SMOKE… Act II/Scene 1

I have always struggled to identify with characters who verge upon hysteria, who were frightened of life, but I’ve always understood their desperate need to reach out. My main character has chosen to go it alone, but there are limits to her strength. Act II of Smoke attempts to reconcile her fear of what the future holds in store with a determination to face the uncertainty of the future with courage and optimism. It is a fragile balance.

What this first scene of Act II aims at is to give a glimpse into her outer world from within. The play of light and shadow is key. I hope that I have managed to make clear whose perspective is captured on the imaginary stage, but I would love to know whether you agree. Particularly, what does “sound” and “colour” reveal to you in this context?

Beating HeartSmoke… by Vic Briggs

SMOKE… Act I/Scene 1

SMOKE… Act I/Scene 2

SMOKE… Act I/Scene 3


A blinding flash of light and then complete darkness.

From the darkness emerges a play of shadow and light – rosy-red. Almost immediately this play is pinpointed by the sound of a heartbeat.

The silence without is interrupted every now and then by laughter. The laughter does not belong within, but it comes as if from outside the room. When there is laughter, the heartbeat quickens.

Another blinding flash of light and then again complete darkness. The play of light and shadow. Again the heartbeat.

But now there is music somewhere in the background. The heartbeat aligns itself to the sound of the music; the sounds are entwined into one rhythmic dance.

A blinding flash of light and then darkness. Light-shadow at play. The heartbeat.

Muffled sobs from without interrupt its rhythmic sequence. The heartbeat quietens, as if listening out for that someone crying.

The red light flashes outward strongly, followed in near synchrony with the white and then the space is enveloped in complete darkness once again.

19 thoughts on “SMOKE… Act II/Scene 1

  1. And a silent pause between scenes to allow your audience to exercise their minds and ponder on what exactly it is that they have just witnessed. The laughter, the crying and the heartbeat are an excellent stimulus; as are the contrast between the red light and the darkness. I am enjoying this.

    • Beautifully expressed insights, Chris. I hoped that this scene would work both to create symmetry with the previous Act, but also to function as a bridge into what comes next. In writing my first play, I am trying to learn from other playwrights and use techniques that have affected me when I read their plays or when I saw them on stage. It is a strange experience to create something aimed to be acted out and not only read. A challenge certainly, so it is very heartening to see that others are enjoying the fruits of the process too. Thank you.

      • Thank you, Dotta. It’s very flattering that you should think that I have prior experience of this, but indeed this is my first ever play. I’ve never written one before. I have been to see many plays in the last couple of years and have been flirting with the idea of writing my own for some time, hence this experiment.

  2. You know with this I think its very visual words and an economy of the, the flashes in particular, it leaves your mind to paint in the detail but it also evokes a shock type reaction, overpowering imagery if you like.

    • There is something both daunting and exhilarating in writing a play. On the one hand, there is a complete freedom, because as a playwright you don’t to worry about how it may be put on stage – that’s the director’s job – so you can let your imagination loose and create whatever you like.
      On the other hand, I can’t really write a scene without imagining it on stage. Even my theatre is imaginary, but the stage seems quite real. I think this is where the “visual” aspect comes from in what I write: I’m trying to make the reader see that stage, and although I know that everyone will imagine something different, I want to paint it as close to what I see as I can.
      It’s very good to get a sense that someone else sees something of what you see, so thank you 🙂

      • I was talking to a friend about writing a screenplay – that’s his thing, I can’t imagine writing without covering off the details, it takes discipline, and economy of words, I think I’ll just watch.

        Most of what I write I have to imagine so it comes from events, I admire creative people for making up worlds in their heads, its a gift.

      • That’s a wonderful way to put it, Scarlet. Thank you. I’ve been inventing worlds and characters for as long as I can remember so I never considered it as something special. I thought everyone entertained themselves in the same way 🙂 Goes to show how much I still have to learn.
        I like this idea of an “economy” of words. I cut out quite a few lines in redrafting this piece, doing my best to tighten the dialogue, while maintaining a sense of realism through pace. Your comment made me reconsider how I approach the next scene – so it’s very helpful. Thank you 🙂

      • I’ve always admired artists, for that very thing, I’m going to spend the afternoon with one now, we’ll eat cakes, drink wine and watch horror movies, lovely!

        Glad to help, have a great sunday 🙂

      • That sounds like a wonderful way to spend an afternoon. You know what: you too are an artist 🙂 You just don’t know it yet 😉
        Warm regards,

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

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

  5. This is good Vicki…I’m really drawn into the scenery, I can actually hear the laughter, heartbeats and I like the way you used actions and sounds in the scene. Speech would have altered something…really cool.

    • I’m relieved to hear you say that. In act 3 I’ll be picking up on this and it will hopefully explain the scenery in hindsight. I’m considering whether to have another speechless scene or whether to allow the narrative to develop through dialogue next. Will have to make a decision soon. Thank you, Dotta. Once again – insightful and very helpful feedback.

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

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

  8. Pingback: SMOKE… Act III/Scene 3 | vic briggs

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