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Hit the Road Jack
IndustryCentral ScreenWriters Exchange: Drama: Hit the Road Jack
Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By Bonnie Weintrob (Bonnie) on Sunday, September 17, 2000 - 10:37 pm:

Susie Martin pours her heart out to her therapist as she describes her dysfunctional family. Her mother, Rachel, survives war torn London only to be thrown into her own personal war. Years of abuse follow at the hands of Rachels' second husband, Jack. Susie can't take it anymore and retaliates. She gains her well-earned freedom and moves out. Based on a true story.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By Alan A. Armer (Alana) on Thursday, September 21, 2000 - 02:09 pm:

MODERATOR ANALYSIS

'Hit the Road, Jack' by Bonnie Weintrob - An excellent title, Bonnie, but your story description is so brief that it fails either to intrigue the reader or to convey any real sense of your story's strengths.

As one example, you say that Susie retaliates against her abusive husband - but what does she do? HOW does she retaliate?

I have a personal bias against people telling their stories to therapists. We often get into a static question-answer pattern or overload these scenes with tons of exposition. Far better, I think, to skip the therapist and dramatize the events she is describing. Create scenes. Let us SEE the drama rather than hear about it in exposition.

Good luck to you, Bonnie

Critique by
Alan A. Armer

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By Bonnie Weintrob (Bonnie) on Thursday, September 21, 2000 - 10:25 pm:

Rachel, a teenager growing up in war torn London, is a romantic. Unafraid of the nightly air raids, she often attends local dances. One weekend, she meets Ethan, a handsome, Jewish, Canadian soldier on leave. Wanting Rachel to leave war torn London, her parents talk Ethan into marrying her. Six weeks later, they're married. Three months later, she's pregnant. Ethan spends less and less time with Rachel, instead he gambles and has affairs.

His tour of duty over, he heads back to Canada leaving Rachel and their newborn son in England. Six months later, they arrive by ship with hundreds of other war brides and their children.
Ethan can't keep a job. He flaunts his affair with a waitress and separates from Rachel. His mother makes him feel guilty and he goes back to live with Rachel. When he does, Rachel gets pregnant again. Ethan can't stand this and abandons them at the hospital when she gives birth, leaving town and taking the rent money. Her family in England comes to the rescue and brings them back to England where she divorces Ethan.

A few years later, she meets Jack at a dance. Not long after, Jack goes to America to visit his sister promising to keep in touch. A year later, Jack sends a letter to Rachel telling her how much he misses her that she should come. He wants to take care of her and her children. Desperate not to be alone, she packs up the children and takes the QE II to America. Six weeks later, they're married. The children hate him immediately. Jack is verbally and physically abusive to them.

Over the next ten years, he sexually abuses her daughter Susie, giving her baths, which Rachel ignores. Jack and Rachel and constantly fighting, mostly that Rachel takes the children's side of everything. One day Jack throws Rachel across the kitchen and cuts her ear, she threatens to divorce him. Susie threatens to kill him if he ever touches Rachel again. Thinking Rachel is going to divorce Jack, Susie packs a suitcase only to be disappointed when Rachel doesn't leave.

One morning, hearing Jack start a fight with Rachel, Susie opens a mouth to Jack, repeating what he has just said to Rachel. Furious, Jack chases Susie down the hall. As he raises his hand to hit her, she blocks it and slaps him across the head, his glasses flying. She stands there screaming, in shock. The next day, she finds an apartment and in victory moves out and gains her freedom.

Top of pagePrevious messageNext messageBottom of pageLink to this message   By Alan A. Armer (Alana) on Friday, September 22, 2000 - 03:53 pm:

MODERATOR ANALYSIS

'Hit the Road, Jack' by Bonnie Weintrob
A major improvement in style and content over your earlier version, Bonnie. Story contains a lot of human drama, much of it emotionally compelling, some of it verging on melodrama. And some rich elements.

Suggestion: Lose Ethan. His marriage to Rachel seems like a prologue that has little effect on the story that follows. Yes, he's responsible for her two children but that doesn't mean we have to spend an hour of screentime with him.

Suggest you keep your initial time frame, London during the air raids. That setting gives you tremendous color and suspense. Against this backdrop play Rachel's story. She's a woman with two children from a former disastrous marriage. She meets Jack and the story develops from there.

This change in your story has an additional benefit. It reduces the time transitions. Many writers (including myself) believe that the shorter the time frame, the better. "Death of a Salesman" takes place in 24 hours. The idea is that a shorter time frame compresses events and adds pressure. Many films (such as High Noon or a dozen bomb stories) use this time pressure to add suspense.

In your final action, you must decide who your protagonist is: Rachel or Susie. Final action seems to take the focus away from Rachel - and this is dangerous. We mustn't let Rachel become a wimp. Your third act will depend on what action she takes against Jack. Does she kill him? Does Susie kill him and Rachel claims that she did it in order to protect her daughter? Think about it, Bonnie.

Good luck to you.

Critique by
Alan A. Armer


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