Scrivener’s Forge 7 – Go In Late

Thanks once again to Neil MacDonald for posting these writing exercises. The information I gleam from these short exercises has been immeasurable. If you are interesting taking part please visit Neil’s site by clicking HERE.

Here in Neil’s words is the challenge for this week –

This is a classic principle of gripping screenwriting.  You create more drama in a scene if you enter it with some action already underway. You avoid the boredom of a drawn-out conclusion if you leave it once the action is done (preferably even adding another hook to the next scene).


Write a scene that starts slam bang wallop in the middle of the action. No introduction, no back story. Use what you’ve learned in previous exercises about character, description, and action to fill in any details we need.

Now for my scene, hope you enjoy it.

The angry voice pierced the air, shattering all notions of peace. Jolted out of my conversation with Lisa, my head snapped to the small group who had been playing water polo a few feet from shore. Lisa lurched to the edge of her chair her eyes pivoting between eight-year-old Michael and his father Matt. Indecision was etched on her face, she kneaded the towel in her hand. My mind struggled to make sense of the scene in front of me. Everyone but Michael and Matt where frozen, stunned by the onslaught from Matt.

“Don’t just stand there. Go and get the ball.” It was then that I noticed the beach ball caught in the current drifting away from the clutch of players. A normal beach scene on a bright summers day. Nothing to worry about.

“Get your ass in gear.” The words ripped through the air.

Michael withering under his father’s glare started to swim. From the beginning, it was a losing battle. The faster his little legs pumped and his arms sliced through the water, the further the ball floated away. We all watched, unable to tear our eyes away. Everyone, except Matt, was holding their breath. He continued his tirade.

“How many times have I told you to be careful?”

“Now you have to pay the price. Get those lazy legs working. If we lose that ball it’s coming out of your allowance.”

Stroke after stroke Michael struggled on. Although awkward the situation didn’t appear dangerous. Michael was within reach of five adults.

Long seconds ticked by. I could see Bob and Ken moving, not swimming simply drifting towards Michael, closing the gap between themselves and the little boy. I pumped my foot to the chants of ‘It’s okay Bob won’t let anything happen to our grandson.’ On and on it went. Michael’s strong strokes started to flounder. His arms were now crashing into the water. Lisa and I were now standing at the edge of the deck. But damn it, I said nothing. I looked at Lisa and silently willed her into doing something, anything to stop the tragedy that was playing out before us. Her head was swiveling between her son and her husband. Do something, help him, I yelled in my mind. Matt continued to rant. His tone and words becoming uglier and uglier.

Michael’s floundering turned to thrashing. He stopped trying to swim and was struggling to tread water. His little head bobbed barely above the surface of the water. Then it slipped. It slipped below the surface. He came up gagging. He disappeared once more. My scream was strangled in my throat as Bob and Ken lunged towards Michael. Ken was closer, he arrived at the sputtering little boy first. Two strokes later Bob was there. Ken clutched the slight form of his nephew to his chest and swam towards the shore.

I shook with anger from head to toe when Matt abruptly changed his tune and was now shouting words of support and encouragement.

“Great job, you almost did it Michael.” Matt’s eyes were bouncing from person to person seeking for support. They settled on Lisa who refused to look at him.

Ken, chest heaving with adrenalin, hands flexing, turned to confront Matt. Bob grabbed his arm and whispered something in his ear. They stood like that for several seconds. Ken vibrating. Bob attempting to calm him. Ken shook his head in disgust and stomped away towards the cottage. If my arms and legs hadn’t turned to rubber, I would’ve walked up to the sneering Matt and slapped him.

Matt sat on a rock beside his son, throwing his arm him, ignoring Michael’s stiff posture. I turned away from the jarring scene, attempting to hide my anger at myself. I had stood silent, not intervening while danger prowled in our midst. Just like my mother before me, I did nothing.

Thanks for reading. Please click HERE to read more responses to this exercise.




4 thoughts on “Scrivener’s Forge 7 – Go In Late

  1. This really works. There is a dramatic event and we’re pitchforked straight into it. You show us the danger before the participants realise it, and that’s cleverly done. But you save the real sucker punch for the end – “Just like my mother before me, I did nothing” – and we suddenly realise much more was going on than we saw. And you come out at that point, leaving us reeling.


    1. Thank you so much Neil. I am glad it worked. Once again thanks for hosting this. These exercises are really improving my writing.


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