For those of you who are new to this blog, I’ll explain the format. Each week I present a segment of a short story written by me. I then describe some aspect of writing technique pertaining to this segment and open the discussion for an exchange of ideas about character development and theme. It’s that simple, so I hope you’ll join in.
To bring you up to date, Ronnie Stein is a struggling web developer who has been offered two jobs by Mayor Jon Steadman. Through the process of creating a justifiable slot for her in his life, he has also been coming on to her. Ronnie is not his only target. John is having cybersex with multiple partners.
We pick up this story at the point where Ronnie has officially been hired and she has committed to that business relationship. Jon however, continues to make it more than that.
WHEN A MAN’S DEPRESSED, maybe sex will help. [Part 6 of 8]
They approach a booth. Not in a bar as Jon implied. In a restaurant; McCormick and Schmick’s. Jon slides onto his seat, opens his briefcase, pulls out his iPad and lies it on the table. Ronnie sits opposite him, wondering where he’s steering her now. Their server arrives. It’s a young man probably in college. “Good evening Mayor. We haven’t seen you lately.”
“Well Dan, it’s the campaign. Twenty-six hour days. This is Ronnie Stein, my new pollster. She may be coming in here to get some data.”
“Sure,” Dan replies. “Any time.”
Jon swings back to his employee. “Something from the bar, Ronnie? They’ve got a knockout vodka lemonade.”
“Jon, I’m driving.”
“So am I. One drink. Chardonnay good for you?” She nods, thinking she’ll sip it twice. Refusing his gifts a minute into her new job would not be beneficial.
Jon turns back to Dan. “Two Canyon Roads, an order of Buffalo wings and the fried tempura rolls.”
‘Jesus,’she thinks. ‘He just ordered dinner!’
“Two Canyons, order of wings and tempura. Got it.” Dan leaves.
With lips shaping into his familiar grin, Jon reconnects. “So… Max’s questions…” He reaches for his iPad.
“Don’t you have to be home?” she questions, having secured the nerve to ask.
“Empty house. My wife and son are visiting her parents,” he answers, as he turns on his computer and waits for the boot-up.
Ronnie’s not waiting. She grabs her shoulder purse. “You know where the lady’s room is?”
“Yeah. End of the bar, turn right.”
She slides out of the booth and strides away. Alone now, he scans his emails.
In the lady’s room, Ronnie’s cell is held to her ear. “So what would you do?”
“I’d stay,” Beth answers, through the phone. “It’s not like he got ya into his bedroom.”
“But he’s so damn pushy! Like I’m ten years old!”
“He’s the mayor. That’s what mayors do.”
“I got a bad feeling.”
“Just talk about the job.”
“And if he gets personal? Or starts the footsie thing again?”
She’s heading back to their booth. Jon’s has his iPad raised, pointed at her. A moment later he lowers it.
“You took my picture!” she says, moving to her seat.
“No I didn’t.”
Sure he did. There would be no reason to aim his iPad unless he snapped a photo. Or worse, a video.
As she sits down Jon lifts his computer to display Max Jacobs’s polling questions. He explains the script, but his words fade away behind her thoughts. Why would he want her picture? A show-off to his buddies? That’s harmless enough. It’s just a snapshot in a restaurant, with only her in the frame. And it’s not like she’s a secret in his life, or for anyone else. She’s on city hall payroll, for a legitimate job. Or is it? Shit. Is this all about paranoia? Is this the way it is for every girl working for powerful men? Is this something she’ll have to get used to?
It’s later, and dark outside Ronnie’s apartment windows. Her door swings open as she pulls her keys from the lock. A BEEPING in the room tells her a message is waiting. She presses PLAY on her answering machine. “It’s me,” squawks through the tiny speaker. ‘Me’ meaning Beth. “The usual suspects are getting together for a weekend in the woods. A cabin. Somewhere on the lake for the 4th. Wine, beer, pot…sex, which is something you are in bad need of, girl. Just met the coolest guy at work. Aaron…something. Oh yeah! Aaron Sedran. And Jewish! You’d click. I positively know it, so I sent you his pix. Can I give him your number? How’d the date go with the mayor?”
“It wasn’t a date, Beth!”
A BEEP leads in the second message. “Hi. Jon here. Just wanted to tell you how good I felt about our meeting tonight. You’re really going to make a difference. It’s great having you on the team. See you next week.”
A repeated entrance, this time with Jon entering his empty home. He steps into the kitchen, puts down his briefcase and listens to messages. First one: “Where the hell have you been all night?! Keep your Goddamn cell on! CNN published the polls. You’re down five points! Buddy, cut the extra curricular activities and get your ass out on the street shaking hands and kissing babies! And stop coming down on big oil! They’re stopping you, Jon!”
BEEP – second message. “Hi Jon. Guess it was another late night for you. Tried you on your cell. Again, couldn’t reach you. Call me here. Andy wants to talk to you.” BEEP. The message ends.
“God. Ice…” he murmurs. And the reason is clear. He blew it again. But this time, his battery really did discharge. She won’t believe him, though. He used that excuse twice before. He better call his son immediately. Which Jon does.
It’s late. Three am. Jon’s lying on his giant bed, with his wife’s side vacant. It’s quiet in the house, with the muffled wash of city traffic filtering through the thick walls. One lamp illuminates this room, the one on his wife’s side of the bed. He doesn’t want light. It would glare the screen of his iPad, which now displays snapshots of naked females; the tattooed woman, the red haired porn gal, and another girl of unknown origin. Scrolling those away, he pulls up the stealth picture he stole in McCormick and Schmick’s. He leaves that image on his screen, props the iPad against his wife’s pillow, and masturbates to the photo of Ronnie Stein.
To be continued…08/26/2011
So let’s break this segment down. Scene one starts with a REVERSAL – We were led to believe Jon is setting up a short meeting in a bar, but it’s a long one in a restaurant, exactly what he originally proposed. His manipulation puts Ronnie on the defensive and in potential jeopardy with his stolen picture. This produces DRAMATIC TENSION. This scene is also a SET UP for action yet to come.
Scene two, Ronnie’s conversation with Beth, is also a SET UP for what immediately follows and this story’s conclusion. “I got a bad feeling.” is the key dialogue CLUE.
Scene three – Ron takes her picture. This action propels the story forward. We are now asking, along with Ronnie, why would he take her picture? To keep a plot line in play, the writer must continually set up potential unfavorable outcomes. However, the reader must care about our hero for this tension-builder to work.
Scene four – the introduction of a new character: Aaron Sedran. The reader subconsciously knows, if a character is put into a properly structured story, there must be a reason for it. Again, a question is set up: How will Aaron affect Ronnie’s future? Favorable or unfavorable? Story telling consistently sets up question after question.
Scene five RESOLVES the questions: Did Jon really take Ronnie’s photo? And if so, why he did it. But this scene also RAISES THE STAKES with other questions: Jon’s sex addiction is extreme. So how will his story play out? Is Ronnie’s exposed to even more jeopardy than we originally suspected?
What do you think? Is Ronnie in harm’s way? Is the Mayor a “bad” person? Or is he a “good guy” afflicted with overwhelming unfulfilled needs. Can you feel any sympathy for him?
And one more thing: Do you find white letters on a dark gray background difficult to read? Please let me know if you do. You can personally email me if you wish.