An Exercise: Using Character to Produce Frame and Arc

Our “prompt” this week was to write the same scene from two differing viewpoints. A fun and challenging assignment.

Scene 1:

Judy entered the room slowly and gently closed the door behind her, making sure she heard the soft “click” of the knob falling into place. She breathed quietly in through her nose to steady herself and then turned and smiled at Marilyn. As usual, Marilyn was seated serenely behind her large, mahogany desk, not a hair out of place, her posture the envy of British royalty. Judy swallowed hard, suddenly aware of her shabby pantsuit and the fly-away hairs she could see in her peripheral vision. She knew she should have spent a few more minutes getting ready, after all, as Douglas said, a well-put together woman walked with confidence. She would have more confidence if she cared more about such things, she was sure. After all, Douglas was always right about these things. Maybe, if she’d had more confidence, she would still have him, too.

She sat down at the edge of the cushioned chair, making sure not to slouch, smoothing the fabric of her slacks down over her bony knees. She smiled again, an awkward shaped thing, and counted to three while looking Marilyn straight in the eye.

“Hello, again, Dr. Pond. I guess we should get straight to it?” It was always so awkward returning to the therapist’s office. By the time she felt comfortable just talking and sharing, it was time to go and she had to spend the next six days talking herself in to another session.

Marilyn nodded her head and smiled, offering some generic pleasantries and asking a few innocuous questions and Judy responded. Once the social etiquette had been met, Judy began where she had left off last week, with her soon-to-be-ex-husband, Douglas Egan.

“It’s just, I can’t believe it’s really happening. I tried so hard, I really did, to do all the things he wanted me to. And he didn’t really ask a lot, you know. He wanted what was best for me. I know that. A man of his social standing, well, he had appearances to keep. And of course, I didn’t know anything about that life. When we met, I didn’t even know he had that kind of life! I’d always thought we’d settle down upstate somewhere and raise a family.” She stopped for a moment and then, almost to herself “I think he told me he sold insurance…”

She looked up at Marilyn, who was busy writing notes on a yellow legal pad and nodding. Judy wasn’t sure that Marilyn was the best person for her to be speaking to about these things. She’d probably never had a problem satisfying her husband’s expectations; in fact, he’d probably needed to adopt quite a few new skills just to be able to participate in her social circles. She was just the kind of woman that Douglas would have been drawn to, thought Judy. And suddenly, she didn’t like Dr. Pond all that much.

Scene 2:

Marilyn shook herself from her reverie as she heard the door slide open across the carpet of her office. She straightened up in her seat, her shoulders throbbing from hunching over her desk all day. She’d forgotten about Judy Egan, socialite, and immediately wracked her brain for memories of their last session. She should have had the receptionist pull her notes, but then, she should have remembered who her appointments were for the day. Suddenly, Judy was speaking to her and she lifted her eyes, making sure a smile warmed their tired depths.

“Yes, yes, how are you feeling this week, Judy? Have you been getting any sleep?” Their last session had been brief, Judy seemed distracted no doubt planning some charity ball or benefit show and Marilyn hadn’t been able to get to the heart of the issues bothering her. This week, however, Judy was eager to get started and was already chattering on about her husband, Douglas.

As Marilyn listened to Judy describe her life since marrying the wealthy Egan, she couldn’t help but draw parallels between her own failing marriage to Oliver. She reached for a legal pad and tried to focus on what Judy was saying, finding herself increasingly angry at Douglas and frustrated with Judy. She couldn’t understand how such a smart and sophisticated woman had let herself become so enamored with a man who seemed to like nothing about her. And she couldn’t wrap her head around men like Oliver and Egan who thought that money gave them a free pass to degrade the women they claimed to love, requiring more and more of them and then discarding them when they were all used up.

Marilyn realized she was still writing despite the quiet in the office and she looked up to meet Judy’s gaze. She felt her eyes misting over as she looked at her patient, wishing she could reach across the desk and hug her and suddenly realized that she liked Mrs. Eagan very much.


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