Monday, February 6, 2012

Chuck Wendig's 7 Act Exercise

The challenge is to write a story in seven acts.
1. Introduction
2. Initial problem
3. Initial resolution attempt
4. Complication
5. Second resolution attempt
6. Severe complication
7. Climax/Resolution

My answer was to go with a simple hard-boiled PI tale. I originally wanted to use my character, Raymond Jaye, but he couldn't find the time for a side adventure between Cue the Sax and the follow-up tale.

Each section is marked with a *. All comments welcome.


*Nikki was the kind of girl any father would be proud to have, as long as his wife and kids never found out.

She went in first, her short, red dress clinging to every step. I followed thirty seconds later. We’d used this plan on a few jobs and it worked like a charm. Every eye on the bar would be on Nikki, and I’d walk in as good as invisible.

*The case was simple enough. Tony G had a falling out with his partner. As insurance against a tragic accident, his partner, Mike, needed the ledger Tony kept in his office. All I had to do was walk in and grab it. Mike gave me a key, and told me when Tony would be out.

*When I entered the bar, it took a second for my eyes to adjust. Nikki had taken up her position at the center of the bar, where drinks were already piling up for her.

She tossed the first one down as I slinked around the far side of the room. The office door was in plain sight and if anyone was supposed to be guarding it, I couldn’t pick him out of the crowd that surrounded her. She made jobs like this a snap.

I used Mike’s key and passed from the dim, gray haze of the bar to the relatively clear air of the office. There was a little smoke in the air, but that didn’t bother me as much as the big lump of Tony G in the chair behind the desk, ledger open, gun nearby.

*He snatched up the .38, then stood and pointed it in my direction.

“Mike sent you, didn’t he?”

I didn’t say a word.

“You here to rob me, or kill me?”

“I was just looking for the bathroom.” I didn’t expect him to buy it, but I needed to see his reaction to get his frame of mind.

The gun wavered, then came up to shoulder level. Even from across the room, I could see a bullet in every chamber.

“You must need to go pretty bad, to sneak into a locked private office rather than use the one down the hall.”

“Well, I did.” I said. “It’s not that urgent any more. I’ll just go out the way I came.”

“No. You won’t.” He paused. “You came in vertically. Did Mike send you?”

I decided honesty was the best course but opted to skirt around the shoals. I swallowed hard and said, “Yeah. He did.”

“To kill me?”

“To get something of his. I didn’t know you’d be in here.”

He lowered the gun to his hip and his aim to about my liver. “And if I say he didn’t leave nuttin’, what then?”

“Then I tell him I looked all over, but couldn’t find it. Assuming that’s still an option.”

“Maybe. What did you come in here for?”

“A picture. A girl. He said it was taped behind the filing cabinet in the corner.”
I had to pick something heavy enough we’d both need to move it. The cabinet was four feet tall and at least five feet wide.

His body changed from coiled spring to average Joe. He holstered his gun and moved to the wall. “Let’s see this picture.”

I wonder what makes some guys want to see another guy’s girl so badly it makes them stupid.

*I moved along side of him. When I got close, I stepped out with my right foot and hit him just below the ear with the second best left cross I’ve ever thrown.

He staggered back three steps and leaned on the wall, a far away stare in his eyes, then he slumped to the floor. He rolled to his side and onto the hip with the holster. He wouldn’t be out long and I had time to grab the gun or the ledger. I opted for the latter.

I tucked it into my jacket and had one hand on the door when the room exploded. The door frame in front of me splintered, and I dropped to the floor. His second shot missed me by a good ten feet, and I had to assume he was still stunned.

*I lunged for the door, which opened a second before I got to it, knocking me to the side to stare up at the bottom of the biggest shoe I’d ever seen. And it was getting bigger.

Through the pain I felt a pair of huge hands lifting me up and pinning me to the wall by my lapels. I couldn’t see around the bodyguard, but I could hear Tony getting up. To my left, the open door revealed the rest of the bar craning for a view of my demise.

Tony’s head came into view on the right. “You cheap-shotted me.” A thudding sound shoved all the air from my lungs and Tony readied his hand for a second punch. “What did you really come here for?”

*Before I could say a word, the deafening roar of a shotgun filled the office. Plaster fell from the ceiling and I fell from the wall. The guy holding me up was dragging Tony to cover when a second blast shook the world.

A hand grabbed my shoulder and pulled hard. I scrambled back to the door, and crab-walked into an open area.

Nikki racked the pump on the shotgun and covered the room as we made our escape.

We reached the car and I jumped in the driver’s seat. She climbed in and we sped away as the bar emptied behind us.

“Thanks for the save,” I said when I was sure we were clear.

“Did you get it?”

“Yeah. I’ve got it.”

She kissed me on the cheek. “I think you make a better distraction than I do. How about next time I pull the job.”

“We’ll see.” I said. “But I’m not wearing that dress.”