Categotry Archives: character

Explorations of the internal workings and motivations of the characters, both major and minor.

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Sparking a romance

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Categories: character, development, themes, vivat regina, Tags: , , , , , , ,

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As you may have gleaned from reading Vivat Regina, I want to explore the idea of a relationship between Mary and Arthur Swann, the police officer she meets (and makes use of) in that play. All I wanted to do in that story was start a connection, but that meant I had to take care to get it off on the right foot.

I like the idea that romances begin because of something special that two people see in each other. Mary of course demonstrates she is brave and tough and quick-witted in a way Arthur didn’t expect, but Arthur shows he finds the fact that Mary saved him intriguing. He is not threatened by Mary’s capability, but impressed by and delighted with it. That immediate respect he shows makes an impression on her. Moreover, he’s not without wit and charm himself. These things altogether spark something that ultimately turns to romance.

I had Mary save Arthur to deliberately turn that damsel in distress trope on its head. Also I wanted to contrast it with the first meeting of Victoria and Reginald as the Colonel describes it in “Like a Loss.” Both men are impressed by the women’s display of courage and independence. But while Arthur wants to encourage and enable her to take her own action, Reginald’s impulse is to cocoon her protectively so that she doesn’t ever have to be brave or fierce or stand up for herself again. Arthur wants to nurture Mary’s strength, while Reginald wanted to neutralize it in Victoria. This makes for an interesting way to explore the effects of feminism, or the lack thereof, in our characters’ lives.

I haven’t figured out the whole trajectory of Mary and Arthur’s relationship, but I think it’s off to an interesting start. Especially in contrast to Mrs. Hawking and the Colonel.

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Notes on Vivat Regina: character arcs

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Categories: character, development, themes, vivat regina, Tags: , , , , , , ,

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Warning: spoilers contained herein for the new script “Vivat Regina.”

I’ve talked a fair bit in this space about my intentions for the character arcs in this piece– chiefly, that I wanted Mrs. Hawking to decide that she will make Mary her protege, and that Nathaniel is going to come into his own way of being of help to our heroes.

Originally I thought I would tackle much more of the protege storyline in this second piece. I thought we’d cover how Mrs. Hawking would make Mary her protege, her trying to mold Mary into another version of herself, and finally Mary’s pushback against the idea when she realized she wanted to follow Mrs. Hawking under her own terms. This storyline is to be the meat of the first arc-cycle in the story. In the very earliest experimental drafting done back during 31 Plays in 31 Days of August ’13, the declaration of her being designated protege was to happen in the very second scene. But Bernie rightly pointed out that would be moving far too quickly through a story that would be more properly explored over a longer period. So it was scaled back to watch Mary feel like she was struggling and an inadequate assistant to Mrs. Hawking because of her mistress’s harsh standards and constant criticism, but to have the turning point be when Mrs. Hawking reveals that not only is she doing well, but that she’s decided Mary is worthy to be successor of all her work.

Nathaniel’s arc I figured out almost immediately. I knew I wanted him, after he learned of Mrs. Hawking’s activities and got over the initial shock, to be incredibly fascinated by her work and want to help her with it. She of course would be resistant, since she despises how much he’s like the Colonel and how she’s come to see him as an impediment to what she wants to do rather than a support. But as I’ve mentioned, Nathaniel’s challenge is to grow past the ways he’s too much like the Colonel, and this story is the beginning of his realizing it.

You’ll also note the nature of the role Nathaniel takes on once he discovers what talent he has to contribute. With his ability to go places only men can access, his enormous personal charm, and his real capacity for thinking on his feet, he basically takes on the job of faceman. I like how this not only because it really suits his character, but also how it places him in what is often a feminine role. Contrast this to the traditionally male-filled positions of the mastermind and the bruiser, who in this case are Mrs. Hawking and Mary respectively. I plan to have him take on “traditionally female” story roles in a number of ways, as I very much enjoy casting traditionally masculine men that way in my writing.

Mrs. Hawking’s arc is the most subtle of three of them. That is for the most part intentional, as one of the issues I want to set up for her in the long term is that because of her long-held anger and baggage, personal growth is difficult and very slow. So hers occurs mostly in relation to the growth of the other leads. She relaxes her harsh criticism of Mary, she lets Nathaniel be judged on his own merits. The most important character note for her in this piece is I wanted to be certain that I firmly established her as a kind of revolutionary. We knew she was immensely critical of the social order, but I don’t know how much hard evidence we saw of it in the first story. I think her indictment of the English imperial system casts it in the right light. It is always tempting when writing in a steampunk setting to let one’s fascination with the picturesque time period to gloss over the horrific implications of the imperial system. I want Mrs. Hawking to acknowledge and stand in opposition to those things in a real way. She will not work on behalf of “queen and country” because that means supporting oppression and devastation, but she will stand up for one real woman who is suffering under it. She is of course prejudiced and limited in her own ways, but she will always be opposed to the Establishment, and I wanted her to demonstrate an awareness of what that really meant.

