

“Huh,” he muttered, jumping closer to her to get away from the sudden pain.

A pale hand and the syringe were retreating into the darkness of private booth.


Photograph courtesy of Shilpa Suchak Photography, all rights reserved.

“Fuck him. Fuck you,” Tiger repeated. “You’re dead. Maybe I can play this record for you instead.”

Mentsh tried to lunge forward, but his left foot had stopped obeying, his tow drug on the carpet, and he stumbled to the side, barely catching a table to keep from falling to the floor. The top was sticky. But they were always sticky here in The Den. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

“It’s mine.” Was his voice slurring? “You said you’re give it to me.” Yes, definitely slurring.

She smiled at him. “Elegia, right? That’s the song. Sentamental crap, but it’s great to fuck to. I’ll give you a choice. The record, or the antidote to the overdose of sedative he just gave you.”

Mentsh knew his tolerance for drugs. If there was such as thing as a degree in IV drug use, he would’ve been a PhD. He knew his tolerance and could already feel gaps in the numbness.

Mentsh leapt at Tiger, reaching for the record, and they both tumbled over the balcony rail.

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