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Viewing: Blog Posts Tagged with: Old Soldiers, Most Recent at Top [Help]
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On November 11th, Remembrance Day, at the eleventh hour on the eleventh day of the eleventh month, we remember them.

"Old Soldiers" which started out as a short story, came about as a result of an interview with some old soldiers/veterans for a newspaper column that I was writing at the time. Was drawn back to the story over time and as is my habit, tweaked it over the years and somehow the main focus of the story, Joe McKenna, seemed to take on a life of his own, along with his service buddies. One of my many (big on this aspect) re-writes resulted in an attempt to turn it as a radio play that was  entered in the BBC International Playwriting Competition.  Needless to say it didn't win but thought I'd share the second scene in this blog. It's still in the editing process (so what else is new). Formatting went askew in places during cut-and-paste.

To set the stage so to speak, JOE MCKENNA is a disillusioned old veteran who saw action and is angry with the world. He and his buddies are relics from another era who are afflicted with a variety of debilitating conditions, and the death of one of them hits Joe particularly hard. He decides to make a personal statement to make his views known at a remembrance day service in a park and along the way fate steps in when he meets up with a young boy (TIM) and his mother.


AT RISE: Joe McKenna is slowly making his way to where the Remembrance Day service is taking place in a park. His body racked with pain, he stops to sit down on a bench. A military band can be heard in the distance playing band music and the voice speaking through a loud speaker system.

JOE:                           Look at ‘em all! Sheep – a bunch of bloody sheep!

YOUNG BOY:          Mister – where are the sheep?

JOE:                           Huh? What you talking about, son?

TIM:                           You said something about seeing sheep. Where are they?

JOE:                           I meant… No sheep. Just talking to myself, is all

TIM:                           I like marching bands. Last Christmas I marched in the Santa Claus parade               with one of the elves

JOE:                           That’s nice. Now you go find your mom…

TIM:                           See her over there? Reading a book? My mom told me that it's                               important we come here every year. She didn’t tell me why, though…

JOE:                           You better go or she’ll come looking for you, besides, you shouldn’t talk to strangers

TIM:                           She said I could go play if I stayed where she could see me. If I can see                               see her then she can see me. Are you a soldier?

JOE:                           I was, a long, long time ago. Guess I’ll always be a soldier in my heart.

TIM:                           How come you’re dressed different than the others?

JOE:                           Look sonny boy – I don’t think your mom would like you talking to strange, old men so you better go stay with her

TIM:                           I’ll just wave at her so she’ll know everything is okay. ‘Hi mom! This man is a soldier too! Is it okay if I talk to him?’

JOE:                           Oh G-d. That’s all I need now. Talking to strange kiddies… I’m out’ta here…

TIM:                           My mom is coming over to say hi so you can talk to her

JOE:                           I don’t think so, kid. Shoot! I’m behind in my schedule!

BOY’S MOM (BETH) You know you’re not supposed to talk to strangers! We’ve discussed                                           this a million times…

TIM:                           I know mom but he was a soldier, too. Look – he’s wearing a uniform

BETH:                        Why don’t you go play on the swings over there, Tim

TIM:                           But I why can’t I talk to him? What are those ribbons for, mister?

BETH:                        Well…because… Oh look! There are some kids throwing a                                   a     ball  around. Why don’t you go join them?

TIM:                           But…

BETH:                        Go play, Timmy. Now!

JOE                            Don’t blame you for telling him that. Heaven knows I tried! Look…if you don’t want him talking to me, that’s fine. I got places to go – things to do, anyway

BETH:                        Tim is such a trusting boy. Loves the world. These days that can be                                                 a fatal fault. Takes after his great grand-dad, G-d rest his soul

JOE:                           Trust me lady that I didn’t initiate the conversation. I was just                                     sitting here on this bench resting a bit. Your boy was just being a kid

BETH:                        I’m assuming by your uniform that you were in the army. Which war?

JOE:                           Does it make a difference? War is war. Shoot! I’m way behind now…

BETH:                        Didn’t mean any disrespect. It just came out. My grandfather wore the same uniform. Such a strong man but he was never the same when he returned. A fraction of his former self

JOE:                           Weren’t we all. Nice talking to you but…

BETH:                        Have we met before?

