Comedy, Short Stories, Writing

Pitch for a film where the female protagonist decides to live each day as if it is her last.

This film is yet untitled.

Our female protagonist is 28. She is pretty but not in an obvious way. She exists but not in an obvious way. She is smart but not in an obvious way. No one is threatened by this woman. She is Carey Mulligan before she went blonde. She is a good girl. She never crosses the street on a red, never lies about her purchases to a self-service checkout machine, and has never pushed in front of anyone in a queue. Her mother says she is her best friend.

She gets set up on a date with her work colleagues cousin. Their weird cousin. He is Steve Buschemi. On the date, he says how about more wine, how about more fun, how about more small talk and she says yes. She hardly ever says no. She doesn’t want to sleep with him, but she is drunker than she would like and the last thing she wants to cause is a fuss. The next day she tells her mother about the date and she says, ‘we all have to do things we don’t want to sometimes.’ Her mother is Lesley Manville.

She lends people money, she helps people move, she stays late at work. She has to watch a TV series with her friend which she hates, eating snacks she hates. She builds up hate. She collects it all in her stomach. She punches holes in paper to relax. She has reams and reams of swiss cheese paper.

Sometimes she wishes she was a sociopath. Often in fact.

Every morning she puts on a bejeweled suede waistcoat and walks out the door with her head held high, but every morning she comes back in, takes it off and puts on her soft pink Marks & Spencers cardigan instead.

She is in love with her friend but she can’t tell him, instead she listens to him talk about other women. He is David Tennant. And she is like a jumper to him, warm, comfy, and completely genderless. Sometimes he lends her to other men, says they should try on his favourite jumper because it is so nice. But she wants to be more than a jumper. She wants to be a bejeweled suede waistcoat.

Then one day there is in an exciting incident. Something to finally make her break out of her cage of people pleasing. Maybe she watches an inspiring TED talk, stumbles upon a self-help guru, or talks someone down off a bridge. Something happens to make her realise that she needs to take more risks, be more selfish. She makes a vow. She will live each day as if it is her last, by killing herself in one month.

She does many things.

She goes to a party, a sexy party.

She tries S & M

She eats whatever she wants for breakfast. Like dinner.

She sees a sign for a crazy thing and thinks. Yes, I will do that.

She wants to tell David Tennant that she is more than a jumper, she is Carey Mulligan goddamit. She wants to tell him how she feels, but she can’t. Not yet.

She gets on the tube and doesn’t get off. She ends up in zone 6. She has an adventure there.

She tells off her boss. Her friend. Steve Buschemi. She tells him his dick is small and weird.

She finds a guy at school she always had a crush on. And she sleeps with him. Afterwards, he tells her he is married.

She is so ready to tell David Tennant, but then David Tennant gets a girlfriend. She is confident and smart and pretty but in a really obvious way. She is Jennifer Lawrence.

She tells off her mother. Her sister. Her brother.

She hurts people, with what she says. She cannot stop. And soon she has no job, and she is drunk a lot. She eats a lot of dinners for breakfast and she watches all the Fast and Furious Films.

David is confused by this change in his friend.

Why are you being like this? he says

Maybe this is who I have always been. She says

But you’re being horrible* he says

I’m sorry that I am not around to just listen to you talk about all the women who have hurt you. Like some obedient puppy. I love you. Goodbye. she says

David and Carey part. But then he finds her list. Everything she plans to do before she kills herself. He confronts her.

Do not complete this list. Do not kill yourself. he says

Don’t call it a bucket list – I am actively choosing to do this, not because of fear but because I want to. Do not tell me what to do. I am fed up with doing what other people expect of me. she says

She slaps him. Like in a French film.

She goes to a bridge. Her month is up. Is she happier for living each day as if it is her last? Yes. She has learned how to stand up for herself. She has realised that people are better off being selfish and doing what they want because it gets you further in life. This is really like a French film. Being mean is better because at least you build up such a barrier against your own mind, that you can lie to yourself about how being selfish you have been. You won’t feel guilty if you fill up the guilt cup enough that it explodes and there is no more guilt left to feel. The writer is aware that made no sense.

Anyway, David realises that Jennifer Lawrence, though perfect in every single way, isn’t Carey Mulligan, and he also works out how she is going to kill herself, and he rushes to the bridge. But he gets there just as she jumps, and before she does she offers him a strange little smile, and she thanks him.

She is dead. We show her body, and she is still smiling.

David is sad. He misses his favourite jumper.

She is buried in the waistcoat. It is what she would have wanted.

Alternative ending if this one doesn’t test well with audiences, specifically the American market.