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The talent for finding talent

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Categories: character, development, looking ahead, vivat regina, Tags: , , , ,

 

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One of the most central parts of the relationship between Mary and Mrs. Hawking is that they are better with each other. They can be and do things as a team that they never could before. While Mary’s major contribution is that she humanizes and challenges Mrs. Hawking, I always wanted her to add something of practical value to her mentor’s operations. So Mary’s unique skill set had to bring Mrs. Hawking’s work onto another level, as her protege, and the one who will carry on her work in the future.

She is never going to be as omni-competent as her mentor is, but she has things Mrs. Hawking never will. It’s Mary’s gift that if she cannot accomplish something herself, she can find the right person who can. She is an excellent judge of character, and she has a commanding, magnetic personality. She draws decent, competent people to her, and not only can she identify their strengths, she can convince them to make use of those strengths to good effect. We begin to see this clearly in Vivat Regina. She begins by encouraging Nathaniel to find his niche, and will make use of him once his specific talents become clear. She continues with Arthur Swann, a policeman whose bacon she saves before it occurs to her what value she might have of his acquaintance as well.

It’s actually a quality, or a variation thereof, I enjoy conferring on my young, up-and-coming heroes. When they are faced with opposition from other characters, it is a sign of their intrinsic personal value and powers that they convert those characters to their side and cause. Their way is not to destroy her enemies, but to turn them into allies and friends, which ultimately makes them stronger. People respond to them with, “I don’t know what else I might believe in… but I believe in you.” This is a trait I’ve also given to Tom Barrows, the protagonist of my screenplay The Tailor at Loring’s End, and to Josie Jenkins, the lead of the musical Puzzle House Blues.

You see, I want Mary’s destiny will ultimately be to form what I’m calling behind the scenes “the Hawk Family,” a team of society avengers that can take on even more and greater challenges than just the few of them could. This ability of hers, to seek out capable individuals and band them into an organization that makes the best use of their talents, will be what transforms Mrs. Hawking’s work into an even great force for good. That’s something Mrs. Hawking could never have done on without Mary.

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“Prowl After the Help” — scribbling on a future inclusion of Justin

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Categories: character, looking ahead, scenes, Tags: , , , ,

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This scene, set sometime in the future of the Mrs. Hawking continuity, is between Nathaniel and his elder brother Justin, who’s a world traveler and a bit of a rake. I wanted to write a conversation between the two of them, and I settled on a theoretical moment where Justin is in London and has been starting to hit on Mary, which Nathaniel, knowing his brother, doesn’t approve of.

I wanted to show the brothers’ relationship as well as possible raise large plot-relevant issues, which I think I succeeded with. The one thing I struggled to accomplish was I want it to subtly reveal some of the classism in Nathaniel that he hasn’t confronted yet– that he may think of himself as high-minded, but that he considers attraction to a lower-class person to be vulgar for a gentleman –and I’m not sure I executed with sufficient clarity and understatement. It was too easy to gloss over “I’m not attracted to people beneath my class” with “I don’t sexually harass people at work” and “I’m married and so not paying much attention to any outside people romantically.”

