You hit a grand slam last night. Thanks for a good time.
Give me a call, let’s do it again, 555-6789
Ted was still in a sleepy, satisfied daze reading the note his mystery woman left for him. How had it all happened? He was not a one night stand kind of guy, but Marissa brought something out of Ted that he had forgotten about. Ted remembered a more carefree time when he was younger, before his mom’s diagnosis and his career change.
Standing up out of bed Ted went over to his window and pulled back his dark blue curtains, letting in a stream of warm sunshine. The day looked to be mirroring his mood. Ted needed to shake off the sleepy daydream of last nights escapeds and get a move on. He had slept in later than usual on Saturday and had a commitment five years running that he knew he couldn’t miss.
Getting dressed in a hurry, Ted grabbed his boom box and a cop of coffee and ran out the door. He arrived at Happy acres retirement home twenty minutes later. A smile beaming on his face. This was one thing that Ted loved to do. His job as an accountant had not been his dream, but it was his reality.
Ten years ago Ted was at NYU training in dance choreography. It was the start of his junior year that changed the trajectory of his life. He remembered the phone call like it was yesterday. The doctor had said that his mom was showing signs of early dementia and would need to have regular checkups to assess it’s progression. “Are you able to take care of her Ted?” He remembered the doctor asking. Ted was an only child and his mothers only living relative. So they were used to supporting one another; however, this diagnosis changed everything. “Yes.” Ted had told the doctor.
He knew she would need a lot of attention and the fear of the progression of the disease scared him to the point of quitting dance and switching his major to accounting. Those last two years of college were a blur. Ted worked nights at a restaurant waiting tables, after taking a double course load to graduate on time and also visiting his mother as often as possible. It had changed him from the happy go lucky kid that just wanted to dance to the Adult he was today. But on Saturday’s he got to remember the kid he used to be.
Happy Acres was the retirement home that his mother eventually ended up coming to five years ago when it was no longer a good idea for her to be living at home alone. Ted had done his research though. The facility was one of the best in New York, and it was close to Ted’s work. He came by and visited every day for the two years his mother was at Happy Acres, before she finally passed away from Alzheimer’s.
But something happened in all his time visiting the retirement home. He met a group of people who were seemingly forgotten by their families, and it broke Ted’s heart. So after his mother died and it had been a few weeks since going to Happy Acres Ted went down with his boom box and spoke with the facility manager about coming in once a week and teaching dance. He was surprised by the man’s enthusiasm for Ted’s idea. So, Ted started a dance party once a week every Saturday for three years now.
Seeing the smiles and laughter on the faces of the people he was teaching brought back the feeling he once had as a kid, carefree, happy when the idea of losing the person he loved the most in the world wasn’t real. In getting to know these people at the end of their lives and bringing a bit of joy to them through what he loved, he was able to stay connected to his mother who he missed every day.
Marissa’s apartment was an immaculate work of art, but it hadn’t always been that way. She had just recently invested a good chunk of change in having it gutted and redecorated, hoping that the change would bring a flow of positive energy into her life. God knows she needed it.
Marissa was VP of player development for New York’s favorite baseball team. Which meant she was always busy keeping up with the players in her charge development. If the guys were not progressing quickly enough it was her job to either trade or reassign them, so she constantly had her nose to the grindstone. It was for that reason that last night had been such an aberration for her. She wasn’t one to go out picking up strange men on the street.
Two months ago she had been changed though. Marissa remembered standing in the same spot she saw Ted, hopelessly throwing his sad roses off the pier when she got the call. “Marissa, you might want to sit down.” The doctor said, “Come on doc, just spit it out.” “It’s cancer; luckily it does not seem to have spread. If we get you started on treatment now there is a good chance we can beat it.” “Yeah, thanks for the news. I’ll let you know about the treatment.” She said and hung up.
She was ready to throw her phone into the water when she decided better of it, and something happened. It was like a window had been opened in a dark room and light was now flooding in. It was the strangest thing, as she wasn’t sure how many people diagnosed with cancer responded the way she did, but she didn’t really care. Marissa felt like she had a new lease on life. The stuff she thought was so important was just stupid stuff. She was seeing clearly now and felt hopeful and filled with the strangest sense of peace she had ever known.
Marissa made a decision that day, standing in the same spot she had met Ted. To stop living her life with her head down working her self to death. Because she had done it, she was dying.
She decided to take a holistic approach to her healing and began the process of making some changes in her life. Her diet changed. Her work schedule changed. Her apartment changed. She was meditating and praying, reading books about awakening the eternal spirit and healing from within. It seemed to be working, she felt better in the last two months than she had ever felt in her entire life. She had also started exercising, every day after work she would walk a five-mile loop around the pier passing the spot where her life changed. It was the strangest thing to see someone else standing in the same place feeling hopeless just like she had only two months ago.
She had a feeling Ted wasn’t feeling hopeless anymore. She smiled at the thought of him as her phone vibrated in her pocket. “I have to see you again; I can’t stop thinking about you. -Babe Ruth-”
Looking out onto the busy street below of her highrise apartment Marissa smiled. “Me too, Ted.”
So, this is a rare experience for me as I am putting out the first draft of a story completely unedited, save for grammar correction. But as I reread Parts 1&2 last night my mind turned. I liked the humor and playfulness of the story. It is easy to digest and not a bad read. But I found my self feeling “Blah” for Ted and asking “why the Hell would a beautiful, funny, charismatic, person like Marissa be into this Blah of a man?”
Well with that question in mind I realized that two love stories are going on here. One is obvious: It is between Ted and Marissa.
The other should have been obvious to me, but it wasn’t until I went back and reread the story a few times that it became clear.
The second love story is between me the writer and reader and the characters. I realized if I don’t love the characters then I really could give a crap-less if they find love.
Which is why 2nd, 3rd and 4th drafts are so important, to be able to correct these things.
However, this is the only draft, so I needed to correct it. And it is possible to do so with your writing as well. Like Bob Ross would do if he messed up on a painting he would turn it into a tree or a rock, and it would give the painting more depth.
So, that is what I wanted to do.
Add depth: I did this by asking the question; what gives a person depth? What is it that we fall in love with as humans?
The answer for me, is our past and present vulnerabilities. It is the simple things that make us fragile humans that we fall in love with. Sure we are attracted to surface level things, but it is what lies below the surface where true love is found.
Which is why showing sadness and tragedy and the character’s response to it, is the quickest way to feel empathy for our characters.
- Ted lost his mom and turned it into helping other people at the end of their lives.
- Marissa was told she was dying and turned it into the best two months of her life.
It is seeing people at their lowest points and watching them rise regardless, that gives us that unnameable feeling for them, that sense of “UMMPH!” The goosebumps, right?
In art, the only way to show depth is by contrasting the light with the dark or creating shadows. When I write, I have to create shadows with words by telling stories of my characters past.
- Why are they the way they are and Why do they deserve love?
Answer these questions in your story, and you will love writing for your characters. I know I do.
Hope you are enjoying this. Let me know in the comments what you think of the story so far. What would you have done differently?
Have a great day!