Monday, January 7, 2013

Further Adventures With Sam

One thing I find hard for a comedy story is telling it in third person. It just feels weird, since a lot of comedy comes from getting a good voice for the protagonist. Not only that, most of the comedy I like best comes from word play, irony and farce. However, you can't set up "things the character doesn't know, but the audience does" with a first-person POV (or at least, at my level of writing skill, I can't.) You can do it from a third-person POV, but then you lose some of the power of a voice.

A way around that, of course, is to have a whimsical narrator. I'm not a fan of writing a whimsical narrator because then, the POV starts to take on a character of its own. Take Terry Pratchett's Disc World stories; they have an extremely effective third-person POV, but you would be hard pressed to convince me that the narrator is not as much a character as Vimes or the Patrician in the stories.

There's another way to get around this problem, which I have employed. That is to share narrating duties, much like sitcoms have multiple view point characters, in the classic A-Plot, B-Plot construction. Characters in the A-Plot are working toward one goal, those in the B-Plot are working toward a separate goal. Their interaction forms the basis of our narrative flow (Oh no! Joey and Jesse are trying to work out creative differences while Stephanie wants to be a big girl like D.J. Hilarity ensues.) Through this plot construction, we create things that the audience knows that the principals in the A-Plot and B-Plot don't know without having to completely slow down a plot to have some "As you know" conversations.

So, we're taking a break from being inside Lucy's head to slow down the story and readjust reader expectations. Here's an interesting thing to try if you know someone who might want to read this, but has not yet read Lucy's section. Have them read this section first, then have them read Lucy's side. See if their impression of Sam is different from yours.
* * *
Never sure what makes me so nervous. I’m not a stupid guy; I graduated with a 3.0 (or close to that) from CSU. My mom and dad never made it through college; it was the proudest day of their life to see their only son accept the sheepskin. I was one of those bright-eyed kids lining up just a few years too late for the tech boom, just missing the Clinton bubble to get crushed by the soapy suds of the Bush and Obama recession.

Even though the good times didn’t last, I still made decent money for a few years. That was before outsourcing IT became a thing, or at least, before it became a thing that redirected my 9-5 to split shifts at a bowling alley and Taco Bell. I remember the odd feeling of triumph I had when I was able to throw in my burrito hat for the prestigious new digs at the O.G. I still worked some nights at the bowling alley, but that’s because my friend Kenny’s dad owns the place and let Kenny and me have some beers gratis if we work a little over time. Kenny’s dad is an alright guy, and judging by his house, bowling is a big industry in California. Who knew, right?

I got good at bowling, since we’d turn on a lane after-hours until three or four in the morning some nights. Kenny says I bowled a perfect game once; but I was too drunk to remember it. I average around 210, just shy of professional, which is damn good. Anyway, I always thought bowling was a thing fly over country did, but then I found out even the White House has some lanes. Who knew, right? Someday, I figure, if I bowl at the White House, I’ll try and get as loaded as I can. I might be the first person to bowl a perfect game there.

Anyway: So, I’m an amateur athlete with a degree in a field that should be picking up any day now. I hold down not one, but two jobs. Also, I’m pretty confident I’m not ugly. Not just because my mom says I’m handsome, but because when Kenny and I have gone out to bars, if I wanted to, I could’ve gone home with any number of women Kenny and I tried to pick up. I just don’t, because something happens when I’m about to ask them to seal the deal. Kenny has said he has theories about it, but he’s working at the bowling alley because he dropped out of psychology, business, elementary education and communication at CSU. Look: I don’t mean to be insulting, but, those’re just some of the reasons I don’t take Kenny’s ideas seriously.

Like, last week, ok? Kenny and I are down at The Blue Boar Pub. Kenny was just along to drink a little before working at the bowling alley, which I guess is my point. He’s not really what I’d call “responsible.” Well, anyway, he steps away from the bar to use the bathroom or something, and this girl comes up. I don’t remember her name, but I remember what she looked like. She was wearing this low-cut green top with a dress, or skirt. Whichever is the one that’s all one piece, slit up her leg to here.

She just sat down next to me and started chatting me up; I even bought her a drink, the same thing I was having. I forget what it was, but I think it was green, because I remember her laughing when I said it matched her dress. “It doesn’t really,” She said. I think her hair was brown, or sandy. “My dress is a totally different shade.” We shook hands and I was about to ask for her number, when I saw Kenny come out of the bathroom. He was staying back, I guess to let me do my thing.

“No, no. It really does,” I said. Kenny had told me that women like to be complimented on how they dress.

“They put a lot of time into that shit, so act like you’re paying attention,” He had told me during one of his first nights as wingman.

“Isn’t it creepy?”

“Nah, man. It shows you’re sensitive and that you’re looking at more than what she’s showing off,” He said. “Remember when you were a kid and you’d get new sneakers? Everyone would always say ‘Wow, those are awesome sneaks dude.’”

“Yeah,” I had told him. “Then we’d say how radical they were while we hit each other with slap bracelets.”

“Point is man, let the lady know that she’s got good taste,” Kenny had been insistent on this point. “And don’t let them just brush off a compliment man. When you say their new hair cut is great or that the dress is pretty, they’ll say some shit like: ‘Oh, it was just a trim’ or ‘This old thing?’ They’re fishing. Let them reel you the fuck in.”

So, when she held up the drink to the light and said: “I don’t think it matches at all Sam,” I knew exactly what to say. She had this smile, it was a sort of cute half-teasing smile.

“I thought that’s why you picked it,” I said, stammering a bit. “Because, you know, it completed the outfit.”

The smile flickered on and off for a second. “Really?”

“Yes,” I said. Then I thought maybe I should have instead laughed and said no.

“It doesn’t match, at all.”

“No, it really does, here, look,” I took her hand and held the drink next to her dress. She pulled her hand away.

“Don’t touch me.”

“But, look, it really does match,” I said.

“I’m a graphic designer, I think I’d know if it matches. It doesn’t,” She said. I picked up my drink and held it out to her.

“You’re just not seeing it in the right light, look just ask anyone, it is a match,” I said. “You’ve got really great taste.”

“I didn’t even pick this drink,” she said, standing up. I walked after her.

“But, I mean, you didn’t turn it down, so you know, you must’ve seen that it was a match,” I said. She clutched her purse and started walking faster. I still remember the embarrassment of calling after her: “Do you have any plans tomorrow night?”

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