I, Bad Guy: Origin Stories–Part Three

PREVIOUSLY:

After crash landing out in the middle of nowhere, Robbie had an epiphany. It was his turn to become a supervillain. And that’s when Agatha, Eric’s girlfriend arrived to give them a ride home.

Betrayed!

imageedit_1_2901772730Agatha brought the two henchman home. A small two bedroom apartment on the westside on the third floor. It was in a complex that looped around a small unheated pool, which meant it went unused except for the three hottest days of the summer.

Agatha opened the door, dropping her keys into the bowl next to it. The living room had great windows facing the East, and a kitchen area with a breakfast nook. Simply and tastefully decorated by Agatha. You wouldn’t know two other people lived there. She liked it that way.

Robbie headed to the refrigerator. “I am starving. Eric, I’m eating your pasta.”

Before Eric could answer, Agatha said, “We need to talk.” Robbie and Eric looked at her, eyebrows going up. “Alone.” Eyebrows went down. Agatha turned and headed towards the bedroom.

Eric looked to Robbie for help. “Serious, I’m going to eat your pasta. Is there any of the sauce left?”

Eric nodded. “Bottom shelf.” Eric turned and followed Agatha.

Robbie’s stomach growled, so he turned back to the refrigerator. He opened it. Looking, looking, looking for the pasta. His eye landed on Agatha’s stash of diet ginger ale. Then, his cell phone beeped. A text.

He dug the cell out of his pocket. The text was from Number Two, the Professor’s right hand man.

It read: “Poor showing tonight, henchmen! The Professor blames you! Tomorrow 8 am at the secondary lair!”

“Are you–?” Robbie began. How DARE he, Robbie thought. He blames US for HIS failures? “This isn’t MY fault you pompous, sonofa–“

He began strangling his cellphone. He didn’t get very far. The cell phone did not beg for mercy nor show any signs of dying. He shoved it back into his pocket.

Robbie shook his fist at the ceiling and then grabbed one of Agatha’s sodas. He was just about to pop it open, when inspiration struck. He grabbed another can from the refrigerator and shook it. Hard.

He slopped it back in and popped his soda open. He chugged. He enjoyed his stolen soda. He felt good. I’ll show them, he thought. I’ll show all of them.   But, for now, he had pasta to reheat.

***

Meanwhile, in Agatha and Eric’s bedroom, Agatha had her hands on her hips. She was calmly explaining to Eric, “Because I’m tired of picking you up late at night.”

Eric shook his head, “But that’s no reason to ask me to quit being a henchman.”

“It’s not the only reason, it’s just a very good one.” Agatha sighed. “I’m worried about you.”

Eric blinked. “You’re worried about me?”

Tears welled up in Agatha’s eyes. She brushed them away. She nodded. Eric moved to her, she put up a hand, stopping him. “No. Don’t. I need to say this. And if you hug me, I won’t be able to finish.” She took a breath and then started, “Every day you and Robbie go off to work for that awful man, I am worried that you won’t come back.”

“What about Robbie?”

Agatha frowned, “This isn’t about him, I’m talking about you, about wanting to see you at the end of a day.” Agatha looked at him, right into his eyes. “What if you don’t…. Make it back. One day.”

Eric tried to think of something to say. Robbie would have something to say, he thought. Robbie always has something to say. But Eric couldn’t think of anything. So, he shrugged. Which wasn’t the answer Agatha was looking for.

She set her jaw, her eyes moved from tears to daggers. “That’s it? Just a shrug? You two, just love to shrug, when you don’t want to answer, just a shrug.”

Eric moved to her, “Honey…”

“No, no, no.” Eric stopped, she continued, “Don’t try and get yourself out of this with affection and cooing. I’m mad at you. Do you see this face?”

He did. She was mad. “What do you want?” He asked.

“I want you to come and work with me.” He didn’t like where this was heading. “I set up a job interview. For you. Tomorrow. They are looking for someone to manage aisle four.”

Eric was trying to make sense of what was happening around him. “You want me… to sell… office supplies?”

“Yes.”

