“Bad writing is more than a matter of shit syntax and faulty observation; bad writing usually arises from a stubborn refusal to tell stories about what people actually do― to face the fact, let us say, that murderers sometimes help old ladies cross the street.”
― Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft
Sometimes though, bad writing is all you have. NYC Midnight is a weird love-hate obsession of mine. I (pay to) enter, then resent myself for doing so; deciding not to participate well in advance of the competition kick-off. What’s money versus sanity and the opportunity to get some washing done? Then, I get the clunk of an email notification and check the assignment. Not that I’m going to participate. I’m embracing #JOMO (Joy of Missing Out) after all. But you know, I’ll just take a look. See what I could have won. Then it gets stuck in my head and then I write something in the last hour before submission is due. I’m not saying the timeframe is why the writing is terrible. It’s more the determined self-sabotage tied in with a horrific need to approval/having my homework marked. Oh well, personality hey?
For the first round, my first assignment was a short screenplay based on the following limitations:
A botanical garden
A paint roller
So here’s the horrific, pretentious waffle the assignment inspired. Stephen King would be awfully disappointed.
Anyway… “Enjoy.” You’re welcome.
"Woman in the Garden"
Surrounded by the tranquil botanic gardens of Monet's house at Giverny Vernon, a mute young handyman tries to stop a hauntingly beautiful woman from destroying his life's work, only to find himself confronted with a dead end and a force beyond his reckoning.
EXT. MONET'S HOUSE AT GIVERNY VERNON - MIDDAY, SUMMER
Monet's house in the lush green gardens of Giverny Vernon. A wall at the shaded side of the house. ANDRE is up a rickety wooden ladder. He is a handsome young man with an earnest face. He is wearing a blue boilers suit, splattered with paint. He has a roller in one hand and is carefully whitewashing the side of the building.
FROM MADAME VERNON'S POV-
The sound of plants being trodden underfoot. Heavy breathing. Plants being pushed aside by a chubby hand. Andre comes into view on his ladder.
MADAME VERNON, a rotund middle-aged woman in a floral dress covered with a tabard embroidered with the Giverny Trust logo, erupts noisily through the plants to the bottom of the ladder, slightly out of breath. She is carrying a canvas bag full of food. Andre jumps slightly at the sound, turns carefully and looks down. Madame Vernon sheild her eye to look up at Andre.
MADAME VERNON (in French with
English subtitles) Hello Andre. Come down.
Andre goes to put the roller into the bucket hanging off the ladder, but misses. The roller lands on a plant below. Andre scrambles quickly down the ladder. He grabs the roller, hanging it on a rung of the ladder. Andre then bends down and carefully cleans the white wash off the plant with a rag from the pocket of his boiler suit, gently arranging and fixing the leaves. Finally, he is satisfied he has done the best he can and wipes his hands on the rag. After poking the rag back into his pocket, Andre turns to Madame Vernon.
MADAME VERNON (cont'd) It's fine. I don't think anyone will
Andre does an exaggerated wipe of his brow to indicate 'phew'. Madam Vernon gives a little chuckle.
MADAME VERNON (cont'd) I know, I know. You are always so
proud of your work here, keeping this old place spick and span. Well, it's such a beautiful day. I thought you might like an early lunch.
Andre nods. Madame Vernon offers him the canvas bag. She gives him a substantial grin in return.
MADAME VERNON (cont'd) Must get back to the pantry. Can't
stand round chatting all day. Enjoy!
After Andre waves at Madame Vernon as she wades back through the bushes. Andre is left standing alone. He looks sadly down at the dead, white-splattered plant.
EXT. MONET'S GARDEN AT GIVERNY VERNON - MIDDAY
Andre is sitting on the grass under a tree eating a sandwich, watching a group of tourists being lectured by an overly-enthusiastic American GUIDE, holding up a Giverny- branded umbrella.
GUIDE This is where Monet created the
beating heart of impressionism. Some of you may recognize this vista from 'Woman in Garden 69'. If we move over here...
The voice of the Guide fades as the group move away. Andre notices that a woman is left standing alone gazing in his direction, at the tree. She is wearing a white dress, with a straw hat, white lace parasol and matching shawl. The WOMAN IN WHITE looks like something out of a Monet painting. She is exquisitely pale, with a rose blush to her cheeks and red-stained lips.
ANGLE ON - UNSEEN BY ANDRE, WHERE SHE STANDS, THE GRASS IS TURNING BROWN AND DYING, SPREADING AROUND THE EDGE OF HER DRESS.