But I think I did a good job characterizing Justin. He tweaks Nathaniel, who’s way more of a goody-goody, which is fun. And I love writing the relationship between them as brothers. “Frasier” is one of my all-time favorite shows, and the way they depict the brothers and their relationship really is the best part.

~~~

NATHANIEL: Just what do you think you’re doing?

JUSTIN: Why, making friends.

NATHANIEL: Bollocks.

JUSTIN: Such language!

NATHANIEL: Don’t play the innocent with me. I see how you’re prowling around Mary.

JUSTIN: You said she’s a lovely girl, I wanted to make her acquaintance for myself.

NATHANIEL: I know what you want with lovely girls.

JUSTIN: Well, can you blame me?

NATHANIEL: Stay away from her.

JUSTIN: Why ever should I?

NATHANIEL: She’s a sweet and decent girl. She doesn’t deserve to be led on by the likes of you.

JUSTIN: Led on!

NATHANIEL: I’ll not have you telling her pretty lies just so you can…

JUSTIN: So I can what, brother?

NATHANIEL: Get your own way. Whatever that is.

JUSTIN: Ha! Who’s playing the innocent now?

NATHANIEL: Don’t be vulgar.

JUSTIN: Ha! I should think you’d know me by now, old boy.

NATHANIEL: And you call yourself a gentleman. I mean, really, Auntie’s maid?

JUSTIN: What’s the harm? It’s not like she has some grand society reputation to protect. Unless you think Aunt Victoria would be cross?

NATHANIEL: No! Well, perhaps, but–

JUSTIN: Well, I’m quite used to weathering Auntie’s wrath. What, do you think she’d dismiss the girl over it?

NATHANIEL: I don’t think so– but that’s not the point.

JUSTIN: Aunt Victoria doesn’t have to know.

NATHANIEL: It’s nothing to do with Aunt Victoria, for heaven’s sake!

JUSTIN: Then what’s it to you? Unless you fancy her.

NATHANIEL: Justin!

JUSTIN: Shame on you, you’re a married man.

NATHANIEL: It isn’t that! How dare you?

JUSTIN: It’s just as well. Wouldn’t have thought you had it in you.

NATHANIEL: Of course not.

JUSTIN: She is lovely girl, though, isn’t she?

NATHANIEL: She is.

JUSTIN: And you were the one that brought her here. Are you telling me you’ve never noticed her?

NATHANIEL: I don’t prowl after the help.

JUSTIN: I’d forgotten, you’re far too lofty to spare a glance to a creature of lower classes. I confess, though, I’d rather begun to wonder.

NATHANIEL: About what!?

JUSTIN: About why you spend so much time around Auntie’s maid. The fine old boy hasn’t descended to the level of the rest of us, has he? Started to envy all the fun I have while you’re bound up in the monotony of married life?

NATHANIEL: Yes, that’s it exactly, Justin, I’ve installed my working class mistress in my aunt’s own house because I wanted to be just like my dear big brother. Mary and I, we’ve… rather made friends, is all.

JUSTIN: Friends.

NATHANIEL: Yes! Is that so unheard of?

JUSTIN: I’d say so.

NATHANIEL: There’s no harm in it.

JUSTIN: Still, it’s very odd. Just out of curiosity, what does Clara think?

NATHANIEL: Of what?

JUSTIN: Of your most harmless friendship.

NATHANIEL: Well… I don’t suppose she knows much of it.

JUSTIN: You mean you’ve kept it from her? I thought she led you so around by the nose you had no secrets!

NATHANIEL: I don’t! Not really! It’s only that I haven’t… brought it up as yet.

JUSTIN: Hmmm. And why is that, do you think?

NATHANIEL: Oh, wipe that look off your face!

JUSTIN: You must know what that sounds like.

NATHANIEL: It’s nothing untoward!

JUSTIN: Then why, my virtuous brother, must you hide it?

NATHANIEL: I don’t mean to. I only… I only don’t know how to do it. Tell her, I mean.

JUSTIN: Afraid she’ll cast the same aspersion upon your character as I have just now?

NATHANIEL: I’m afraid she might… misunderstand.

JUSTIN: Oh, why worry for it? You need never tell her if it will only make trouble.

NATHANIEL: I hate keeping things from her.

JUSTIN: Why prod the bear if you don’t have to?

NATHANIEL: She’s my wife, Justin, not some terrible monster from the woods.

JUSTIN: Wives, terrors, it’s all the same to me. But it isn’t even as if you’re deceiving her. If you’ve done nothing, then you’ve nothing to tell her.

NATHANIEL: It isn’t only that.

JUSTIN: What, then? Do you she think she wouldn’t believe you?

NATHANIEL: Not so much that…

JUSTIN: Or wouldn’t approve?

NATHANIEL: Perhaps. Of my reasons for spending time with Miss Stone.

JUSTIN: And what might they be? Beyond her more obvious charms.

NATHANIEL: Oh, you wouldn’t understand.

JUSTIN: My. Must be byzantine indeed if it’s beyond both Clara and myself. Well, brother, I hope you can find a way to make things clear one way or another.

NATHANIEL: I thought you advocated avoiding the issue entirely.

JUSTIN: So I do. But I know you well enough to see it won’t sit well with you. And if you’re keeping it from your wife, it must be something remarkable indeed.

12/11/13

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A female power fantasy

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Categories: character, development, influences, vivat regina, Tags: , , , , ,

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In the interest of artistic honesty, I feel I have to cop to the fact that in some ways, the character of Mrs. Hawking is a power fantasy. Specifically, she is a personal one for me, embodying many of the qualities that I happen to find particularly empowering.