Eric took a breath and slowly let it out. Something clicked in his head. He had an idea. “What if I talked with the Professor and I got a different position within the organization. Something, you know, a little further from the action. Maybe in his lab or, or, or maybe,” he was on a roll now, “maybe I could become one of his–.”

Agatha cut his roll off. “Do you see this relationship going somewhere?”

Silence.

“Of course,” Eric said. “I love you. I can’t imagine my life without you.”

She moved to him, touching his face, “Me, too. If something were to happen to you, I would be devastated. Eric, if you’re a henchman, in the lab, at a desk, you’re in danger.”

“Isn’t that a little, you know… sexy?”

Agatha smiled, “Yes… it was. But… I’ve grown used to falling asleep with you. I know it doesn’t seem as exciting, working with me at PaperClips. But. It can be an awesome place to work. We have fun. We have adventures. Ok. One time. In the warehouse. But, we clean it up. Please, for me.”

Eric had a decision to make. He hated making decisions. It’s one of the reasons why he really embraced being a henchman. Inside, he swirled.

***

The next morning, Robbie stood in the middle of the kitchen, spoon in one hand, a bowl of Multi Grain Cheerios in the other. He was still in his t-shirt and boxers. And he was angry. “Fuck you, Eric. Are you KIDDING ME?”

Eric tugged at the tie that Agatha had picked out for him. He was sitting at the table, eating his scrambled eggs, ignoring his orange juice.

Agatha replied to Robbie’s outcry, “Eric is not kidding. He agreed to do the interview. He’s leaving the world of henchmanery behind. Right?”

Eric nodded. Slowly. Looking back and forth between Robbie and Agatha.

Still gripping the spoon, Robbie rubbed his throbbing head. “I’m trying to wrap my brain around this, Eric. Last night, while walking home, you lectured ME on how great it is to be a henchman, how it’s in our families blood, how HAPPY you are, and now, this morning, after a little bit of whoopee with her–.” Agatha darted a look at Robbie. “The walls are thin, ok?”

“You don’t have to live here, you know.” Agatha finished her coffee, and put her mug in the sink. “Come on, we’re going to be late.”

Eric scooped the rest of his eggs into his mouth. “It’s just a job interview.” He headed to the sink.

Agatha grabbed her bag. “Which he is going to crush. Listen, Robbie, this is for the best. He’s going to be safe. He’s going to have fun with me at PaperClips.”

Robbie’s mind exploded. “FUN? At PAPERCLIPS?”

Agatha swiveled to face Robbie. “Yes. FUN.” Those eyes. Robbie shut his mouth. “Eric.”

He shuffled past Robbie, mumbling a “Sorry” as he went.

And then they were gone. Robbie still stood in the middle of the kitchen. The Cheerios had now become mush. But that wasn’t going to keep a bad guy down.

Robbie chucked his bowl into the sink. He had some evil to do.

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I, Bad Guy: Origin Stories–Part Two

PREVIOUSLY:

Henchmen Robbie and Eric launched themselves in an escape pod as the Professor’s lair exploded, having been attacked by the city’s hero, The Damsel.imageedit_1_2901772730

It was dark.  Really dark.  And it sucked.  Robbie and Eric walked down a gravel country road, heading towards the bright lights of the big city. Behind them, smoke rose from the remains of their escape pod. The smell of steak that hung in the air came from the cow that was now underneath the escape pod. It didn’t have a chance.

Eric broke the silence between the two of them. “I still don’t see the car.”

Robbie sighed. “We didn’t land by the car.”

Eric shook his head. “The pod is supposed to land by the car. That’s what it’s supposed to do.”

Robbie turned on Eric. “Do you SEE any cars around here?” There was, in fact, not much around. A farm house that was in bad need of a paint job.  The remains of a cow.  And gravel road they were standing on.

“You don’t have to snap at me. This isn’t my fault.” Eric picked up his pace.

Robbie said, “I’m not blaming you, I’m blaming the Professor.” He kept trying to catch up to Eric, but Eric kept increasing his pace. “Would you slow down!?”

