My sort-of-friend sent me a copy of his “hilarious” script yesterday along with a haughty note challenging me to find an error, something I’m typically known for doing well. I often find it thrilling to ruthlessly rip apart the work put in front of me by my fellow writer-ly people, especially the arrogant ones. I’m speaking of a figurative rip, of course. Only once was it literal, but let’s not get into that.
Since this sort-of-friend and I have technically never met perhaps that label doesn’t quite fit, but I’m not exactly sure what to call the guy I occasionally chat with and borderline stalked on some dating website. A site that I swear I’m on only for the convenience of interacting with the varying personalities available in order to provoke the creative drive behind my sporadically updated dating blog. I’ll just call him Ted.
I don’t typically work with scriptwriters, so when I opened Ted’s work I kind-of panicked. He’d written remarks about camera angles and stage direction, and presented it all in a format I’d never seen before other than that one time I stumbled upon a street vendor with pink hair selling old movie scripts for five bucks on a corner in Times Square. I began to wonder why the hell Ted wanted me to “check this out” in the first place. Doesn’t he know scriptwriting is foreign to me? But I forced myself into it anyway, skipping over the verbiage I didn’t understand simply because I desperately need new writer-ly friends.
Back in college I occasionally exchanged writing with this guy in my American Literature class. We would only communicate through e-mails or text messages, and even after graduation he never pushed for us to discuss our work face-to-face. It was my idea of the perfect writer-ly friendship. Well, almost perfect. As much as I enjoyed editing his poetry and short fiction, the feedback I got in return was borderline useless. He could never put an adjective to my writing other than “awesome” or “great”, and when I pressed for more he’d say something incredibly annoying like, “I really connected with that one character” and I’d be left wondering why I bothered to spend three hours tearing apart his work and tracking all the changes for him in Microsoft Word when he clearly wasn’t putting the same effort into our relationship. However, since I had read his stories, I knew he didn’t know the difference between THERE and THEIR, and I didn’t think his opinion could be trusted anyway. He eventually told me he was considering taking a hiatus from writing to focus on his desired career as an accountant, and I told him I thought that would be best. 🙂
Glancing over Ted’s pages I noticed they were littered with spelling and grammar mistakes, and I became instantly psyched to deflate his ego by defacing his script with my red markings. I hit the track changes button, and dove into his words with the excitement of one of Gru’s Minions in that ridiculously adorable movie made for kids but which has attracted a slightly disturbing adult cult following.
I was at work. The office phone rang twice and I ignored it. I also ignored my boss when he asked me why I didn’t answer it. I was in the zone, and nothing could pull me out. Not even my incredibly underpaid nine to five position in which I hold six different titles, all with their own set of responsibilities and no extra cash flow. My boss claims it’s hard times.
It’s beyond me how Ted missed so many errors. But would an actor really stumble over the line where he wrote “TO” when it should have read “TOO”? A professional would surely, but not these kids he has acting out his scripts for his YouTube channel. Most of them probably wouldn’t even notice the mistake. I had warned Ted I was going to be brutal like I’ve done in the past with other writer-ly friends, but I threw in a few “haha” comments next to things I found funny since Ted is originally from Boise or some other city out west where people are actually nice to each other and smile at strangers, so it’s safe to assume he can’t handle constructive criticism.
Sometime in my mid-twenties, I met this guy at a party. He was a self-proclaimed comedian in the middle of writing his first novel, so of course, I told him to send me what he had so far. I shouldn’t have been so shocked when his manuscript turned out to be not so funny…like, not even a little bit. The whole concept of his book revolved around a young guy who hates his job which, these days, is basically the reality of most of us “Millennials” trying to find success after college and who the hell wants to be reminded of their delayed career projection and overwhelming student loan debt? No one. As usual, I had warned this guy that I’d be blunt, so he should have been prepared for my slightly harsh feedback which I consider to always be right since I’m Irish, and if you’re also Irish then you know what that means. Anyway, I never heard from him again. I wasn’t even that cruel, but my version of being nice is adding a smiley face after I say something too honest, and this guy had told me all about his “hysterical” novel for an hour and a half at that frat party I was probably too old to be at which didn’t even raise the corners of my lips for over 45 pages. Microsoft Word pages!