JOE:                           Doubt it given the big difference in our age. Do you work in the Vet Hospital, he asked, hoping to get an “in” there…

BETH:                        Maybe we don’t know each other but I’ve seen your face…but where…

JOE:                           I used to play checkers here in the park but that ain’t gonna happen anymore…

BETH:                        Sorry. Don’t wanna keep you. I gotta be somewhere else, myself

JOE                            Nice meeting you…

BETH:                        …Beth…

JOE                            You don’t look like you’re dressed nearly warm enough to be in a park this time of the year. Maybe you and the kid should go home and put on some warmer clothes. Well – it’s been interesting…you’ve got a sweet and trusting little boy

BOY’S MOM            Takes after his great-grandfather. Sweetest man in the world, he was. That’s why I’m here – and dressed like this. I’m burying him after the memorial ceremonies. He was a soldier so he’s getting full military honors. In fact if I don’t get a move on, I’m gonna be late ‘Tim – come on. We have to go!’

JOE:                           Would you mind sharing the name of your grandfather with a stranger you just met? Could be we knew each other

BETH:                        Percy… Percy Albertson

JOE:                           Can’t be…not possible… This is too much. Percy was my best friend in war and in peace. In fact, me and the last of our platoon buddies are gonna be at his funeral. You’re – Percy’s granddaughter? Never even knew he had a daughter ‘til I read his obit in the paper. Is your mother here? Would be great to meet Percy's old lady and I’m sure the others would, too

BETH:                        She passed a year ago of a heart attack. Lived in a small apartment and kept it like a shrine devoted to gramps. Funny thing is they rarely spoke to each other. Some kind of stupid fued or the other and then they separated. Sad. I never had the chance to meet him.

JOE:                           Old Perce was a stubborn and proud man. He should’a gone t’live in the VA hospital years ago but he always refused them. Instead he existed from hand-to-mouth and never enough money to pay for medication. I mean, what are the odds that you and me should meet?

BETH:                        Now I remember where we met. At the pub a long time ago, when I was a little girl! I visited the place a couple of times with my grand-dad. Listen – if you’re alone here, why don’t we attend the funeral together? I know my son would be happy and so would my grand-dad for sure

JOE:                           Thanks for the invite but I…got plans…hav’ta do something…for Percy…

BETH:                        Please – it would make me so happy and my grandparents would have wanted this. I’d like that we get to know each other and maybe you have some photos you could share of him and you during the war. It would be nice if my son got to know his great-grandfather through you

JOE:                           Perhaps we could meet there, after … You’ll have to excuse me. Got an important appointment

TIM:                           What do you have to do?

BOY’S MOM:           Stop asking him so many questions, Timmy. The man has to go and. that’s that. Maybe we’ll see him later

TIM:                           Can I thank you

JOE:                           Thank me - for?

TIM:                           My mom says we should thank old soldiers for fighting to help us stay free. Didn’t you tell me that, mom?

BETH:                        I did say that – and I meant it. Not only old soldiers – all soldiers. Thank you from me and my son…you never told me your name

JOE:                           Joe. Joe McKenna

BETH:                        You’re “the” Joe? My grandfather spoke fondly of you, all the time! Fate must have arranged for our meeting

JOE:                           Wouldn’t put it past Old Percy to arrange this. I really gotta leave now.

TIM:                           Look – I can salute! I practiced at home.

JOE:                           You do that well. You take good care of your son

BETH:                        Listen – if you have nothing planned after the funeral, perhaps you’d at least join us for a bite to eat?

JOE:                           Maybe another time…

BETH:                        Of course. I’m just being selfish. Here – let me give you my phone and cell numbers. Give me a call if you’d like to join us

JOE:                           I’m really running late now…Nice meeting you both…

TIM:                           Have a good day! I’m going to salute all the soldiers at the ceramo…cerrro…

JOE:                           …ceremonies

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2. BBC International Playwriting Competition for 2013???

A short blog entry (where have you read that before?).

As shared here ad nauseum, I've been making a concerted effort to finish my "Old Soldiers" play that I started three years ago. It was and still is my hope to enter it in the BBC International Radio Playwriting Competition this year. However - it's always the 'howevers' in life that get in the way - can't find any link to a 2013 version being held.

Thing is...I'm almost finished the play at last and if the competition isn't being held this year, it will be a real downer. I mean, the play could always be submitted somewhere else but this competition has always been a personal challenge for me having never written for radio. There is still the concern that there's a lack of sufficient sound effects but I was (and am still, hopefully) going to go for broke and enter.

Just came back from the competition site in the hope of seeing the new deadline listed but to no avail. This does not bode well since the deadline is usually early Spring. Oh well... I'm still determined to finish it after which I'll 'put it to bed' for a while followed by a period of tweaking and finally hitting the 'submit' key.

Meanwhile, time is marching on. Joe and his friends would understand.

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The end is near for Joe McKenna, in more ways than one. My short play, "Old Soldiers" is reaching a finale, I'm thrilled to report.