Eric stoppped and turned. “I’m just kind of tired of your attitude right now, ok?–“

“MY attitude?”

Eric nodded, “Yeah. I just want to get home and get some sleep before work tomorrow.” Eric walked away.

Robbie stood his ground. “I was the one getting punched, I was the one trying to do something. It hurts, it REALLY hurts.”  He pointed at his noise.  The bleeding had stopped, now it was throbbing.

Eric kept walking. “We’ll get you an ice pack when we get home.”

Robbie grunted.  “I wouldn’t HAVE a broken nose if you had helped out. You just stood there.”  He said.

Eric turned sharply. “I wasn’t ordered in. What did you want me to do?”

“Punch her? Kick her? Throw something at her?” Robbie replied. “That’s three things off the top of my head.”

Eric rolled his eyes. “Do you honestly believe that two henchmen like us could’ve taken the Damsel?”

“What do you mean,’henchmen like us’?”

Eric was at a loss for words. “I don’t know, I, I… we’re HENCHMEN. We don’t take the hero. We help our boss take the hero.”

Robbie shook his head, “Being a henchman is ridiculous.”

Eric gasped. “You did not just say that.”  Eric went nose to nose… nose to bloody nose with Robbie.  “Being a henchman is a family tradition. Uncle Ralphie would be ashamed–“

“Don’t bring my father into this–“

Eric continued, “I love being a henchman. It gives me great pride helping someone. I don’t know what’s going on with you, but lately, lately you’ve been a real drag to be around.”

Robbie, offended, said, “I have not–“

“Yes, yes, you have. You have been grumpy. Snappy. You roll your eyes in briefings.”

Robbie put up a finger. “In my defense, the plans the Professor has been coming up with lately are pretty shit.”

“And you can do better?” Robbie began to answer, but Eric cut him off, “You don’t GET to do better. That’s not our job. Our job is to follow. Now, suck it up because it’s late and Agatha is going to be pissed.”

With that, Eric walked away.

***

Sitting on a curb outside of a 7-Eleven, they waited. Eric slurped on a soda as Robbie held a frozen burrito to his nose. This time, Robbie broke the silence, asking “Have you ever thought about doing something else besides being a henchman?”

Eric took a sip. Thought. Finally. “I can’t think of anything else I’d rather do. It’s exciting. There’s adventure. There’s danger. And there’s not a lot of pressure.” Robbie looked at him. “Well, you just show up and do what you’re told to do. It’s nice. I feel like this is a secure occupation. I’m happy being a henchman.”

Robbie shifted the burrito. He looked at Eric. “But there’s no glory, no fame in being a henchman. You’re just some guy taking orders.”

Eric shrugged, slurped, “That’s like 90% of the world, man. Though, I happen to really like my job.  Points for me, I say.”

Robbie was quiet for a moment. “I think it’s time for a change.”

“A change? Like get out of the business change? Our family has been in the business for generations–“

“No, no. Not OUT of the business.” Robbie took Eric’s soda. “I’m thinking of a promotion.” He slurped from the drink.

Eric eyed him.

Robbie explained, “I think it’s time that I became the bad guy.”

Eric frowned.

Robbie explained again. “That I would become the supervillian. You know, making the plans, giving the orders.”

“You?” Eric couldn’t believe his ears.

“Yes, me. Why not me? What’s so special about the Professor or any of the other villains in this city? Huh? I have everything they have. The smarts, the ambition. That’s what it takes.”

“The Professor is rich.”

But, Robbie wasn’t listening.  He had made his choice.   “I’m tired of taking orders. ”  He handed back Eric’s soda.  He tossed the burrito and stood. “I’m TIRED of being humiliated.” He raised his arms, gesturing to all of the world. “It’s time that I took my place in the pantheon of villains! Look out, world, because this guy is–!“

HONK HONK. A car horn. Robbie and Eric looked.

Across the street, sitting at the wheel of a sallow green hybrid, was Agatha, be speckled, wrapped in a robe. The window rolled down. She leaned out, “Do you know what time it is? I was in my pajamas. You know I don’t like leaving the house once I’m in my pajamas.”

