Gloves Off: Round XXIII
A bong as big as...?
Today we’ll put Amping Up the Volume by Pam Polivka under the microscope
To read the story as originally published, please click here.
Amping Up the Volume
I called my buddy Diggler after the porn actor character in that movie Boogie Nights. I met him when I was working as a graphic artist at Playboy, and he was in marketing. He called me Samples because I was always asking him for any new promotional items he might get. I can’t help it; I’m a collector, well, some people say hoarder. He mocked me because my requests were usually over the top, I admit. It was, “Can I have four hats? What about five posters? Please?” He just rolled his eyes, but he’d always come through for me.
My Comments: Consider submerging the “I” more, for example:
We met at Playboy, when he was in Marketing and I was a graphic artist. He called me Samples because of my constant asking for any new promotional…
And be careful of summary. Even if you can particularize the hats as “Pantera caps” and the posters as “Queensryche posters signed by ????” that would give us specific objects to grasp. We’re not into a scene yet, just describing a dynamic. The only physical verb is “rolled his eyes.”
the most outrageousparties at his house in Santa Monica. For one very memorable event, he got the idea to amp up the mood from the movie Jackass, which we loved, by hiring dwarves to walk around his kitchen countertops, blow flames, and pour drinks. It was so wild. I’m not sure how he found those guys, but I guess in L.A. anything is possible.
My Comments: If you describe the scene well enough then the distinctions of “outrageous” and “memorable” will occur in the reader’s mind. Lines like “It was so wild” cheat the reader out of being at the party. Unpack the party so the reader thinks: That was wild. I want the smell of lighter fluid. The crash of broken glass. Give us some solid unique details, and cut out the “I” statement: I’m not sure how he found those guys, but I guess in L.A. anything is possible. It resolves tension by dismissing the freak show. Let us think that Diggler is crazy.
His place was packed that night. Multicolored lights were strung across the ceiling, which gave the framed Playboy posters on the walls an eerie glow. Dwarves grabbed liquor bottles and tossed them in the air, giggling when they didn’t catch them and smashed onto the floor. Hot chicks—a blur of flesh and stockings—danced to the speeded-up bass of house music, and one girl in a leather miniskirt and six-inch stilettos caught my eye. She smiled at me and I joined her on the dance floor.
My Comments: Ah, see, you can do detail. But do you see how your preceding paragraph is so general and steals the thunder from the more-detailed paragraph that follows?
A few songs later, sweat beading on my back, we moved to a couch in an area that was a little quieter and talked. She was an administrative assistant and an actress and had even been in two commercials. Nobody could ignore the chemistry between us, so, of course, we started to kiss. But seeing people watching us out of the corner of my eye, I realized this wasn’t the right place.
My Comments: Again, particularize. What were the commercials? A couple lines of dialog would go a long way to grounding us in the scene. As always, don’t filter through the narrator, and avoid thought verbs like “realize” because they just broadcast your next action and steal the tension from it. Instead, how about: People gave us the side-eye, even the flaming dwarves were cutting their eyes at us, as if setting the house on flambé was fine, but kissing was a no-no.
“Wait, wait,” I said. “Let me find Diggler, I mean, Andy.
Just one minute.” I ran around the party until I found my friend sucking from a gigantic bong. “Hey, uh, do you have anywhere more private where two people could go?”
My Comments: It’s funny that Diggler’s real name is Andy, so the quote should end with that. And what’s “gigantic” to our narrator? How he describes the bong is a chance to describe him. …until I found my friend sucking from a bong the size of Pam Anderson’s leg or a bong the size of Tommy Lee’s leaked sex tape cock. Any description should also describe the describer. Okay?
“Oh, Samples!” He chuckled, then sighed like he did when I asked him for more promotional items. “My roommate is away for the weekend. You could use his bedroom, first one on the right upstairs. He wouldn’t mind.”
We quickly moved up the stairs to the bedroom and got naked. I was finger blasting her when four drunk dudes walked in.
My Comments: All good. But again, particularize “promotional items.” …like he did when I asked him for one more Revolting Cocks concert T. Also, unpack “drunk” so the reader can realize they’re drunk.
“What the fuck is going on? Are we having an orgy? I mean, you’re in my fuckin’ room.” A huge guy grabbed at Jessie, and his bros laughed and fumbled for her too.
“Sorry, dude,” I said as Jessie and I grabbed our clothes. Evidently this was
Waynethe roommate. “Andy said you were out of town for the weekend.”
My Comments: Be careful of too many proper noun names. It’s enough for the roommate to be the roommate, he’s a secondary character.
As Jessie was trying to put on her clothes, the guys kept grabbing for her.
“You’ve got it started now, dude,”
Waynethe roommate continued. He pawed Jessie’s back while his friends darted their hands in between her legs and laughed. Jessie screamed.
“Wayne!” Diggler ran up the stairs two at a time and faced his angry roommate, who was practically beating his chest like a gorilla. “Sorry, dude. I thought you were out of town.”
My Comments: See, it’s much nicer if Diggler names the guy.
“So my room is open to whoever?” Wayne roared. “If there’s an orgy going on in my room, I think me and my buddies ought to be part of it.”
Jessie and I had pulled on our clothes by this time and were trying to make our way out of the room. Wayne had moved to the staircase and tried to grab her as she squirmed past him. This guy wouldn’t stop! I was way smaller than Wayne, but I used the element of surprise to tilt the scales in my favor, grabbing his shirt (tail) out of his pants and yanking him back and forth like a puppet. The movement threw Wayne off balance and he stumbled down the stairs. His friends stared at me as if to say, “Are you crazy?” and scurried after him like scared mice.
My Comments: Can you linger on the physical moment of the shirt? I assume it’s the shirt tail, in the back, but that needs to be clear. And stay in the moment so that the reader thinks Is he crazy? For example, … like a puppet. Like the way a terrier breaks the neck of a rat. Bouncing him off one wall and bashing his unsteady ass against a doorframe. Swinging his weight, his stumbling feet, to wipe a picture off one wall. Even as the shirt tore up the back, I held tight and stayed behind him where he couldn’t reach. Dropping my weight low, I could swing him toward the stairs…
Yeah, you guys are trying to play up like you’re going to gang bang her. This is what’s going to happen. You’re going to be humiliated. And they sure as shit were.
My Comments: Your biggest set-up is drunken, flame-throwing dwarves. They’d better pay off… Not sure how this paragraph works. It seems like a quote, and it blends second person and third person: You’re going to be… and And they sure as shit… That might be the issue.
But they left something for us. Diggler’s date, who wasn’t even there for the confrontation, had left her purse downstairs. The next morning she opened it up and found that it was full of piss up to the top of the bag—all over her phone, her wallet, lipstick, everything.
So, no, I didn’t get any of those gold Playboy pens.
My Comments: Anton Chekov always said, “If you’re goin to put a flaming dwarf in Act One, you’ll have to use it in Act Three.” In that same vein, the pee needs to be set up. As it is, the pee just appears. Earlier in the party, we might see a drunken yob stumble through, saying, “I need to piss.” In minimalism you can’t introduce an element this late, at the moment you need it. The key might be “Diggler” because it stands for a penis. What matters is that the pee needs to be introduced and forgotten. Then when it’s found the pee will have power.
And, Thank You!
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