Sometimes our silence speaks louder than words.
The third scene of this play explores the power of silence. I attempted to showcase the pause – give it power. By giving silence an equal share on the page, I hope to show rather than tell how each character feels about the situation, so that when they do speak – even without pause – the silence still runs between them as an undercurrent.
I would love to know which pauses spoke to you most.
By Vic Briggs
ACT I/ SCENE 1: SMOKE…
ACT I/ SCENE 2: SMOKE… Act I/Scene 2
ACT I/ SCENE 3
The same room. Emma (thirty-two) sits on the bed, covered by a blanket. She looks worn out. Margaret (twenty-four) is occupying the only chair in the room. Emma’s approach to the conversation is direct and unhesitant. There is determination inscribed in her every feature. Margaret appears uncertain, discomfited by her presence in that room. There are long pauses before most of her lines.
Emma. What do you want?
Margaret looks away, fiddles with the handle of her purse, clearly struggling formulate what she is about to say.
Margaret. You know what I want.
Emma. I want you to say it to my face.
Margaret makes eye contact for the first time. She appears to be staring Emma down.
Margaret. You don’t think I can?
Emma. (derision in her every word) No. I think you are quite capable of it, but I want you to do it. Say it.
Margaret. Breathes in deeply and then exhales.
Emma. Not as easy as it seems, is it?
Margaret gives her a look. Breathes in and tries to get it over with as quickly as she can.
Margaret. I don’t want you to have Fred’s baby.
Emma. Stands up from the bed. The blanket falls to the floor. She does not look heavily pregnant, but there is a small bump, just noticeable. She looks triumphant and defiant.
Emma. And what do you propose that I do about it?
There is a long pause, when Margaret finally speaks, her tone is subdued to nearly a whisper. It sounds as if she is trying to persuade herself as much as her opponent.
Margaret. That is not my problem.
Emma covers the distance between her and Margaret in a few paces.
Emma. Then why the fuck are you making it yours?
Margaret. Fred never wanted your baby. You trapped him. You got pregnant on purpose!
Emma. (smiling) Fred never wanted anybody’s baby. He fucked me [over]. Sometimes women get pregnant when that happens.
Margaret. (standing up from the chair to face Emma) You trapped him. You trapped him! You… You…!
Emma. I what? What is that your little posh mouth can’t get out?
Margaret. (shaking her head) I won’t be brought down to your level.
Emma. I’m not the one asking a desperate woman to kill her unborn child.
Margaret. (horrified) That’s not what I said.
Emma. That IS what you meant.
Margaret begins to pace back and forth, every now and then looking up at Emma, who stands still, a protective hand over her bump.
Margaret. (pacing) Fred will not acknowledge your child.
Emma. That’s Fred’s business.
Margaret. You will have to bring it up on your own.
Emma. That’s my business.
Margaret. He will never change his mind.
Emma shrugs as if to indicate she does not care, or perhaps that she is not as sure of it as Margaret seems to be.
Margaret. (sounds desperate) I love him!
Margaret. I’m going to marry him.
Emma. That’s your business.
Margaret. Oh, for Christ’s sake! Is that all you can say?!
Emma. What do you want me to say?
Margaret. Shrugs. Sits down on the chair.
Emma. If that’s all, I’d like you to leave now.
Margaret. (standing up) I will. (pause) I will, but… you must promise that you will never contact him again.
Margaret. walks towards the door. Emma follows her. Margaret turns around, looks at Emma one more time, hesitates
Margaret. And you must promise that your child won’t either.
Emma. You’ll have to ask her.
Margaret. You must promise.
Emma. I’ll make no bargains on behalf of Fred’s daughter.
Margaret. It is not Fred’s, it’s yours.
Emma. Not ‘it’ – her. And no. I won’t promise you that she won’t try to contact her father.
Margaret. Fred will never acknowledge her.
Emma. That’s his business.
I liked it 🙂 it’s like I can feel the tension in the room
Thank you, KG, this is what I hoped to achieve with both silence and speech. So glad it’s coming through 🙂
Powerful moment when Emma stands. Great dialogue Vic.
Thank you, Lucy. This is a new medium for me so every insight is a great help. I’m making notes 🙂
I felt the tension and it was uncomfortable. I especially felt discomfort in the early part of the scene with Margaret’s delayed responses. We humans tend to dislike silence.
Thank you so much, Bradley. This is exactly what I tried to do with those pauses and silences at the start – establish tension and discomfort. Can’t thank you enough for your comment, and for sharing which part affected you and how it made you feel. Wonderfully helpful comment. 🙂
Comment on all Act 1 = Nice start. Grabs the reader. Nice tension. Realistic people. I’m definitely wondering where the second act will go.
Concise and to the point – love it! Thank you. I’m looking into several possibilities. Not sure yet whether to skip forward in time or keep closer to the current action, but will have to make a decision and soon.
You know that flowed so well I found myself reading ti faster and faster! You’re right you did just as well, possibly better without swearing. Great write, great script!
That’s great, Scarlet! I’m glad the acceleration of pace worked. I hoped to wind the tension up as tightly as I possibly could in the beginning and then let go of the string – not quite a release, but almost. Very happy you like the script. I’ve published the first scene for Act II – trying to create a symmetry, but will have to delve deep for the next. Will probably only know where it is going once I start writing it. Thank you 🙂
Beautifully done, really you should be proud. 🙂
Thank you, Scarlet. Very kind of you to say so. I love the challenge of using light and sound to get the message across. In a way, this continues the idea of the earlier scene, where silence speaks too 🙂
it fits very nicely with the title, I think l like when there are breaks where there is movement, it breaks up the need to describe silence, I think that in particular gives it rhythm and pace.
Pingback: SMOKE… Act II/Scene I | vic briggs
Pingback: SMOKE… Act II/Scene 2 | vic briggs
Pingback: SMOKE… Act II/Scene 3 | vic briggs
Pingback: SMOKE… Act III/Scene 1 | vic briggs
Pingback: SMOKE… Act III/Scene 2 | vic briggs
Pingback: SMOKE… Act III/Scene 3 | vic briggs