Eric stood and started walking across the street. “Sorry, honey.”

Robbie lowered his arms. And followed.

!!!

Click HERE for I, Bad Guy Part Three

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I, Bad Guy: Origin Stories–Part One

POW.

imageedit_1_2901772730Robbie got punched in the face. Again. And he was getting pretty sick and tired of it. He totally forgot that he was in the Professor’s lair and that the Professor’s plan of kidnapping and extortion had failed. All he kept thinking was: Why did I become a henchman?

POW. Robbie grunted.  This one snapped him back to the here and now.   He could feel his nose bleeding.  He was in the grip of the Damsel, the city’s hero. Her arm was around his neck.

POW. Robbie thought of himself as the thinking man’s henchman. Which, of course, was totally unsuitable for times like these. He struggled to either escape or stop the blows. Whichever he might accomplish. However, by the time he had reached his late 20s, Robbie’s physique could best be described as doughy. Thank God, his all black uniform was both slimming and provided a bit of protection.

The Damsel, tall, lean, African American, short dreads, wrapped in leather and protective gear, with a mask over her eyes, shouted at the Professor, “It’s over!” Her grip tightened around Robbie’s neck.

The Professor, bald, stooped, ageless, chuckled from across the room. “Fool. It’s never over while I have the hostages and this!” The Professor raised his hand, which held a small detonator with a big red button. “This building is laced with C4. One push and BOOM, everyone dies!” Robbie hated this part of the plan.

Standing next to the Professor was another henchman, Eric. Eric was Robbie’s cousin. About the same age. Taller. Thinnner. He kept looking at the Professor, and then at the struggling Robbie.

Obviously, tonight hadn’t gone totally to plan.

First, the kidnapping of the church group hadn’t gone smoothly. They had put up much more of a fight than had been anticipated. Robbie got kicked in the knee, while Eric had been bitten on the hand. Neither was quite sure why the Professor had chosen the group, but orders were orders.

And then, there was the Damsel. She was the city’s first resident hero. And the most determined. And toughest. She had a singular focus on her war on crime. No one had been able to stop her, and the cops totally loved her.

Robbie totally hated her.

Once the ransom demand had gone out, it was only five hours later that she came knocking. And by knocking, that would be blowing the doors off the lair using grenades.

The Damsel laughed. “The hostages? I got them out ten minutes ago. You got nothing.” Robbie tried pulling at her arm, but she was too strong, and he got nowhere. He looked at Eric, who looked back, shrugging.

The Professor snarled at the Damsel, “Burn in hell.” He pushed the button on the detonator. The building rocked.

A fireball erupted between the two pairs.

Robbie closed his eyes, and felt the hard punch of the concussion.

He opened his eyes and saw that the Professor was gone, leaving Eric looking confused.

The Damsel tossed Robbie aside, who clunked against the wall. She ran down the hallway, leaping out of the way of shooting flames. She was after the Professor.

Eric rushed to Robbie, helping him up. “Are you alright?” he asked.

Robbie’s head was beginning to throb. “Why didn’t you help me?” he said over the blasts. “You could see that I was in trouble.”

“I never got the order to help.”

Robbie looked at Eric. Eric said nothing.

“She was kicking my ass. She was beating me… We, you and me, if you had helped, we could’ve taken her.” Robbie touched his nose. He winced.

Eric was incredulous. “You and me? You seriously believe that you and me could’ve taken the Damsel. Just two henchmen?”

Robbie groaned. He was really beginning to hate being a henchman. And being around henchmen. And looking at henchmen. “We’ll talk about this later, right now, we have to get to the escape pods.” The building shook again. It was an old warehouse the Professor had converted to a lair. “This place isn’t going to last long.”

Eric didn’t move.

“What?” Robbie asked.

“I really think we should wait until the Professor gives the order. What if he needs us and we’re in the escape–“

“The place is on FIRE.” Robbie replied. As if to underline it, an explosion nearby knocked them off their feet. Eric landed on Robbie. Robbie groaned.

Eric looked at Robbie. “Right. The escape pods.”

