Writer’s Folly

Writer’s Folly

An unfinished screenplay I started, oh, about a year and a half ago. This was meant to be something of a Noises Off sort of thing, where we learn about what happens on a television set from the perspective of the writers.

WRITER’S FOLLY

SCENE: A cafe, morning, people standing in line for coffee. A bit impatient, as waiting for coffee before work usually is. Focus on one man, youngish, averageish, dresses with a progressive/hipster/different sense of style, third in line.

MAN 1:

You couldn’t go any faster, could you? My wife is waiting in the car.

BARISTA:

I’m sorry, sir. We’re moving as quickly as we can. If you’ll go wait by that counter, there, you’ll have your drinks in a couple of minutes. Next! Hi, sir, how can I help you today?

MAN 2:

I need a coffee to go. Dark, shot of espresso. Gotta stay awake, you know?

BARISTA:

Sure. Late night?

MAN 2:

You have no idea. I fell asleep at my desk and my boss calling was the only thing that woke me up. Sheesh, I thought I was hearing my death calling. Like that quote, you know? Um, right. Don’t ask who the bell’s tolling for, because it’s for you. Something like that.

ALAN:

Ask not for whom the bell tolls. It tolls for thee.

MAN 2:

Yeah, that’s it. Anyways, what do I owe you–?

ALAN:

You would, naturally, use whom instead of who because of the preposition ‘for’. Whom, being the indirect object or the dative subject of a sentence, usually indicated by the prepositions ‘to’ or ‘for’.

MAN 2:

Sure. Whatever you say.

BARISTA:

That’s four seventy six.

ALAN:

I understand that it’s a common mistake. After all, we native speakers of English never really learn the grammar unless we study it from the point of view of another language or from a linguistic perspective. It’s a shame, really.

MAN 2:

Listen, that’s great. But I just want my coffee.

ALAN:

Interesting. You started a sentence with a conjunction. Not necessarily incorrect, but not always approved of in formal writing.

MAN 2:

Are you saying I’m not educated?

ALAN:

Certainly not. I’m just musing on common speech.

MAN 2:

So, now I’m common is it? You got some sort of superiority complex, is that it? Think you’re better than everyone else because you can talk fancy and analyse language so we all look like fools? Well, I’ll tell you something, bub. I have a college degree, just like a bunch of other folks. I’m not some uneducated fool you can just talk down to.

ALAN:

I wasn’t implying that you’re uneducated. Actually, I find that the difference in speech production between those with a college education and those without is very slim. Now, if we’re talking a master’s degree, or even a PHD, then the margins are a bit wider. It’s just intriguing, the degradation of communication these days.

MAN 2:

I’m pretty sure you’re insulting me.

ALAN:

The fact that you’re only ‘pretty sure’ is a case in point.

END SCENE

SCENE 2: Alan walking up to a television set, same morning, now holding a pack of ice to his jaw. Shows ID badge to security.

GEORGE:

What happened to you?

ALAN:

The degradation of the English language.

GEORGE:

Whatever you say, kid. I just work security. I don’t bother with the English language. Not since Shakespeare.

ALAN:
Ah, Shakespeare. A writer who was actually lauded during his time. It wouldn’t be pathetic to wish for a nice plague to encourage the want for decent writers, would it?

GEORGE:

I have no idea what you’re talking about.

LEE: Running up, out of breath. Wearing jeans and sweater. Prettyish, approximately same age as Alan.

Alan! There you are. What happened to you?

GEORGE:
The degradation of the English language, apparently.

LEE:

What? Oh, never mind. Doesn’t matter. Director Man wants you to go over the script with the male cast while they get into costume and make-up.

ALAN:

Why me? I only wrote part of the script. You could do it better than I could. Besides, I haven’t had my coffee yet. I got kicked out of the shop.

LEE:

What? Again? Nope, won’t ask. I can’t go into the men’s costume area. Female, remember?

ALAN:

Fine. Have there been any script changes since I left last night?

LEE:

Not that I know of. Oh, wait. Director Man wanted a false confession, so we had to scrap the creepy sociopath moment in the interrogation room and promote one of the extras to, you know, a speaking roll. Spending more money, but I’m just a writer. What do I know about TV finance?

ALAN:

More than I do, probably. Did we give this new character a name?

LEE:

This one was… Fish. Yep, I think Joe decided on Fish.

ALAN:

Joe named the last one. At the dressing rooms. Right, into the fray. ‘Ours not to question why…’

LEE:

‘Ours but to do or die.’ Good luck, my friend. And remember, they’re just actors. We’re the ones with the actual power. One flourish on the keyboard and they’d be on the ground, bleeding…

ALAN:

Very cheerful thought, Lee. I’ll be sure to tell them that.

LEE:

Sarcasm?

ALAN:

More sardonism than sarcasm.

LEE: Shakes head, walks off.

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