Friday, April 29, 2011

Creating a Scene from a Summary

My friend, Annette Gendler, whose blog is at, had an interesting exercise for writers on her blog yesterday. I decided to give it a try, and maybe you can, too. The exercise directions are below and my effort follows. I don't write a lot of fiction, but I do enjoy trying it now and then.

Writing Exercise: Read the following passage (used here with the permission of one of my students) which offers all the ingredients of a scene, yet is written in summary. Use your imagination and rewrite it as a scene so that the reader can experience it. Use dialogue, render the place and time, and let us see and hear the people involved! Feel free to post your scene in the comment section.
  • Tuesday, January 25, 2005. Supervisor A shows me my billable hours for the previous day. I had billed only 4.20 hours. She says I will have to get that up to 7 hours per day, OR ELSE! I notice on the sheet she shows me that the charge for my time is $75-$82/hour, depending on the client. I'm getting paid less than $25/hour. What's wrong with this picture? After the scary reprimand and threat, I go into panic mode and do as much as I can today. It seems to be the expectation that you put in a lot of (unpaid) overtime to bill enough hours for the company.
I turned the page on my desk calendar. Tuesday, January 25, 2005, the second anniversary of Glenn's accident. Two full years in a nursing home, and his condition is the same as the day they moved him there from the hospital. I wiped away a tear that had spilled over just as Gilda Gargoyle walked into my office. Her real name is Mary O'Donnell but she has the stone face of a gargoyle and a heart that must be the same. What does she have in her hand that she's waving at my face? With her, it's always something I'd like to avoid.
"Jan, I'm not happy with your hours billed for yesterday. What in the world were you doing all day? 4.20 billable hours is unacceptable!"
"I had to take some time to go to the nursing home yesterday. There was a problem and they needed me." My voice came through strong, but inside I quivered like jello. I needed this job but there were times when Glenn needed me, too.
Gilda glared over the top of her half-glasses. "You have a full-time job here, but unless you start billing 7 hours a day, you'll be sitting in that nursing home all day. Look at this!" She slammed the papers on my desk where I had no choice but to read the spot where her red nail pointed.
What I saw there startled me so that I gasped and then bit my tongue, keeping the words I wanted to say locked away. They billed my time as $75-82 an hour, and I get paid less than $25. Less than a third of what the firm gets. I wanted to hurl the papers back at her, but I dredged up every ounce of self-control I had and stood up. Pick your words carefully I cautioned myself.
"I'll try to do better. If I have to leave in the afternoon to go to Glenn, I'll come back and work in the evening. I'll see that there is no less than 7 hours a day billed." My words were what she wanted to hear but not the ones I truly wished to say. I'd kowtow to the gargoyle to keep this job, and somehow I'd ask for a raise when review time came around.
Gilda snatched the papers off my desk. "I don't give a damn when you work, just see that you get those hours in every day. And remember this--your personal tragedy means nothing to this firm." She gave me one final glare and sailed out the door.


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