She is a physically small person, but rather than be limited by it, it so fit and strong that she is a force to be reckoned with, and in fact uses her size to her advantage by being fast, graceful, sneaky, stealthy, and able to fit into unexpected places while avoiding notice. I am a small person often frustrated by its limitations. She has a lot of anger, but she gets to use to fuel her in her crusade. I am an angry person whose anger gets her into trouble. She’s asexual, free from influence by sexual interest or from the need to be sexually desirable to anyone. I’m not asexual, but sometimes I wish I were free from those things. She’s a loner, an introvert in the extreme, who feels no compunction about withdrawing whenever she needs to. I’m an introvert too, but I often feel like I’m not able to take the time to myself that I need. It even shows up in smaller ways. She bears a physical resemblance to my friend and frequent collaborator Frances Kimpel, who I often wish I looked more like. She has a background in ballet, something I find incredibly cool. All these things are a chance to make the kind of person I think would be powerful enough to be this kind of hero.

I’m not troubled by this. I think there should be characters that serve as power fantasies for women of the sort that men have in abundance. Batman comes to mind as an example, as he is rich, exalted, hyper-competent hero that is often considered to be above all comparisons, and incidentally happens to be a major inspiration for Mrs. Hawking. The trouble, however, is in not allowing such a character to fall into the category of Mary Sue. The problem with power fantasy characters is that if you make them TOO powerful, TOO aspirational and awesome and amazing in every way, then they stop being believable or real. So I need to make sure that when I write Mrs. Hawking, she has real flaws to her to make her a truly complex main character.

I wanted those flaws to grow organically out of her personality, so I used the flip side of the things that were powerful about her. “Your strengths are your weaknesses,” after all. Her anger issues mean she can be really nasty when she wants to be. Her loner nature makes her reluctant to accept help, to get close to people, and she has little ability when it comes to normal social interaction. Her pride makes it hard for change and grow when she’s been wrong. She is not a flawless crime-solving machine when she screws herself up this way. Despite her forward-thinking attitudes, she’s racist in the manner of her time, and sexist in a manner all her own. And she’s a damn pain in the ass to deal with a big chunk of the time.

I want those flaws to matter. Actions have consequences, and when you act like as much of a dick as she often does, it’s going to come back and bite you. I always hate in when main characters in her extremely intelligent, lone-wolf mold such as the BBC’s Sherlock Holmes or Dr. Gregory House are enormous assholes, but everyone around them seems to excuse their awfulness and the story lets them get away with everything because they’re so damn special. I’m specifically fighting that in my portrayal of Mrs. Hawking. She’s very special, but she’s also very awful, and I want both to have an equal impact on how people treat her.

It’s actually one of the reasons I wanted to introduce Clara Hawking. I wanted her so badly to be in Vivat Regina so she could function as someone who hasn’t “drunk the Mrs. Hawking Kool-Aid,” so to speak, to stand in contrast to the many characters who are in awe of her. Despite their occasion defiance and criticism of her, Mary and Nathaniel basically adore her. I’m always having to be careful to not write too much about people talking about how remarkable she is, because that would be unbearable and stupid. But Clara is someone who genuinely doesn’t think her virtues makes up for her flaws and holds them seriously against her. I hope to keep that element in the story from every quarter as would be realistic. Consequence-free behavior is anathema to dramatic, emotionally honest storytelling in my opinion.

I do believe it is possible to have a figure who counts as a power fantasy who is also believably human and imperfect. But it requires careful balancing. I hope I’m up to the challenge, and I plan on making every effort to succeed in that with this character.

I like her a lot, after all, and I want you to be able to as well. ;-)

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“The Difference Between Us” — scribbling on Misses Stanton and Danvers

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Categories: character, gilded cages, looking ahead, scenes, Tags: , , ,

The piece I wrote the day before this one was about a future supervillain of Mrs. Hawking’s, a woman who was her friend growing up in the Asian colonies, who is as smart as she is but choose to manipulate the system rather than fight against it. The piece I wrote for August 27th during 31 Plays in 31 Days 2013 shows them back when they were young Victoria Stanton and Elizabeth Danvers, before they were married and became Mrs. Hawking and Mrs. Frost. I think I will reproduce an awesome comment here by a friend named Kat Davis, because she perfectly summed up exactly what I was going for:

“…Mrs. Hawking up against someone who can meet her on even footing. Seeing her actually sort of lose her cool and lose that sort of detached mentor-ish tone she always has with Mary (and, to a slightly lesser extent, the nephew), is refreshing. I like that Frost gets her worked up, gets inside her guard and gets to her in a way we really never have seen anything else do. I especially like that Frost sort of clucks her tongue and shakes her head and looks down on Hawking, who is always so aloof and above it all. There’s condescension and even, or at least how it reads to me (and how I would read it), a touch of pity. And not because of how she was forced into a life she rejected. Not for what was done to her. But rather for what and who she is.”

You’ll note I am naming the major female figures in the Mrs. Hawking universe after the queens of England. We have Victoria and Mary already. Mrs. Hawking’s nemesis and opposite, then, is Elizabeth– one of the most powerful and brilliant of them all.