"So when did this all occur, Eleanor?"

For whatever reason - desperation to make a deadline springs to mind - I've been adding material/dialogue over the past two weeks. Periodically, there have been re-checks and tweaking to ensure that the flow of words "sounds" natural and things make sense. Overall, things are progressing at a good speed.

"Do you think you can make the deadline?"

I'm aiming for this but one never knows. There is still one existing problem as I view it.

"And that would be...?"

A very serious issue, actually, which is insufficient sound effects. Rather than angst over this issue, I'm focusing on the story and dialogue and then re-examine and add after (she wrote hopefully).

"How many more pages left to write?"

Approximately twenty pages, which will focus on Joe's stand to make a point, his meeting with a young boy and Joe's three friends. In other words, the wind up to the story. Still not sure whether all the above-mentioned aspects will be included, It depends on the amount of space.

Did I mention I'm pleased with myself?

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The "Old Soldiers" keeps marching along, slowly but surely.

"Old Soldiers" status update for those who have been keeping up with the continuing saga of a writer attempting to finish her short play.

Added some more dialogue/content to the play, yesterday. Read the play through in its entirety and it definitely held my interest. As expected, there were some necessary small - accent on the small - adjustments to be made. Still not sure if the play is adaptable for radio, though. That decision will be made once the play is completed.

The play is taking on a life of its own and the latest revision is leading me in a different direction. I've already changed the ending a few times in my mind and the latest update is giving me food for thought and something to chew on (sorry about the puns). I'm at the point where Joe (main character) has had a fateful meeting with two new characters, who could change his mind-set about his self-appointed task.  One of the new characters is a young boy and I want to use him as a positive influence.

Meanwhile, I'm sort-of using his army buddies as a comic foil tagging along for the ride unbeknownst to Joe. Given their friendship and shared past, it seems only logical that they would be part of the conclusion.

Thing is...the writing comes in spurts as my muse dictates. Sometimes it works and sometimes it don't but when it does as I've frequently shared, it's magic!

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5. Old Soldiers are calling me again...and again...

A few months ago - seems like longer - I vowed to finish my "Old Soldiers" play, with the intention of entering it (again) in the BBC International Radio Playwriting Competition. The play, based on a short story written a while back, has a magical effect on my psyche and although procrastination has set in, the "gang" is there, calling me.

"So when are you finally going to give us some type of resolution?" one of the characters asks me regularly, just before falling asleep at night."We've been in limbo for years now."

Don't I know it!

The dilemma is deciding upon a plethora of endings and possibilities, and which one would be best suitable for dramatic impact. The characters themselves are well defined and no tinkering is necessary in this area. Then there is the issue of writing for radio.

Radio requires sound effects to propel the story along and although my dialogue is strong (IMHO), not sure whether there is sufficient sound or action. When writing the dialogue, I hear the characters speak and envision their movements but the challenge is how to translate this into audible action.

In any case and for no other reason than to force myself to make a decision, I've decided to choose the ending, good or bad. Since the next deadline would be next April (2013), there is time to work out the details.

The angst of indecision!

Will provide regular updates as to my progress. Where have you read that before?

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6. Joe McKenna has run into a problem and the playwright is angsting

I'm in angst - again.

In spite of a concerted effort to finish my "Old Soldiers" play in the hope of entering it in the BBC International Playwriting Radio Competition, I've encountered a new and unexpected problem. Content is fine.

"Now what, Eleanor?" Joe is asking me. "How much longer are you going to keep us waiting?"

I know, Joe! I know!

Today for whatever reason, I decided to check the rules in as far as the number of pages and characters allowed.

"All scripts submitted must be a minimum of 45 pages of A4 paper (or equivalent) and a maximum of 65 pages (note, a rough guide is a minute per page; please read and time your play before you send it). The play should have a maximum of six central characters (there may be up to 3 small "doubling" characters too, who don’t have more than a few lines each). Your script must be accompanied by a short synopsis which outlines the complete story of the play. This must be no more than 400 words."

The way that I view it, there could be and then again, maybe not, more than six main characters. It's all in one's definition of "main characters." Do main characters re-occur throughout the play? How does one define a "minor character?" There are give or take a character, nine characters in total. The play opens with the four old army buddies, who definitely are main characters. Then there are other lesser characters who come-and-go but contribute to the over-all plot of the play, that add up to more than the three doubling characters. Eliminating one or two in my mind, would ruin the flow of the play. Everyone has a part to play - excuse the pun.

I've reached the 45 page mark, which is in itself an accomplishment. Really in a quandry as to how to proceed. Maybe the best thing to do is to finish the play, submit it and put it in the hands of fate. Do I have a choice?

