Story Skool — Chapter 2
Each week a new chapter of the book and a little “storycraft” tip. Let me know what you think…
Story Skool — week #2
“Give the audience two plus two, and let them come up with four”
You know the feeling at the end of a good story when you tie up all the loose ends — satisfying. So as story-tellers, we have to generate those loose ends; we have to create questions that the reader really cares about. As early as possible. It’s these questions that keep the reader turning the pages.
— how good is this chapter at piquing the readers interest? (comments please)?
Daniel hailed a cab and drove straight past his usual tube station. London swarmed with the on-time leavers, tightly wrapped against the cold early evening, each intent on getting that seat on the home-bound train. The crowds thinned the closer he got to the West End — too early for the media types and the wannabes to leave work, and too early to make their evening appearance.
Daniel paid the cab and climbed out of the car to be met by the expectant smile of a smartly dressed Maitre d’.
“Good evening sir,” he said, more as a challenge than a greeting.
“Hi. I have a conference call booked. With the Netherlands.”
“Of course sir,” the doorman said, glancing across the street as he unhooked the rope barrier to let Daniel through.
Inside, Daniel was met by a similarly flawless hostess who handed him a menu and led him through the darkened bar and up the black metal staircase to his booth.
“Just a gin and tonic and a jeroboam of Moroccan Black please,” he said with a sharp smile, handing the menu back to the hostess.
“Of course sir. And would you like some company?”
Daniel thought about this for a moment.
Daniel sat in a boxy, vinyl covered sofa, placed an elbow on the arm-rest and gazed out of the one way glass down over the bar he had just walked through. Bass-heavy music bled into the room from the bar outside. The bar was dark and seemingly lifeless. Daniel put his head on one side and scratched his scalp, taking care not to disturb his hair.
The door slid open and a tray appeared, carried by a girl wearing high heels, a bikini and a translucent nothing on top. She placed the tray down on the low glass table that sat between the two small sofas and tossed him a well-practised smile.
“Thank you,” he said. “Won’t you… take a seat?” Daniel asked, removing the straw from his gin and tonic and taking a sip.
But she didn’t sit. She smiled again, picked up a remote from the glass table and stood in front of him, pointing the remote at the ceiling. Her smile broadened as the music got louder. She began to sway, sliding one hand over her bony hip. With the other she dropped the remote into Daniel’s lap. Daniel gave a weak smile in reply and began turning the volume down.
The girl’s swaying faded and she looked at him, puzzled.
“I can’t do it without the music,” she protested.
“That’s ok. That’s fine. You can sit down.”
Daniel took the mouthpiece from the tray and sucked hard. Water in the flask boiled as the smoke was drawn through it.
“What’s your name?” Daniel asked, smoke leaking from his mouth.
“Sienna,” she said, dropping herself into the sofa opposite and crossing her naked legs, positioning them so that she was almost side on to him.
“Ah, Sienna. Sienna. Have you ever been?”
He inhaled on the pipe again, and squinted unevenly, making the kind of face you might pull in a sandstorm.
“How old are you?”
“18. Really. Just a bit older than my daughter.”
She raised her eyebrows.
“Tell me Sienna, what do you do at the weekends? What are you doing this weekend?”
“You mean, what clubs am I working in or what parties am I going to or what?”
“No I mean, just tell me what you do in the day, with your mates. What games do you play? What do you chat about?”
“What like, fantasies, you mean? What do me and my mates get up to you mean?”
“Yes but. Not sexual, I mean, what do you chat about. How do you…..what do you do to have fun?”
Sienna thought about this for a moment and frowned.
“Time’s up. I got go,” she said standing up and brushing down what there was of her dress.
“Yes. Yes of course.”
“Is there anything else you would like? Anything at all?” she asked mechanically.
“Just a wake up call please.”
“What time?” she asked, sliding the door open and half stepping through it.
Sienna slid the door closed behind her and Daniel smoked. He smoked until the darkness drew over him like a blanket.
Daniel was dancing alone. His entire body pulsed and whenever he opened his eyes they filled with a rainbow of colours that was almost as loud as the music. He smiled at the faces that floated past. The bodies that bumped and pressed against his sent lightning through his limbs. Sometimes they stayed and touched more, before slipping away into the crowd. He was clinging to a ceaseless roller-coaster. He loved roller coasters.