* * *

The escape pods were in a circular room, a tiny sliding door in front of each pod. Robbie and Eric burst into the room. Robbie walked over to the two remaining pods. He started typing in his access code. The door whissshed open. Robbie turned around. He saw Eric lingering by the door. “What. Are. You. DOING?”

Eric replied, “I’m waiting for…. You know… HIM. He is our boss.”

Robbie walked over to Eric, and grabbed him by his uniform. “This is not the time to worry about company loyalty.”

Eric shook Robbie off, “I don’t know, isn’t an exploding lair the PERFECT test of loyalty? What if he comes in and finds that we left?”

Robbie pulled Eric closed, “We’re leaving, now–“

WHAM. The Professor bolted into the room, smashing into Robbie, sending him to the floor. The Professor kept on going, heading right to the open escape pod.

“It’s not going to be that easy!” They all turned. In the doorway, the Damsel. The light of the burning lair gave her a glow. The leather gleamed. She breathed heavily. Everything seemed to slow down. Robbie suddenly had a very different feeling about the Damsel.

Then, she raised her fists and the same old feeling returned.

The Professor pulled out an exotic gun. “I’d like to introduce you to my gravity gun.” He pulled the trigger. BOOM. A wave of energy blasted from the gun, the Damsel was thrown from the room. The Professor cackled and jumped into the waiting escape pod.

Eric looked at the Professor. “What about us?”

The Professor raised an eyebrow, a wave of unrecognition passed over his face. He jabbed a button on the inside. The door slid shut. Rockets ignited and the escape pod rumbled away.

Eric looked to Robbie. Robbie shook his head. “Loyalty.”

They looked at the bank of escape pods. More specifically, they looked at the last remaining escape pod. Eric turned to Robbie, “Those are only rated for one person. I’ll stay.”

The building shook. The roof was beginning to cave in.

“What? No. No, you won’t.” Robbie grabbed Eric.

Eric shook him off. “I’m a henchman. I’m supposed to sacrifice myself.”

“Oh, shut up.” Robbie shoved him into the escape pod.

Eric’s eyes became wide. “You’re, you’re gonna sacrifice–?“

Before he could finish, Robbie pushed himself into the pod, smooshing them together. Grunting, shifting. Finally, Robbie was able to get to the button. Pushing it, the two were sealed in tightly.

The rockets ignited. And that’s when Robbie and Eric started screaming.

!!!

Click HERE if you want to read I, Bad Guy part two

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Dealing with imagined rejection…

37.14.52For me the hardest part of writing isn’t the rejection.  It’s what to do in the face of rejection.  Imagined or otherwise.

Lately, I have been going on general meetings out in LA land.  This is great.  It’s fun.  I LOVE driving onto a lot in LA.  It’s like that moment at the end of the Muppet Movie… it totally feels like you’ve made it… except you have a visitor’s badge slapped on your chest…but, nevertheless for an hour or so, you feel really important.

And then I have the meeting, we laugh, we cry, we gasp, we gossip, we have an all around good time.

And then… something may or may not come from it.  Lately, a whole lot of nothing.  Getting into TV is a hard business.  And there’s a lot of people who want in, and not a lot of jobs to go around.  That’s reality.

Yesterday, I had a good meeting.  At least, I thought.  I’m not sure.  Maybe?  I walked out feeling good, but, then I got a few steps and starting thinking…. what happened?  Did we just… CHAT?

Because the thing that I wanted to happen, the thing that I really really wanted to happen? “Hey, Larry, we adore your script, let’s make it… here’s $50,000….”  That’s what I really wanted to happen.

So, maybe, my expectations were high.

And when I didn’t get handed the check, I started doubting… I started feeling rejected.  Because I didn’t get the job, I didn’t get the development deal, etc, etc.

And it’s totally ridiculous.  Totally.  Just because I didn’t get offered something in a general, let’s get to know you meeting, I’m suddenly OVER as a writer?  It’s ridiculous, but, that’s where my brain was going.   I couldn’t shake it.  At all.