~~~

Day #27 – “The Difference Between Us”

VICTORIA: What is that soldier up to, do you think? Hanging about like that?

ELIZABETH: There must be something he wants.

VICTORIA: Such as?

ELIZABETH: Could be any number of things. He could be on some assignment. He could want something from the territorial governor. Or…

VICTORIA: Or what?

ELIZABETH: Or a wife.

VICTORIA: Surely you’re not serious.

ELIZABETH: History has shown men are known to acquire wives from time to time. It happens to all of us before long.

VICTORIA: I am not about to be acquired by anyone, I promise you that.

ELIZABETH: Is that so?

VICTORIA: You know me, Elizabeth. Do you think I could bear to be any man’s nursemaid?

ELIZABETH: I doubt you’ll have much of a choice, when your father decides it’s time.

VICTORIA: Ha! That would require the leftenant to lift his notice to me long enough to recall that I exist.

ELIZABETH: Unmarried daughters lying around are often just inconvenient enough to attract attention.

VICTORIA: Even if that does happen, you can be certain I shan’t go quietly.

ELIZABETH: Oh? And what are you doing to do?

VICTORIA: Whatever it takes!

ELIZABETH: That’s not the way the world works, Victoria.

VICTORIA: Then blast the world.

ELIZABETH: I don’t think it should be so simple.

VICTORIA: What choice do we have? Else to buckle under?

ELIZABETH: I don’t mean to buckle.

VICTORIA: What, then?

ELIZABETH: I mean to make my best advantage.

VICTORIA: I don’t understand.

ELIZABETH: Why fight against the current when you’ve no hope to change its course? Instead, why not ride it where you wish to go?

VICTORIA: Because there’s no such place that it could take me. Is that what you want? Is that enough for you?

ELIZABETH: There is the difference between us, dear. I will not drown myself to spite the water.

8/27/13

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“Why won’t you trust me?” — early draft of a confrontation from Vivat Regina

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Categories: character, development, scenes, themes, vivat regina, Tags: , , , ,

This is one of the earliest scenes I wrote for Vivat Regina, and it turned out to be a very crucial one. Bernie pointed out that, while Mary’s decision in this one is that yes, she would like to become a “new Mrs. Hawking” of sorts, Nathaniel’s is at least starting to reject his old desire to become like the Colonel. He idolized the Colonel his whole life, and it’s been a difficult thing for him to swallow how much pain his hero caused Mrs. Hawking. Him backing away from that, at least the parts of the Colonel that caused that pain, is a big step on his development toward becoming a true feminist. It’s a crucial part of being a good male ally. You can’t fix a problem before you admit you have it, and Nathaniel’s doing so demonstrates his very real desire to learn, and do better than before.

~~~

NATHANIEL:
Aunt Victoria— why won’t you trust me?

MRS. HAWKING:
Oh, do spare me, Nathaniel.

NATHANIEL:
No. No, you mustn’t put me off. I know I haven’t been the quickest study when it comes to this business of yours, but I’ve been giving it a serious go. I surely do mean to be of help to you, and by God, on occasion I even have. Isn’t that so?

MRS. HAWKING:
Yes. You have.

NATHANIEL:
Then… why won’t you let me on? Really let me on? Is it— is it because I’m a man?

MRS. HAWKING:
Nathaniel.

NATHANIEL:
Is it because I’m not clever enough? Do you think that once in a tough spot, I’ll lose my head and disappoint—

MRS. HAWKING:
You look so much like him!

(Pause.)

MRS. HAWKING:
Too damn much.

MARY:
Like whom? Do you mean— the Colonel?

NATHANIEL:
You never told me that. Others have, but not you.

(MARY looks to the portrait on the mantle.)

MARY:
I never noticed it.

MRS. HAWKING:
The years and the whiskers throw it off, but all the men in the family have that look. Your father, your uncle, and you. Your boy will have it too before long. Strong jaw, devil-may-care grin, handsome as the day is long. The sort of face to win anything a man could want in the world. But that was face I first looked into twenty years ago when a promising young soldier was first transferred to New Guinea and trammeled up my life forever. The same eyes from which I had to hide everything of any meaning to me so I might be permitted to have it.

NATHANIEL:
I don’t want you to feel that way about me. Not anymore.

MRS. HAWKING:
I know that, and not for nothing. But the years I lost and the pains I took…

NATHANIEL:
I know.

MRS. HAWKING:
Yes. Now you know. So it galls me, boy. I tell you, it galls me to look into those eyes and that face and give all the game away to them.

NATHANIEL:
I can’t help who I look like.

MRS. HAWKING:
No. But all the same, he’s in everything in you. His blood and his name and every effort in the world to be just like him.

NATHANIEL:
But… I’m not like him.

MRS. HAWKING:
To your eternal sorrow.

NATHANIEL:
Still. I’m not him. I can learn better.

(Pause.)

NATHANIEL:
And I mean to. But I’ll need you to teach me. I can’t do it without you.

(NATHANIEL draws himself up with a quiet, cold dignity.)

NATHANIEL:
Rather… none of us could. The Colonel neither. Because the God’s honest truth is you don’t know if he couldn’t have learned. You never gave him the chance.

(NATHANIEL turns and strides quickly from the room.)

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“After the Funeral” — some scribbling on Nathaniel and Justin

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Categories: character, scenes, Tags: , ,

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This is the first time I’ve ever written about Justin Hawking, Nathaniel’s older brother, done on August 29th for 31 Plays in 31 Days 2013. I didn’t know too much about him then– where he lives, what he does, what kind of participation he can have in the larger story –but I knew I need to set him up to be able to contribute some sort of dramatic tension. This scene was kind of figuring out who Justin is, what he’s like. A major struggle of Nathaniel’s will be needing to move past his patriarchal upbringing, and the issues that come from being the youngest adult member of a family of old-fashioned and hypermasculine alpha males. I like the idea of setting up a conflict between him and his cool, charming-but-somewhat-jerkish older brother.

I’m not sure if this scene would actually happen the way it’s written here, but it’s interesting to think about.

