SMOKE… Act I/Scene 2

I would like to add a disclaimer before sharing the second scene of the play with you. When it comes to use of language on this blog, I keep it clean. I find that using swear words – when writing about political issues or when engaging in discussions with other bloggers – is simply not necessary to get one’s point across, and may even detract from the message.

Window SilhouetteUnfortunately I can not always use the same level of censorship when it comes to creative writing, as whatever language I may prefer to use, sometimes characters seem to demand otherwise. The F-word appears repeatedly in this instalment of Smoke. I considered using asterisks instead, but thought it may detract from the text. Having made my choice, I’m curious to know what you think of it. Does it serve its purpose or not? Would the effect of the scene be diluted or improved without the swearing? Look forward to your views.




A small room, a door at the back, the empty space towards the stage has a large window-frame hanging from the rafters. Emma (thirty-two) and Fred (twenty-six) are alone in the room. Emma is sitting on a chair, Fred is on the bed.

Emma. Fred… we need to talk about this.

Fred. We have talked about it. You know my position. You’ve known it from the start.

Emma. Stands up from the chair, takes one step towards the bed, then changes her mind and sits back down.

Emma. Time is running out for… I thought –

Fred. That I would change my mind? Well. I didn’t. And I won’t.

Fred. Takes his eyes off the game he was playing on his iPhone for a moment and looks at Emma’s distraught features.

Fred. Oh! For Christ’s sake. Don’t cry, Emma. This is a cheap trick. You KNEW that I didn’t want to have children. Not before. Not now. Not ever.

Emma. Fine. Fine. (She breathes in. Breathes out. Clenches her fists.) Then get out. (louder) Get the fuck out!

Fred. Gets off the bed and moves towards the back door. Opens it. Holds it for a moment and takes a final look at Emma who remains seated in the exact same position on the chair.

Fred. Is this what you want? Is this really what you want, Emma? If I get out of this door I’m never coming back again.

Emma. Promises. Promises.

Fred. I mean it.

Emma. Read my lips: Get out. Get the fuck out!

Fred. Oh. Fuck you, Em.

Fred exits. Emma sits in silence for a moment, listening to the sound of his steps dying out. She raises herself from the chair, with more difficulty this time and walks towards the window. She sparks a cigarette and smokes, looking towards the imagined horizon.

The light dims and then brightens again in quick successions to indicate the passing of time, several days’ worth. Emma continues to stand at the window smoking throughout.

The back door opens tentatively. Fred pokes his head through.

Fred. Emma?

Emma. Does not turn. Continues at the window, smoking.

Fred. May I come in?

Emma. No response. Fred. Steps back into the room, closes the door behind him, but remains standing by it. He reveals a bunch of flowers.

Fred. Em… I brought you these. I’m sorry.

Emma. Puts the cigarette out in an ashtray on the windowsill and half-turns towards him. Fred looks remorseful. Emma starts laughing.

Emma. What a bloody cliché you are!

Fred. Holds the flowers tentatively towards her. She appears to consider taking them. She steps towards him, takes the flowers and puts them on the table. They embrace. Fred takes her to the bed and they start making love.

The lights go out.


32 thoughts on “SMOKE… Act I/Scene 2

  1. To me, the swearing is entirely in keeping with the characters’ anger, Vic, and reflects the reality that arguments are not conducted in ‘nice’ language! Good one! xxx

    • Thank you, Alienora. I used the techniques I learnt in class to get myself into each of the character’s shoes. I thought of their backstory, of what got them to that point in time. The years she invested in the relationship, hoping that he would love her enough to change his mind, and when I acted it out she swore, so I felt it was the honest thing to do by including it. I tried to think what I would’ve done in the same situation, but then she is not me 🙂

  2. I think that depends on the character, is the f -word is something that tells you something about the personality of that character. Then I don´t think it would dilute the scene it would be improved, plus you can´t make all readers happy, if you think the f-word is ingrained in that character that you´ve worked hard to create then use it.

    • Thank you, Charly. This is what I tried to do: be true to the character and the frustration that had been building up for months, if not years. I appreciate your comment. It reassures me that I made the right choice by including it.

