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Cyberspace Open 2010 - Sneaking Into The Finals

NOTE: I'm actually writing this on Feb. 23, 2011, almost nine months after the post date. As a result, tenses are going to be a little squirrely and references that occurred after the post date will be treated as if they weren't in the future. Because I never got around to telling the tale and since I'd just entered the 2011 Cyberspace Open, it seems as good a time as any to reveal what I'd done. With my luck, the organizers will catch wind of this and ding my entry. Boo.

UPDATE: It's March 29, 2011 and I didn't make the Finals, so I'm finally posting it up now. Enjoy.


So I didn't get into the Final Round of the 2010 Cyberspace Open. A lot of people didn't, so I'm not taking it personally. However, I have a hard time accepting that I may not have advanced because of shoddy judging. Sucking? Sure. Because the judge was looking for a lamb shank roast at a oatmeal cookie contest? Not even. While I've beaten up the inequities here, a search around the web found others with similar complaints and this fellow details how the majority of the finalists totally blew the structure portion.

I decided that if I could come up with something for the 2nd round, I'd send it in even though I wasn't a semi-finalist. It'd be fun to do the exercise - you can never practice one's skills enough - and if it got judged, it'd provide a little satisfaction that their process was so porous that anyone could submit. Hey, what if I make the Top 3? Boy, that'd be super-embarrassing!

The appointed time of the second scene prompt arrived on a Saturday because this round was a 24 hour crunchfest with the pages due back at 1 p.m. EST on the Sunday. Did I anxiously refresh the CS Open site as the moment arrived? No. Actually, I don't think I even thought to look at it until very late afternoon, thus giving up one-sixth of the available writing time.
Round 2 Scene Premise:

Your PROTAGONIST has been betrayed by his CONFIDANT -- someone deep within his (or her) inner circle. This betrayal threatens to destroy everything the protagonist has been working towards. The protagonist's only ace in the hole: the confidant is not yet aware he's been found out. Write a crackling scene in which the protagonist confronts the confidant.
I mulled it over and got an idea. Then I took a nap. I was going out that night and wanted some rest, so I wrote a few lines and then snoozed and thought about the scenario a bit more. I got up and spent perhaps 45 minutes writing before I had to leave.

The next morning, I woke up and laid in bed and though about what needed to be done. There was only a couple of hours until the deadline and I had less than half of it done. I got up and sat on the couch with my laptop and wasted time surfing around seeing what others had to say about the jacked-up judging of the contest.

As time was running down, I hammered out the rest of the scene and then rushed back to trim bits until it fit within the five-page limit. I filed it with perhaps five minutes to spare. Here now is Leaving For Lala:


GILLIAN MONAGHAN - late-40s, refined in dress and features -
carries a WATERING CAN into the well-appointed bedroom.
She's got money. She waters a PLANT on the window sill.

(gently to the plant)
You're looking so much better today.

BUZZ-BUZZ. Her attention is drawn to a CELL PHONE on the
nightstand. BUZZ-BUZZ.

She picks it up and flips it open to see what the incoming
message is. It says it's from "LALA".

(text on screen)
did u get $$$ yet?

Gillian looks puzzled. She tentatively types a reply.


better hurry bitch.
cant wait 2 c u

A look of shock starts to spread across her face. She types.

Where are you?

She has opened the closet. Clothes fill the rod, expensive
shoes on the floor. The right side has clothing that looks
like someone younger wears them; more casual and flashy than
the left side. It's not as tightly packed as the left side -
clothes are missing.

The phone BUZZES in her hand. A reply.

my place. are u gona take all the $
or leave a little?

Tears start to form in her eyes as she realizes what this
means. Her hands shake as the thumbs the keys.

What do you think?

She is trembling now. After a moment, the reply comes.

take it all. fuck that old lady.
we need it. luv u. Cant wait 2 be
wit u.

Gillian bursts into tears.


Gillian has pulled herself together. She sits at her desk
at her COMPUTER looking stoic.
>Delete user account: Maria DiNova? OK. Cancel.

She clicks the OK button.
We hear the sound of the FRONT DOOR OPENING. Gillian looks
up and listens as footsteps lightly run up the stairs. As
they move around, she glances down at the watering can sitting
next to the desk.
The footsteps come scurrying down the stairs. Sounds like
they're moving into the kitchen. A woman's voice calls out.

Gillian? Gillian? Are you here?
(calling out)
In the office.

MARIA DINOVA - late-20s, high-fashion punky style, the kind
costs a lot to look nearly homeless - strides into the office.