Daniel walked down the carless streets ignoring the shouts and cries and scuffles that played out around him. He thrust his hands in his pockets and pressed his elbows into his sides, the corners of his jacket billowing in the chill wind. His sweat-soaked shirt tugged at his midriff, a clammy caress. By now, most of the sensory overload was negative: cold; exhaustion; guilt. But there was the occasional surge of euphoria as the drug washed out. Daniel knew how to drink to the breath-test but wasn’t sure how long should be allowed to let Class-As out of your system. Seeing a bar he recognised from a recent client dinner he decided to wait a little longer.
At fifty paces from the door, he sharpened himself up and concentrated on producing a good, sober walk for the benefit of the miked-up couple dressed in black who guarded the door. There was no queue, the rush was over, just a booth taking twenty for a stamp on the hand.
Inside the small subterranean club, things were winding down. Those too drunk to stay pushed past him on their way to the exit. Those too drunk to leave performed on the dancefloor. In the dimly lit area beyond, smaller groups spoke and laughed loudly in each other’s faces. Daniel saw a few suits sitting in booths, older men with younger women, women dressed to attract attention.
At least there was enough to confuse and occupy Daniel’s mind. He smiled beneficently and joined the well-mannered scrum at the bar, casting lines out to catch one of the barstaff’s eye.
Daniel’s thoughts tumbled over eachother, shot down by dancefloor laser beams, drowned out by the wall of sound. He watched the groups and gangs and tribes and pairs navigate each other in this spontaneous micro-society where fortunes rose and fell with absurd speed. From his vantage point he could see every kind of body language being spoken, from Bored to Ecstatic.
Daniel turned away and rested his elbows on the bar. The melting ice in his coke had made it undrinkable and he pushed it away along the bar-top. He pressed the palm of his hand into the stubble of his cheek, feeling the friction, like a velour dress.
“Need a fresh drink?”
Daniel froze for a moment and looked round, to see one of the well dressed women from the other side of the room. She had bottle-blond hair and an aquiline nose. Her full length silver dress sparkled and a crooked smile danced on her lips.
But it wouldn’t dance for long.
“Oh my God,” she said.
Daniel blinked slowly and held his breath.
Daniel froze and tilted his head to one side.
“Yes. I am. How…” he began.
“Oh shit. I mean, sorry, excuse me. Wow. Hi. It’s Charlie, Charlotte, Charlotte Buerk. I used to babysit for you.”
Daniel remained frozen, suddenly aware of what it must feel to be hit in the head by a baseball bat.
“Charlotte Buerk, my God, yes,” Daniel said, forcing a smile. “Well, how are you?”
“Good, great I mean, apart from this I mean. I don’t do this very often, I mean it’s not my actual job, you know, I’m just doing it because it pays quite well and, well, there’s nothing seedy going on. I mean like, there probably is but like you don’t have to if you don’t want to and you get to keep the gifts and the extras and stuff so it’s not as bad as it sounds, you know?”
Daniel was somewhat taken but managed a weak smile.
“Sure,” he said, “I mean, I have to hang out with boring middle aged men all the time and to be honest, there are worse things that you can be paid to do.”
“Right?” Charlotte said, relief flooding her face. “So what is it you do?” she asked before sipping at the straw in her drink.
“You mean what’s my job?”
“Er, yeah. I just told you mine. I mean it’s not a real job like a career job…” She looked down and sipped her drink.
“My job is to tell the truth to very rich people so they can make more money. Occasional I lie to less rich people so the richer people can make more money, but, like you said, I don’t do that very often.”
Charlotte leaned forward and laughed what seemed to be a genuine laugh, whilst flicking her straw around in her drink.
“Let me get you that fresh drink I promised. Come on, I was thinking of clocking off now anyway,”
“No, really, I should be getting off home. Do you need a lift? I mean, if you’re clocking off. I’m heading back to…. do you still live in the area?”
“Yeah I’m back staying with my folks,” Charlotte said. “OK, I’ll take a ride.”
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