Her name is not important, because from this moment forward, neither she nor you will be using it. That name belongs to another time, another girl, another story which would have been told if it hadn’t been unceremoniously unwritten before it even had a chance to truly begin. That name belongs to someone who would have lived a much different life. And while it may have been wondrous and beautiful in its own right, it’s a story that could never be. I am not here to guess the impossible what ifs. I’m here to recount the impact of a single lasting Echo.
If you’re here, you very possibly encountered me at the Poetry Brothel at Los Angeles’ El Cid. It was such a joy to get to connect with you, and if you wandered here to find more of what I do, I can’t thank you enough.
Above in the site navigation you’ll find my YouTube Channel and my contact page where all my socials reside, as well as a link to my publisher’s website where you can find my other writing love, fiction!
Also below you’ll find the version of The Queen of Hearts that was recited on the stage:
The Queen of Hearts
She stands in a permanent S curve. Bone structure built for statues, the only thing in the world with a better body is her hair. She is the wet dream that wakes you up at night in a cold sweat, and she’s so far out of your league, you don’t even know the name of the game she plays. She looks you dead in the eyes and applies sin colored lipstick without smudging.
I’ll fool you with my Cheshire grin
I was born a liar, Dishonesty is a sin
it’s simple to acquire. I’ll admit,
it’s my addiction, easy to lie
give false depiction of me myself and I
no matter what cards I hold, I’ll never fold
If I don’t feel guilty, why atone?
Be it war or gin we play love
The Queen of Hearts has no heart of her own
To be kind I must be cruel in love it’s all the same
I’m a whore, but you’re a fool,
That’s how we play this game
Hearts are a stack of chips that I intend to win
Don’t disagree, you’re dying to give in
Deal a hand if you’re not scared
But understand you’re ill-prepared
If you think that you can take me all alone
It’s all in or nothing. Keep in mind, I may be bluffing
The Queen of Hearts has no heart of her own
If you’re more than fear see how you’ll fare
Push your stack in, if you even dare
if your house is glass, you should not cast that stone
Deny, deride, demand
I won’t ever show my hand
The Queen of Hearts has no heart of her own
It exists out of time, and physical space as you may know it, and while there are many doors, you will find this particular gateway in the heart of the Silver Lake neighborhood of Los Angeles. The historic venue of El Cid is iconic in its appearance and since its opening in 1962 has been the premiere location for authentic Spanish tapas and flamenco dance. But once a month, much like the swelling of the full moon, it is the gateway to what has been simply referred to as “The Poetry Brothel”.
Madam Tallula opens her doors and as you descend the steps into the brothel courtyard, you can’t help but feel that you’ve been transported to another world somewhere between the birth of European Bohemianism and The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus.
Simple admittance to the brothel will treat you to some of the finest burlesque performances you will ever be fortunate enough to witness, exquisite aerial work, heavenly music, and poetry performed in a dramatic and heartfelt fashion that will leave you trembling in your seat–all of which is introduced to you by the quick wit and unparalleled humor of your MC, Ach Suzette.
And once you have had your fancy tickled, your amuse bouche of literature, if you will, you may purchase tokens. These tokens will grant you time with the poet of your choosing for private poetry readings.
Now, dear wanderer, you may not quite understand why you would seek such a thing, but let me enlighten you. Each poet is not just a poet–they are not merely masters of verse, but of expressing those words they poured onto each page. They are performers, and a private reading has never disappointed. Readings involve a rare sort of human connection between you and your chosen poet, a vulnerability that I dare say we rarely even share with some of our closest confidants.
Since my first attendance, I have tried diligently to never miss an event. It feeds my soul, and often acts as a sort of creative jumper cable for my muse. I cannot urge you strongly enough to attend one if you can. And if you happen to be in the LA area this coming Sunday, the portal will be opening up once again.
Come along now, traveler… Adventure awaits:
25% off tickets, use: SPELLBOUND
No video today! Doing things a little differently. I have come to accept sometimes I just get camera fatigue. And that’s okay. Because the great thing about working across a wide-variety of mediums… means I can still talk to you even when I don’t want to be in front of a camera.