Have you seen my phone?
No. Where did you leave it?
I thought I left it on the nightstand.
I don't recall seeing it there. I
was in there watering a little while

Maria frowns. Gillian looks Maria over and gives an approving look.

I'm sure it's somewhere. You look
nice. Are you going out?
Uh, yeah. I'm meeting a client for
the gallery for drinks downtown.
Creepy guy. Looks at me like he
thinks all I need is a man like him.
Yeah, right. That's just what I
need, a man like him. But he's got
money and is willing to buy the stuff
we can't get rid of if I tell him
the artist is the Next Big Thing.

Gillian's smile is a little tight. Maria doesn't notice.

Do you think you're going to be out
late? If not, why don't you come
home and have some wine with me while
we look over the samples? We can
turn in early.
Ummm, it might be a late one. I
don't want to make you stay up waiting
for me to come back.

Gillian gets up from the desk and goes to Maria. She embraces her. They kiss tenderly for a few moments.
While still holding her, Gillian looks sadly into Maria's eyes. Maria notices something's up, but isn't worried.
Gillian begins to stroke and knead the expensive leather of
Maria's jacket.

I remember when I bought this for
you. It looks and feels so soft,
but it is so strong.
Yes. You get what you pay for.

Gillian lets go of Maria.

Yes, you do. But sometimes you get

more and not what you bargained for.

She walks back to her desk, pausing next to the watering
can. She looks down into the can.

Oh. There it is.

She bends down and reaches into the can, pulling out MARIA'S
CELL PHONE. She shakes the water off it.
Maria's eyes widen. What's going on here? Gillian tosses the phone on the desk.

How did it--

Maria shuts up. In her eyes we see she's trying to come up
with a story that works. What does Gillian actually know?

Oh, she's no one. She's the assistant
to the guy I'm meeting tonight.
What did she say? Why was the phone--
She texted, "fuck that old lady" and
"take all the money." She also can't
wait to be with you.

Busted! Maria's mouth opens to say something, but no words
come out. Gillian sits down behind her desk with a look of
regretful sadness.

I don't know what I've done to deserve
this. I took you into my home. I
took you into my bed. My heart. My
business. I trusted you in a way I
hadn't been able to since Robert
left and what do I get? The same
damn result, my lover leaving me for
some bimbo. Lala?!? Really?
I...I...don't know what to say,
Gillian. It just happened and--
Oh, spare me! If you found someone
else and left, that'd be one thing.
But you were going to rob me, too?
You know that when Robert left for
his little whore he cleaned out the
bank account, leaving me with nothing.
I almost lost the shop and it was
years before I was back to where I
started. Now you were going to do
the same thing?

Maria looks forlorn. All her plans, up in smoke.

What now?
Now? Now you leave. Leave your
keys. You can have the cell phone,
though I've already killed the service
along with your access to the bank
account and your cards. Everyone
has been notified that you are no my employ.
Gillian, please. Can I get my stuff?
Your stuff? That I paid for? I can
tell you already packed what you
were planning on running away with,
including your favorite jacket. No,
you walk away with what you have on
you. And I mean "walk away." If
you take the car, I'll report it
stolen and press charges. You can
go now.
Gillian, I'm so--
Just go.

Maria sets her KEY RING down on the desk and slowly turns

That really is a beautiful jacket.
Hopefully it will keep you warm
because I'm guessing Lala won't when
she finds out there's no money.

I wondered if they'd catch on that they had too many entries, but apparently they didn't as the results were posted and lookee-lookee at what was in the middle of them all:
Structure: 23
Dialogue: 23
Style: 22
Originality: 22
Score: 90

This is a well-written scene that works great for the most part. It's a big twist when we realize Gillian was using Maria's phone early on. Great division of knowledge! The surprise seems to come a tad early, though, as from there the scene feels a little straightforward and predictable. Gillian is sympathetic and definitely takes charge of the situation. Dialogue is strong and things come full circle nicely. We just crave something a bit more spectacular in the end. Remember to avoid being bland, and always push the envelope! Overall, though, great job! Good luck...
Well, that's more like it! Someone who actually knew how to read and got the point. I can quibble with their wanting more of a action punchline, but I was going for a sad moment of resigned strength. At least it was fair coverage and that's all I want.

For any stats mongers out there, here's the breakdown of scores for the Finals:

97 - 1
95 - 3
94 - 4
93 - 5
92 - 11
91 - 13
90 - 16
89 - 15
88 - 10
87 - 5
86 - 8
85 - 7
84 - 6
83 - 3
81 - 1
80 - 1
Total: 109

I fell right in the fat part of the bell curve. Hmmm, makes me average, I guess. o_O


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