Andre holds up a hand and waves at her. She does not acknowledge him. Slowly she turns walking away from Andre, and starts walking towards the bushes of the garden. Andre finishes his sandwich, brushing the crumbs off his boiler suit as he stands.
Andre notices the brown patch of dead grass from where he now stands up the tree. He starts to walk then runs over to examine it.
ANGLE ON - THE WITHERED PATCH OF GRASS. CLOSE UP - ANDRE WINCES AT THE SIGHT OF THE DEAD GRASS.
Andre reaches down to touch the grass. It crumbles under his touch. He waves furiously at the Woman in White, agitated that she has destroyed the grass. She continues to walk away from him. Andre jogs to catch up with her. He doesn't notice that with every footstep she takes, the Woman in White leaves a patch of decayed, brown grass in her wake.
The Woman in White turns down a path, deeper into the Giverny Gardens. Andre pursues her.
EXT. PATH AT GIVERNY VERNON - MIDDAY
ANDRE'S POV - THE WOMAN IN WHITE WALKS DOWN A NARROW PATH, ENCLOSED BY THICK VEGETATION. ANDRE FOLLOWS. HE IS BREATHING HEAVILY. DESPITE MOVING AT SPEED, PUSHING LEAVES OUT OF HIS FACE AS HE GOES, DUCKING UNDER BRANCHES, ANDRE NEVER SEEMS TO CATCH UP WITH THE WOMAN IN WHITE.
Where the Woman in White brushes past a plant with her skirt or lace gloved, delicate fingers, it rots almost instantly. Andre notices this as he staggers after her, increasingly blind with fury.
Andre slows to catch his breath, suddenly aware of his surroundings. He notes the increasingly tall trees around him. It's getting darker as he goes down the path, the thick canopy above him inducing an early twilight. His breath can be seen fogging the air. He shivers despite the sunny day above him. He returns his attention to the path only to find the Woman in White is not there. He turns in all directions searching for her, confused as to where she could have gone.
A loud snap in the distance. Andre starts, before pelting towards the sound.
He turns a corner to see the Woman in White is standing in a small clearing forming a dead end to the path, surround by dense shrubbery. She is looking at a small rose bush, with a solitary pink rose reaching towards the light. The Woman in White bends down to smell it. As she does so, she delicately snaps the rose's stem to bring it up to her nose. She inhales.
EXTREME CLOSE UP - THE ROSE BUSH DIES, LEAVES WILTING AND CURLING.
Andre looks in horror at what she is doing. The Woman in White snaps her head sharply towards Andre, before slowly straitening to standing.
Andre is furious. He walks briskly up the path, hands clenched. He grabs the rose from the hands of the Woman in White. She doesn't react.
CLOSE UP - THE ROSE IN ANDRE'S HANDS IS BROWN AND DEAD. IT DISINTEGRATES IN HIS PALMS.
Andre looks up at the Woman in White, eyes wide suddenly fearful.
The Woman in White leans in slowly to Andre. Her breath sounds like one long sighing exhalation. She places a kiss on first one of Andre's cheeks and then on the other. She drifts backwards from him slowly. Andre puts his hand to his cheek. His mouth falls open. Under his fingers a brown patch starts to spread, the skin withering where her lips fell. Andre lets out a silent scream. The patch on his cheek spreads, to his fingers, down his knuckles and then over his hand. Meanwhile his face is mummifying, drying up to premature decrepitude. The rot spreads over his whole body, polluting the air with the sound of rustling skin and crackling, brittle bone. Andre collapses at the feet of the Woman in White. He looks up at her, withered mouth moving in supplication.
ANDRE'S POV - THE WOMAN IN WHITE STANDS OVER HIM. AS BLACKNESS BEGINS TO ENVELOP HIS VISION, SHE ANGLES HER HEAD AS IF TO OBSERVING HIM CURIOUSLY. HE BLINKS. WHEN HIS EYES OPEN AGAIN, SHE IS GONE. FADE OUT. SILENCE.
EXT. PATH AT GIVERNY VERNON - MIDDAY
PAN OUT - ANDRE'S SHRIVELED BODY IS COLLAPSED AT THE END OF THE PATH. WE CAN SEE THAT HE IS ALONE. THE NOISES FROM THE GARDENS AND THE DISTANT BURBLE OF THE AMERICAN GUIDE CAN BE HEARD AND LAUGHTER FROM THE CROWD.