Posted by: steveonfilm | February 18, 2011

Cyberspace Open – Winter 2011: The Scene Prompt

So it begins…

Your PROTAGONIST and his or her LOVE INTEREST are at odds. One of the protagonist’s schemes has gone terribly awry, and the love interest has had it. Write a scene in which they have it out – but in an unconventional way. Their words seem measured and reasonable; but the subtext says another thing entirely. You may use additional characters other than the ones specified.

This is a DRASTIC change from the prompt last year, and something from a completely different direction.

I saw LOVE INTEREST and immediately frowned… but then I saw “write a scene in which they have it out – but in an unconventional way.” That’s basically my day to day life with my wife. We’re one big rolling ball of subtext. So really… I can probably mine one of the plethora of ridiculous arguments I’ve gotten in with my wife and put something together.

Something else of note… “Contest Management” laid down an extra level of information:

This is going to take some crafty, non-on the nose writing here. For example, they can talk about boiling water, but it’s clear they’re really talking about something else. Use sarcasm or body language or timing or other means to convey your true meaning.

After reading this line a few times I’ve actually got a pretty funny idea that might work.

The challenge here is that I this prompt SCREAMS rom-com. Though it could just as easily be done in an action movie too, two ex-lovers who are spys arguing while they shoot down a bunch of bad guys.

Anyway, this is a change of pace from last years prompt, and I think a much harder challenge for someone like me who leans toward thillers. However, for people who tend to write comedy and coming of age stories, this is likely right up their alley.

Should be a good contest nonetheless.


  1. I’ve got a couple of ideas with all sorts of possibilities, but in the back of my mind I’m afraid that, as happened last year, the readers judging this won’t understand the prompt and mark us down for following it. (e.g. “Why are they talking about boiling water while they tear phone books in half? It makes no sense that the action and dialog are unrelated. Please sell your typewriter.”)

    Good luck. I know I’ll need it.

    • I know what you’re saying. I mean, that’s just the kind of thing you have to deal with when a person “judges” a script. I know this year I’m gunning specifically for one of the genre prizes. Jim was just offering the “boiling water” as a metaphor example. Subtext in dialog often dances around a metaphor… at least the subtext people pick up on.

      Anyway, good luck man. I’ve enjoyed writing what I’ve come up with so far.

  2. Good luck!

    I’m not good at writing people in relationships, but my strength lies in comedy, so it was a bit easier for me.

    • Oh yeah… you can do entire bits all around subtext. I’ll be interested to here how things went for you.

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