~~~

Day #29 – “After the Funeral”

(NATHANIEL, dressed in funerary blacks, stands alone in the study. Enter JUSTIN, his older brother, similarly dressed.)

JUSTIN: Nathan?

NATHANIEL: In here.

JUSTIN: Wondered where you’d gotten off to.

NATHANIEL: I wanted a bit of quiet.

JUSTIN: Certainly can understand that. Must say, the tide of mourners and well-wishers has started to wear on me as well.

NATHANIEL: Well, Uncle was a war hero. He had plenty of admirers.

JUSTIN: Are you all right? I know the two of you were quite close.

NATHANIEL: Afraid I’m not, Justin. I’m terribly blue over it. I am quite terribly blue.

JUSTIN: Well, buck up, little brother. We’re all going to miss the old fellow. It’s even put a crack in Father’s mien. I don’t think he ever expected he’d outlive his younger brother.

(Pause.)

NATHANIEL: That’s not all of it, though.

JUSTIN: Oh?

NATHANIEL: It’s only that… well, it’s Aunt Victoria.

JUSTIN: What of her?

NATHANIEL: Didn’t you notice?

JUSTIN: Nothing particularly.

NATHANIEL: You didn’t happen to pay any notice to the widow at the man’s funeral?

JUSTIN: I stay well out of Aunt Victoria’s way if I can help it, you know that.

NATHANIEL: Well, if you hadn’t been hiding from her behind Mother’s hoop skirt, you might have noticed how she looked.

JUSTIN: Which was…?

NATHANIEL: Like a statue. Like a mask carved out of stone. All through the service, all through the receiving line after…

JUSTIN: In fairness, she is the strangest person I’ve ever met.

NATHANIEL: For Heaven’s sake, Justin!

JUSTIN: Well, she is.

NATHANIEL: She hardly said a word, she wouldn’t look a soul in the eye— that doesn’t strike you as the least bit troubling?

JUSTIN: She never says a word to me. Or looks at me, for that matter. Unless she’s upset with me. In which case this seemed a positive.

NATHANIEL: You’re an absolute ass.

JUSTIN: What have I done?

NATHANIEL: The woman just lost her husband of twenty years, you tit. She must be destroyed. And now she’s quite alone in the world.

JUSTIN: I suppose.

NATHANIEL: It doesn’t seem right to me.

JUSTIN: Perhaps not, but what’s to be done?

NATHANIEL: Someone ought to step in. See that she’s taken care of, that she has some proper company.

JUSTIN: Oh, heavens. How very dashing of you.

NATHANIEL: It’s a matter of responsibility.

JUSTIN: So now you’ve named yourself head of the family, eh?

NATHANIEL: Father lives too far off to do it, I’m the only one left in London. And it isn’t as if you would do it.

JUSTIN: That’s because I’m not a fool.

NATHANIEL: Very gentlemanly, Justin.

JUSTIN: Come now! It’s not as if she cares much for any of us.

NATHANIEL: That is most unkind, and not true besides.

JUSTIN: She has a strange way of showing it, then. Because I always got distinctly the opposite impression. Or else she’s just horrid.

NATHANIEL: You are horrid.

JUSTIN: Well, there’s one thing on which you and Auntie likely agree. All I mean is— your instincts are commendable, little brother, but I’m not entirely sure your effort shouldn’t go to waste.