I have no reason to think the meeting went POORLY.  We talked for an hour, we got interrupted because she had a phone conference.  But, for some reason it just crept into my brain, I did the whole meeting wrong.  It was a failure.  I’m a failure.  REJECTION!

It’s hard to shake those demons.  (I have named my demon Brian.)

Now, to be real, to be frank, there’s always a possibility, that yeah, it’s true, I may never get that job, I may never get that $50,000 check…

But, I certainly won’t get it if I stop.

My son wanted to play with me this morning.  Like, holding on to me, calling my name.  And, at almost two, he is pretty irresistible.  But, I had to go back to work.  I had to explain to him:

“Daddy had a bad day yesterday.  Filled with doubt.  He needs to get up off the floor and that means writing some pages.  We’ll play later.”

And I marched into the office and put my butt in the chair.  And started writing.  And it wasn’t a work of genius.  Those words… not something I would hand someone.  But… I was doing it.

Real or imagined, rejection is hard.  And I hate to say it: the only cure for it, get up, start doing the work again.

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Stakes

Stakes.  Get it?

Stakes. Get it?

Anyway.  So, where was I?

STAKES.  That’s right.  Stakes.  Not for vampires, though, I’m sure those are useful to have lying around, just in case the zombie apocalypse turns into the vampire apocalypse.  You don’t want to be the last one standing.

I’m talking about character stakes.  What is important to a character, what is on the line if they fail at their goal.  (Wait, characters have to have  GOALS?  SONOFA… )  Anyway.  What happens if a character FAILS.

As I’m working on a  new pilot, someone asked me about one of the main characters: “What’s at stake for X?”  I paused.  And then I started jabbering.  I couldn’t believe it.  I hadn’t seriously thought about it.  I hadn’t ASKED the question.  That SPECIFIC question.

ARGH.

Now.  I KNOW this character.  I know this guy.  (Ok, I think we know where this is heading…)  I know what he wants, I know what drives him, but I didn’t ask the question: what happens if he LOSES….  How did I get this far and NOT ask that question?  Because it’s a blind spot for me, to be frank.

As a writer I like finding and discovering characters “in motion” I like to say.  By in motion, I mean finding them in scenes, hearing them talk, watching them do stuff.  Being surprised by what I uncover.  I put them in motion and see where they take me. But.  BUT.  This is also how I get stuck.

I get stuck because I don’t ask why.  And it just occurred to me: I think I don’t ask because I think I like the mystery unfolding of these characters, but in reality, it’s the fucking work that I’m avoiding.  I am avoiding the hard work of writing.

There.  I said it.  I admit it.  I am avoiding the hard work of writing.  And that’s really really really asking all of the questions that seem dumb and dry and boring.  There are creative ways in asking those dumb and dry and boring questions, ways that I hope are fun.  But. it’s the work and sometimes work isn’t fun.  And I avoid the stuff that isn’t fun.

But, let’s circle back, leaving admission land, why are stakes important?  Stakes act as a motivator.  “I want this so I can have that.”  “I need to do this, so this doesn’t happen.”  We as an audience get a sense of why this is important to a character.  In other words: why should we care?  If there are no stakes, then the goal doesn’t matter.  If the stakes really means something to the character, then by Zeus, that goal is really really important.

However, it’s interesting when it comes to TV.  And cop shows.  And I bring it up, because that’s what I’m working on.  A show set in a cop’s world.  Now, stakes are important, goals are important.  In a cop show, I guess the obvious goal is to catch the murderer.  But, what’s at stake?  I guess letting someone get away with it, but for our cops… in the end… what’s the worst that happens to them…?  They lose their jobs?  They feel guilty?  I don’t know.  I guess allowing someone to get away with murder is a BAD thing… (that’s probably why the victims are always nice and good people so we REALLY REALLY want that killer caught) but that doesn’t strike me as a personal stake.  That’s a philosophic stake.  Or a professional stake.  Not deeply personal.

I wonder if that’s why we get the occasional special episode trying to convince us that they are going to kill off a lead?  Hm.

Well.  I’m off to do some hard work.  You too, m’k?

Rambling out.

 

 

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