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As mentioned in a previous blog, working on converting my short story, Old Soldiers, into a play for submission to the BBC International Radio Playwriting Competition. To this end, I've completed approx. a dozen pages. Sound effects are minimal, at least at this point but the story line calls for more later on. Meanwhile, here is a sample of the play so far.
Comments welcome. The act of converting the play is definitely a challenge. We'll see how things progress.
Note the play is not formatted for stage.

By Eleanor Tylbor

SCENE: A pub/bar.
SFX: Soft rock background music plays in the background, sound of people talking; sound of clinking glasses

Yup…yup…yup…one less of us. The way things are going, won’t be long before we’re all gone. ‘Over here, Mac!’ The man can hardly walk, even with a walker

The man is 87. We all ain’t peppy anymore in case you haven’t noticed. My glass is empty

Yeah and? I bought the last round

Not! Well?

Well… What?

It’s your damn turn to buy! Open up your pockets and free the moths

(gasping, breathing heavily)
Really windy out there – and really cold. Hope it’s not like this tomorrow

SFX: blowing nose
We don’t get to choose the kind of weather t’get buried. Anyway, it’s November.

Whad’ya having, Mac?

You’re buying him a drink? What about me?

He just got here. You been sponging off me for an hour

Say what? You got that backwards!

I don’t need no handout. I can afford t’buy my own drink, thank you very much.


You should’a taken him up on that. The man’s a cheap bastard

(aside to bartender)
‘The usual!’ My body feels like one gigantic pain

Just three of us old farts left, now.


So who’s paying?

(five seconds of silence)

He is!

I’ll pay for all of us if it means avoiding another fight. Drink up guys!

‘To all the fallen heroes – especially Percy – wherever you are!’ I cut his obit out’ta the paper t’keep as a souvenir

Another obit for your wallet? Must be full by now

It’s easy to fill these days what with medical bills and all, but not with money.

Don’t I know it

I wanted to keep the obit, too, but I don’t get the paper every day, anymore

I’ll save mine for you when I finish. A person should keep up with what’s going on in the world

What the hell for? I don’t need’a read about murders and people dying in the street. Ignorance is bliss

Did it say whether Percy had any kids? Don’t recall him mentioning anything

(reading out loud)
‘….Percy Albertson, son of….blah-blah-blah… Daughter Fiona…’ He had a daughter? Don’t remember him mentioning any

Maybe he wasn’t speaking to her. Families are too busy these days to visit the old folk

Says the funeral’s tomorrow afternoon at 2 o’clock. Good – that gives me enough time

To do what? Watch your TV programs?

Got plans t’make


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Made some progress and added some new dialogue to "Old Soldiers". Now working on starting from the beginning, rather than continue to focus on the section where a group of old vets meeting in the bar/pub. This will stay as is (at least for the time being) but before proceeding, I have to  see where it all began.

I'm planning to introduce a female into the mix in order to show that Joe has a soft side. Most likely other characters who will show themselves as the writing progresses. Never know which direction a story line will go and that's what makes the task so interesting.

As much as I dislike - make that detest - doing a character chart and breakdown, it really does help. Actually, I didn't do it for the other two plays since I knew the beginning and ending before I even started writing the plays. The story line is there in the short story version I wrote but like my paintings, it can change a hundred times until I get that "click" indicating it works. Hopefully, this will work. Love this story and became close to the characters.

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"Two new pieces in your playwriting blog in one day! Must be something really important, Eleanor!"

Yes it is...could be...maybe...one hopes

Anybody who drops by this blog is familiar with my continuous effort and accompanying angst to write a radio play for the BBC International Playwriting Competition. This year my idea and hope was to turn my "Old Soldiers" story into a radio play and enter it in the competition. However - I abhor that word - my intent wasn't realized in producing dialogue and once again what I thought was the deadline for entries, passed. My problem was coming up with sound effects that would carry the story line. Perhaps, in retrospect, I just wasn't committed enough to make it work. It's always the could-have, would-have and should-have that get you in the end.

In any case, just did a routine check on my Facebook page and something exciting jumped up at me:

"Exciting news! The 2012 International Playwriting Competition will open on May 1st. Plays can be on any topic but must be 53 minutes long. Details of how to enter and more information will soon be available at www.bbcworldservice.com/radioplay It’s time to get writing!"

This is really thrilling news because this means that there is yet another opportunity to submit. Perhaps a good idea would be to write something new from scratch. As the blurb advises - "it's time to get writing!"

Yup it is. As in the past, will be providing progerss reports - hopefully.