NATHANIEL: Whatever else, the Colonel loved her. And he would want us to see that she was taken care of by his family. I mean to see that the decent thing is done.

JUSTIN: Suit yourself, Nathan. But she won’t thank you for it.

NATHANIEL: I don’t plan to do it for thanks.

8/29/13

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“Serving” — scene from Vivat Regina

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Categories: character, scenes, vivat regina, Tags: , , ,

My boyfriend Bernie was the one who came up with the idea that Nathaniel would have served before. Because he so idolized the Colonel, he would make an effort to emulate him in any way he could. But while he gave it his best shot, army life turned out to not be the best use of his talents. This is to set up the fact that while his traditionally male outlook might lead him to think he needs to be a warrior in order to be of use to Mrs. Hawking, his actual abilities will make him useful in a totally different way.

~~~

MARY:
I say, Nathaniel— is that a bruise?

NATHANIEL:
Oh, this? It’s nothing, I assure you.

MARY:
Nothing? You look as if you’ve taken quite a bash!

MRS. HAWKING:
Wherever did you get that?

NATHANIEL:
Just— from sport.

MRS. HAWKING:
Sport? Taken up boxing, have you?

NATHANIEL:
As a matter of fact.

MRS. HAWKING:
Surely you’re joking.

NATHANIEL:
Not at all, Auntie.

MARY:
Why on earth have you done that?

NATHANIEL:
Well— if you must know— it’s to make myself more useful to you. So I can handle myself and lend another arm if things come to it!

MRS. HAWKING:
Nathaniel. Going a few rounds of gentleman’s boxing is hardly going to ready you for the sort of roughs we encounter.

NATHANIEL:
It isn’t right to just hang back and leave it to you ladies. What kind of man would that make me?

MRS. HAWKING:
Ha!

NATHANIEL:
Go ahead and laugh. But how do you think I feel, knowing the two of you are putting yourselves in danger and I’m not fit to help you?

MRS. HAWKING:
I don’t think you quite understand. There are no Marquess of Queensbury rules when you’re fighting for your life.

NATHANIEL:
Even Mary’s had to handle herself. And she just a girl!

MARY:
Sir!

NATHANIEL:
No offense intended, Mary. But if you can swing that poker surely I’m worth a crack or two.

(MARY looks to MRS. HAWKING, who sighs.)

MRS. HAWKING:
Very well, then, Nathaniel. If you mean to have a go, have a go at me.

NATHANIEL:
I beg your pardon?

MRS. HAWKING:
If you think you’re fit to take on a real threat.

NATHANIEL:
I say, Auntie, how could I?

MRS. HAWKING:
You ought to know what you’re up against. Show me what you’re made of.

NATHANIEL:
I don’t know—

MRS. HAWKING:
Take his coat, Mary.

(He and MARY look at each other a moment. Then he shakes his head and throws up his hands. She steps forward and he shrugs out of his jacket. She places it aside as he begins turning up his shirt cuffs.)

MRS. HAWKING:
Now come on!

(Uncertainly, NATHANIEL puts up his fists and advances on her. He takes a few half-hearted swings, which she dodges easily, even walking backward.)

MRS. HAWKING:
Is that all? You must do better than that!

(NATHANIEL starts punching in earnest, but still she evades him easily. At last he throws himself at her, and she moves like lightning, landing a sound blow almost too fast to see that knocks him to the ground.)

MRS. HAWKING:
And if you can’t, you’d best keep out of the way.

(She exits. MARY rushes over to NATHANIEL as he pulls himself up off the ground.)

NATHANIEL:
Well, I’ve made a fool of myself.

MARY:
Oh, not at all.

NATHANIEL:
Go on.

MARY:
She’s been in training for years.

NATHANIEL:
And made short work of me.

MARY:
For my part, I think it’s quite noble of you. That you’re not content to hang back out of harm’s way.

NATHANIEL:
Still, perhaps she’s right. Perhaps I’m not cut out for this.

MARY:
There’s more to this work than knives and brawling. It’s not the end of everything to not be a martial man.

NATHANIEL:
Here now! I’ve a martial side. Why, I’ll have you know I served my bit a few years back!

MARY:
You did?

NATHANIEL:
Don’t sound so surprised!

MARY:
Forgive me, it’s only… well, you’re a gentleman.

NATHANIEL:
And I’ve lived a soft life accordingly, is that it?

MARY:
It isn’t necessarily to be expected of a gentleman.

NATHANIEL:
Miss Stone, I idolized my uncle from the time I was a boy. I’ve spent my whole life wanting to be like him. You can bet that when I was old enough I stepped up to serve my queen and country just as he did.

MARY:
My, sir! Well, I am sorry I expected any less. I am duly impressed.

NATHANIEL:
Oh, you ought not to be.

MARY:
It’s very admirable! You must tell me sometime of your adventures and your exploits as a dashing servant of the empire.

NATHANIEL:
It was hardly that. Yes, I enlisted when I was twenty or so. But do you know where they stationed me?

MARY:
India? Singapore?

NATHANIEL:
Newcastle. At the naval headquarters in the north country. When they learned I was a finance man they assigned me to keep the books for the armory.

MARY:
I see.

NATHANIEL:
Hardly the adventure I imagined it. And not much in the Colonel’s style.

MARY:
They saw you had a talent and they put it to use, though. I can’t help but think we ought to do the same.

NATHANIEL:
I did so want to be of use to her somehow.

MARY:
And so you will. Who knows, Nathaniel? We may run up against something that only you can do.

(Pause. Then NATHANIEL laughs.)

NATHANIEL:
That was quite a belt she gave me. I wonder how long she’s wanted to do that.

8/31/13

by

“The Lieutenant’s Daughter” — scribbling on the backstory of Reginald and Ambrose

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Categories: character, gilded cages, scenes, Tags: , , , ,

image

This was an experiment in a Hawking backstory scene, written on August 24th for 31 Plays in 31 Days 2013. Back in the day, a young soldier by the name of Reginald Hawking tells his older brother Ambrose of a remarkable young woman he’s just made the acquaintance of. I used this as an exercise about getting the point across even though the characters do not have an accurate assessment of the situation. See for yourself how well I did.

I’m not sure this conversation could have ever actually taken place in the timeline– because Reginald would have to be stationed in the colonies, and his older brother would already have been married and settled by then and likely not living close enough to have a real-time conversation with. Justin and Nathaniel might have even been born by this point. It’s a shame it’s not canon, so to speak; it’s thus far the first and only thing I’ve ever written in Ambrose’s voice. But nothing is ever really wasted, even if it can’t be used in its original form. You may also notice that pieces of this scene were adapted for use in the “Like a Loss” ten-minute play.