Oh kindred, isn’t technology awesome?
So. Scene-transitions. This is something I was asked to talk about–how do you decide what to write about, when a scene ends, what you skip over and cover in exposition in passing.
This took me a while to ponder because for me this has been a very gut-based thing and I wasn’t entirely sure how to explain it.
I think I’ve an analogy and I am hoping this will work for you.
But first, let’s talk about blocking out the scene on a very VERY basic level. What HAS to happen in this scene in order for the story to go forward? What does each character want from the other? Keep that in mind as you outline how Character A will approach B in order to get what they want. What does Character B think about this approach? What do they say/how do they respond? Bear in mind very few people say exactly what they’re thinking–and I don’t mean to say they speak falsely. But if your boss came to you with an insane and idiotic request, you very likely wouldn’t voice it that way. Your relationship does not allow for that kind of harsh blunt talk.
So you have to also keep in mind how these people relate to each other. As you go back and forth in this conversation, working through objectives, trying to figure out the best path for them to take for your scene objective to be reached.
For me, the scene almost always finishes when that objective is reached. I tend to be very minimalist when it comes to between character interactions. You want to really consider if this thing serves the story. Does it feel slow? Does it push us forward? Is it something that could just be as easily mentioned by a character in the NEXT scene or one after that?
For the most part no major event should ever happen ‘off stage’ with the exception of something chosen VERY VERY deliberately.
I’m going to use Hamlet as an example here because whatever your opinion of Shakespeare is, he knew his shit. Hamlet is a rather bloody play. So many people die. But Ophelia’s death is one that happens off-stage and is instead recounted to us by Gertrude in EXCRUCIATING detail. Why?
Because we’re being told two things in that moment (depending how you decide to interpret the text, but bear with me). The first is that Ophelia did in fact kill herself, and the second is that Gertrude has chosen to lie for her so that the poor girl can be buried in consecrated ground. Why? Because Gertrude feels responsible and guilty for Ophelia’s state of mind. It was her son that killed Ophelia’s father, her son that Ophelia had fallen in love with and been rejected violently by, her son that she angered by marrying his father’s uncle.
So if you’re going to have something like a major character’s demise happen in exposition–you need to have a very deliberate reason for it.
Which brings back me to my analogy. Think of hacky sack. Or, something which I frankly find more relatable–don’t let object X touch the floor. We’ve all played this at some point in our childhood, I’m willing to bet. Whether that object was a balloon, whether it was a ball, whether it was an organized game of say volley ball which is basically a professional version of this concept, or a goof with friends, or just trying to amuse yourself while bored. There is an energy in the room when you’re focused on something like this. You can feel it in your chest. And when that object finally DOES hit the ground, you can feel that energy significantly drop.
That’s when you change a scene.
I’m completely serious. Imagine the conversation of your scene, the action, the driving force, that is the ball in the air. Go back and forth with your characters and their objectives until you feel that ball drop. 9/10 that’s when you move on to the next scene. Television shows–comedies especially have this down to a rhythmic art. So much you can almost hear that final ball ‘whoomp’ as it drops to accentuate the end of the scene.
The exception here (because there are always exceptions) is creating awkward tension. When characters can feel that ball drop… but the scene keeps going. This can create a fantastic sense of tension.
For instance if you had three characters talking, and C brings up something huge only A was supposed to know.
Ball drop. Everyone pauses. Conversation ceases. If this was a television show, this could be the moment where we fade to black of “To be continued.”
But it doesn’t.
Because those three are still stuck in the room together. One may quickly dismiss themselves, another may stop it, but the energy has dropped and shifted.
That shift is imperative. Because it still creates a driving force. If you feel your scene has stalled and it’s not really going anywhere, go back and read. Where did it get off track? Do you need to change a new path? Or did it just need to end sooner?
Trust your gut. Read it aloud. It helps more than you could imagine.
We’ll talk more about dialogue tomorrow.