  3. If the swearing fits the character, I think it’s fine… just don’t overdo it. However, one friend recently told me you can use actions to suggest the person is mad enough to swear, etc. So, I think of that avenue lately for those swearing reasons.

    Nice act!

    • Thank you, Van. That is great advice. It is certainly a good idea to try and keep the tension going by directing the characters body language and keeping some of the language in check. Will certainly do my best to include this aspect in future acts. Thank you!

  4. Vic, I found that the transition from rational person to f-bomb outrage may have happened too abruptly, potentially detraction from the intended effect. Might just be my tender navigator ears, though.

    You know how sensitive we can be. }:-|> 😉

  5. It didn’t seem gratuitous to me, but I have a foul mouth, It was more that it fit the characters and scenario, if I was to read this without profanity it would look too subdued, but I’m Australian we have the C word on tv and we are fucking proud of it 😉

    • Thank you for the morning grin, Scarlet 😀
      Our daytime tv doesn’t even allow the other C word lol and when someone says it by mistake live they have to apologise to the audience for the slip.
      I read it out with and without the swear words, and came to the same conclusion, but will try to use it sparingly, to keep the impact high when I do use it.

      • Very welcome 🙂
        I think we only have it after 830 I don’t think they’d let it go in in the time kids are watching.
        Yes sparingly is maybe a good idea but I think it still works well in the script.

  6. Pingback: SMOKE… Act I/Scene 3 | vic briggs

    • It’s become part of the daily vernacular in the UK at least, so much so that most of the time we’re deaf to it – the mind just edits it out when spoken. It is a little different with the written word. I do feel like one or two on the page, and somehow it stays in one’s memory for much longer.
      Thank you for your comment, Judd. Appreciated.

      • Use of words like this brings the character alive especially if they are a product of that kind of environment. It tells us a lot about the character, where they are from, etc.

      • It is fascinating, isn’t it, how closely character and language are intertwined? For some of the trickier parts of my fiction, and when it comes to dialogue in particular, I free write it to start with, and then I act it out – out loud – changing my position for each character in turn and even adapting body language and posture. It usually helps me to figure out how they would speak, what they would say and how they would react to something that the other says or does. May seem a little strange, but it helps me get distinctive voices pinned down. Thank you, Judd. Your comment prompted me to think through a few techniques that I’ll be returning to as the project progresses. It’s a great help having your feedback.

  7. Pingback: SMOKE… Act II/Scene I | vic briggs

  8. Pingback: SMOKE… Act II/Scene 2 | vic briggs

  9. Pingback: SMOKE… Act II/Scene 3 | vic briggs

  10. Okay, I had to come back to the very start to make sense of this…apology f..king accepted! lol…this one qualifies for the unnecessary Vicki; It’s only logical swear words appear in certain criteria.
    I love the lead and descriptions…typical human I say, Emma and Fred at the same thing that brought about all the F…u’s.I love this!

    • Thank you, Dotta. I wondered whether it was worth mentioning it in the introduction of the piece, but it was something that I was unsure about so I thought it would be good to get a sense of how the reader perceive the swearing in this context. I just noticed that you’ve commented on the other scenes as well and look forward to reading your feedback. It’s the first time when I’m actually creating something and publishing it as part of the process so I’m both very excited about it as well as a little apprehensive since it’s a first draft 🙂
      I’m very pleased the characters come across as human, with all the flaws and complexities this implies. Great feedback and very encouraging. Thank you so much.

  11. I can’t imagine anyone having an argument like this one and not swearing. One of the characters in my novel swears like a trooper – I’d rather he didn’t, but that’s just the way he is. What can you do? I blame the parents.

    • Haha. Great point. Indeed. There’s nothing you can do about it when it comes to that. I have a character who is very well spoken, but her interior monologue is rife with swearing and the F word in particular. It makes for interesting contrast between how she thinks and what image she chooses to present to the world.
      Thank you for your comment, yakinamac 🙂

  12. Pingback: SMOKE… Act III/Scene 1 | vic briggs

  13. Pingback: SMOKE… Act III/Scene 2 | vic briggs

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