"So do you think you"ll have the carry-through to enter this time, Eleanor?" my muse just asked me.

Hope springs eternal. Right?

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Progress at last with "Old Soldiers"!

Now that the art show preparations and show itself is over, I made the decision to give painting a rest, at least for the summer. Thing is that focusing on two different creative mediums at the same time leads to the detriment of one. In this case it was my playwriting, ergo, time to put all my energy into playwriting.

Anybody who follows my playwriting blog is familiar with my moaning-and-groaning, ranting and raving about my stagnant state in as far as the "Old Soldiers" play for radio project is concerned. I'm pleased to report and share that I've added three - count 'em - three scenes today. Still finding it difficult to ensure that there are sufficient sound effects to help carry the story line but there is progress in this area also. While writing, I'm still getting the feeling that it lends itself more to film or TV than radio but I'm not going to make any changes, at least while I'm on a roll. Oh sweet heaven it feels so good to be on a roll again!

While storing my art materials in the supply cupboard, I decided to clean out my writing box. A long time ago as a young mom when I first began writing, I wrote a film script using Syd Field's how-to book. Actually, the end result, "Skate!" was, at least in my humble opinion, quite good. There were many re-writes and today came accross a few versions languishing at the bottom of the box and removed them to the top of the pile. It's been a long time since I last read it and it will be interesting to get a new and fresh perspective many years later. Will share my findings of course.

Back to my current project, so far - so good. Somehow it just feels right and I'm taking that as an omen. You takes your omens as you finds them.

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Still working on the "Old Soldiers" re-write. Today tweaked some more dialogue that didn't feel right or fit into the scenario. Getting stuck or hung up on the time line and trying to make the flow of action logical. Caught an error in that if the remembrance ceremony takes place in the afternoon, the opening in the bar where they're discussing life can't take place in the evening.

Working on a few possible scenarios:

- Joe goes to the park before ceremony to where he and Percy played checkers/chess
- Joe meets up with Percy's grandson and daughter at the park
- The strong bonds of friendship between Joe and his friends.

Thinking over the antagonist/protagonist angle and how or if it will work. Did someone say it was easy to write a radio play?

Will share more as the thoughts come together - hopefully.

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Still more progress on "OLD SOLDIERS" - be still my beating heart!

Can't believe I'm writing this but still more progress today.

"So what's happening with "the" play, Eleanor?"

Well...I'm now up to scene 4 or as I number it, Scene IV and even sharing this reality is quite unnerving. I'm always afraid that my writing "roll" will come to an abrupt end.

"Did you amend the time line that concerned you the other day?"

Managed to make some necessary changes to dialogue that fixed this problem.

"So where are you now?"

I"m at the point where Joe is re-visiting the park before the ceremonies take place. Following close behind in the true sense of the word, are his pub pals who have decided to tag along.

"What is it about this play that has such a hold on you?"

The original short story was based on an interview I did with a veteran for a newspaper column. Thinking about his experiences as I wrote the article, the story formed in my mind. Joe McKenna could be any old soldier who has lived a long - maybe too long - life. He feels embittered by his current existence and wants to make a symbolic gesture of his feelings.

More updates to follow - hopefully she wrote.

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My "Old Soldiers" are getting antsy and so am I. A few weeks to go to finish up their story and I'm experiencing a slight case - not full...yet - of panic.

I've been adding dialogue regularly and am satisfied with the progression of the story line. My concern, however - it's always the 'howevers' in life that will get you - is the lack of sound effects. Normally, my focus would be on the dialogue but given the nature of the medium, obviously sound plays an important part. The dialogue itself (IMHO) is good, I'm satisfied with the character development and the scenes are logical. But...

"So explain the problem(s) and/or concerns for us, Eleanor."

The first scene takes place in a pub and sound effects include the buzz of people chatting, glasses clinking, a juke-box producing music. That's it, folks! Suggestions here would be appreciated!

Subsequent scenes focus on the "gang of three" i.e. Joe's friends, studying Joe from afar from their vantage point in a small sports car, Joe's conversation while travelling on the bus and talking to friends at a park.

Haven't decided yet which scenario to follow leading to the finale. There are three possibilities and I can't make up my mind which one to pursue. Another concern is that for whatever reason, didn't note that the play has a 55 page limit and I was working on a 70-odd page limitation. The play as I write it, is taking on a life of its own and I'm not sure it can be completed as a radio play in the alloted time.

"So what's the probability of it being adaptable for a radio play?"

It could go either way depending on which route so to speak, it goes. Meanwhile, there are choices to be made and decision to be taken. Will share more thoughts as they occur.

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