~~~

Day #24 – “The Lieutenant’s Daughter”

(Enter REGINALD, with a giant black eye.)

AMBROSE: What the devil happened to you?

REGINALD: Do you know the Lieutenant Stanton? The territorial governor?

AMBROSE: The territorial governor blacked your eye? By Jove, Reggie, whatever did you do?

REGINALD: It was his daughter.

AMBROSE: He blacked your eye over his daughter!?

REGINALD: No, Ambrose–

AMBROSE: Reginald, what’s come over you!?

REGINALD: Ambrose! She did it! She blacked my eye!

AMBROSE: You’re joking! His daughter?

REGINALD: Hand to God, sir.

AMBROSE: Still– I must ask– what did you do to her?

REGINALD: I– well, I tried to rescue her. I thought she was about to fall from the tree she was in.

AMBROSE: She was up a tree?

REGINALD: Climbing it. I thought she was falling, so I raced over to her. But she landed like a cat, whirled out of my arms, and her fist shot out faster than I could blink.

AMBROSE: Why, the little minx!

REGINALD: Like a striking cobra, she was. Hardly saw her move.

AMBROSE: Had she taken leave of her senses?

REGINALD: Damn near knocked me bum over teakettle.

AMBROSE: Her father had a thing or two to say about it, I’m sure.

REGINALD: He didn’t know.

AMBROSE: How could he not know?

REGINALD: I didn’t tell him, at any rate.

AMBROSE: But such behavior–

REGINALD: Ambrose! Surely I’d frightened the girl when I came at her from nowhere!

AMBROSE: Well, naturally. But surely the lieutenant wondered at your blighted eye!

REGINALD: Told him I’d gotten it boxing with the lads. She has enough of a hook that you’d never know the difference, eh?

AMBROSE: That’s barking madness, Reg.

REGINALD: Jolly well may be.

AMBROSE: Did the girl seem off otherwise to yu?

REGINALD: That’s the trick, Amber. She wasn’t like anything I’d ever seen.

AMBROSE: How so?

REGINALD: I hadn’t done much more than see her before that. She spoke not a word but she had the sharpest eyes that ever mine had met. And for all the fight I must have given her dashing up like that, she took her shot as quick and cool as any man on the line. No dithering, no starting. Just one cold, dead-on strike.

AMBROSE: Surely you can’t have seen all that in the failing of a startled young girl.

REGINALD: There was something about her, Ambrose. Something… jolly well remarkable.

AMBROSE: She must have given you a right old drubbing. You’re acting odd enough.

REGINALD: Very funny.

AMBROSE: Well, at least now you know better than to bother with her any longer.

REGINALD: Bother with her? Far from it, brother.

(He gets up and exits.)

REGINALD: I think I’d like to marry her.

8/24/13

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