Ten minutes into reading Ted’s script I came to a scene where he wrote some cliché nonsense about a preppy white guy listening to rap music, and I have to word my opinion in a way that will get my point across but not discourage him from e-mailing me back, because what if I want to write a script one day? I will need Ted to read it! So, I inserted a few more “hahaha” and “this line is great” comments just to boost his confidence, right before I used words like “predictable” and “unoriginal”. J
My phone vibrated then, pulling me out of my zone, and I noticed that I had received an angry text from an ex who had stumbled upon my blog. Whoops! This inspired me to take a break and start writing my own script.
. . .
GIRL and GUY are sitting next to each other on a couch in GUY’S man-cave. They are surrounded by filthy clothes and old take-out containers.
GIRL: I think I need to get my oil changed.
GUY: [Insert long intelligent speech about tubes and pistons and their purpose in making the engine of a car do the important things they need to do in order to get the car to move, and why oil changes are necessary.]
GIRL: Oh, cool. Good to know.
GIRL smiles and nods in confused amazement, pretending she knows what GUY is talking about.
GIRL: So, you can change my oil for me then?
GUY smirks because he thinks its cute GIRL knows nothing about modern technology.
GIRL: Okay, cool.
. . .
This ex-boyfriend who texted me and interrupted my thought process used to always say “there’s nothing wrong with doing what has already been done, as long as you do it better”. I’d agree with that, but I think he had the wrong motives behind his theory. On our first date I told him I was a painter, and coincidentally, so was he. When I told him I was a writer, suddenly he was too. Months later I decided to enter a writing contest, so he thought it would be a good idea if he did also. When my story won first place, he moved his stuff out of my apartment. He was an only child, so I understood.
One of his close friends produced from the same Ivy League School of Douches became my new writer-ly friend soon after that. His writing reminded me of my sister’s, who decides to put commas wherever they “look good”. I tell my sister, all the time, it’s better to leave out commas, than to have six, in an eight word, sentence, but she’s also Irish, so she also thinks, her way, is the right way. She laughs at my OCD tendencies, and I sneak onto her laptop and delete a few comas from her resume and cover letter. Anyway, that Ivy League guy stopped sending me his writing when I refused to go on a date with him, not because he wasn’t attractive but because I like to keep the interactions I have with my writer-ly friends strictly through the means of my hi-tech devices. Otherwise, they get too needy and relationship boundaries are blurred, and I just can’t have that getting in the way.
I loved the end Ted wrote for his script. It’s nothing I’ve ever read or seen before, and I can truly imagine it as a skit on Saturday Night Live or, at the very least, an episode worthy of a few laughs on his YouTube channel. So I took twenty minutes to write him an incredible e-mail about all the great things because my blunt opinions are already slewed across his script and I really want him to write me back. But it’s been six days and I haven’t heard from him yet, so I’m starting to give up on us developing a writer-ly friendship. I know it’s my fault, I’m too critical. That’s why I don’t date writers anymore. It’s actually a rule I have. They often don’t take criticism well, constructive or not, and they’re always rushing me when I’m reading the latest bestseller just so they can debate me on themes and symbolism and a whole bunch of other nonsense I don’t care to debate about. Then they finally get around to reading my blog and realize that the moronic male character I’m writing about is actually an exaggerated version of themselves with a different name, and poof, I’m single again. So now I only date self-proclaimed techies or video game nerds, or basically anyone who has no interest in reading fiction, especially when it’s inspired by them, and I finally have the freedom to guiltlessly mock their man-ish habits for the sake of entertainment and at the same time have someone around to fix my car.
. . .
GIRL leans head on GUY’S shoulder, GIRL is content even though she knows GUY has never read The Catcher in the Rye.
GIRL: So, have you checked out my blog this week?
GIRL nods to a laptop among a mess of papers on a nearby coffee table.
GUY: No, sorry, I’ve been so caught up in reading [Enter a “How To” book title about building computers or a car engine or some other incredibly boring hobby]. Do you want me to read it now?
GIRL: No, it’s not important.
Camera zooms in on the laptop screen and focuses on the title of her latest work.
Where All The Hair In Your Boyfriend’s Bathroom Comes From
Camera slowly pans out to show GUY and GIRL now outdoors, walking happily into the sunset hand-in-hand.
. . .