In the alternative ending David gets to bridge before Carey jumps. He tells her she is everything he has always wanted in a woman. She is normal, and kind, and flawed and perhaps the most realistic portrayal of the feminine experience ever glimpsed on celluloid, and he understands why she had to shed the shackles of subservience. He probably doesn’t say that because it won’t be very cinematic. He probably says something like ‘I love you just the way you are,’ or ‘you had me at hello,’ or I love you, hello.’ Or ‘that’ll do pig.’

Carey steps off the bridge, and into David’s arms. They get in his waiting car and drive to Vegas, or if this is set in the UK, Blackpool and are married by an Elvis impersonator. Carey dyes her hair blonde and throws away the waistcoat.

The End.

Short Stories, Writing

My Wife, The Actress

My wife could have been the greatest actress of her generation; she could have been a star.

She studied drama at one of the renowned acronym theatre schools, and was considered a natural by peers and lecturers alike. She played Shakespearean heroines with enough grace to bring reviewers to their knees, to coax tears from hard as nails teachers and bring forth laughter from the most humourless of gentlemen. But it didn’t make her happy, and after performances agents, examiners and family members would gather around her apathetic body of wax and gush about the complete immersion of her style and the sheer effortlessness of her inflection and although she would thank them, as soon as they left she would cry. She couldn’t focus. She was performing but thinking about the rent, how much milk was left in the fridge and whether her nightly bowl of pea and ham soup was a symptom of repressed OCD.

Continue reading “My Wife, The Actress”

Short Stories, Writing

Breeding

What is the end game of a date? Please tell me, I am an urban legend, and have forgotten about sex. I keep getting invited in for coffee and when they open up cupboards devoid of caffeinated beverages and I ask why they lied, their expectant smiles turn upside down.

I see I might have inflicted permanent scars. Ruined all their future dates and stopped them from leaning in and kissing their future wife, and all the grandchildren cease to exist, popping from existence like bubbles. Pop pop pop. Maybe putting my wine glass closer to their wine glass was avoidance of a single strand of spaghetti stuck to the table, rather then an invitation for them to sleep with me.

Some of them do have coffee though; French Roast or instant, or if I am very lucky, a shiny machine. How I love to watch you microfoam but hate to see you leave.

Continue reading “Breeding”

Short Stories, Writing

He and She Pretending

“It’s a static zoo,” I joke and she smiles tightly, one of her patent smiles that comes with an inwards eye roll and two or three resentful thoughts as standard. I push my nose up against a glass cabinet full of stuffed hummingbirds.

“You’re dead and I’m not, ha-ha,” I sing at them. Their wings are spread wide as if escape is imminent, and I will them to break free and fly into my eyes. That might give this day some meaning.

“Imagine positioning them like this?” I say, but she isn’t listening. She is distracted by the general hubbub of the museum. Her eyes are darting from heavily bonneted actors giving talks about moth collecting to groups of European teenagers shoving each other with their backpacks. The private jokes of the young, and cultured.

Continue reading “He and She Pretending”

Short Stories, Writing

You Only Talk about the Past with your Friends from University

Melanie and me. Melanie and I. Myself and Melanie. Me and my Mel. She had been a dull lump before she met me, just a blur to men. She was nothing until I took her under my wing and educated her in the ways of persuasion, told her it was okay to tell them what they wanted to hear, it was okay to feign interest as long you knew who you were when you came home the next morning. And she had excelled underneath my careful teaching, blossoming into a beacon of contagious energy. She had become addictive because of me, and she could talk the khaki trousers off of any man, because of me.

When we first met, she told me she wanted to be an architect. She wanted to make buildings.

‘What kinds of buildings?’ I asked.

‘All kinds Terri, all kinds. Buildings with curves and spikes and spirals and gargoyles and towers and windows and pillars and posts.’

I told her I wanted to be a novelist. I wanted to write books.

‘What kind of books?’ she asked,

‘All kinds Mel, all kinds. Books on heartbreak and despair and delight and mistakes and tension and love and betrayal and…’

‘That sounds great Terri,’ she said, slinging an arm around me, making me feel like I could do anything.

Continue reading “You Only Talk about the Past with your Friends from University”

Short Stories, Writing

What if our lives were in three act structures?

What if our lives were in three acts, like the movies?

Act One:
We would have to have an inciting incident every time we fell into a funk. We would have to develop some kind of character flaw, which was all about avoidance, backing out of the bedroom, the boardroom and the bakery when anyone pressed us too hard. We would have to start out detached, unengaged, living but not really representing what has been etched onto our past. All because of that lost love, that missed sporting chance, our parent’s expectations, and the sibling who was snatched away from us too soon – please don’t use that chipped mug it belonged to him. Please don’t use that toothbrush, it belonged to her. Please don’t mention Phil Collins – that was their favourite band. Or there was a kind of violence in our childhood, something that makes us flinch now, makes us shut the door in the face of anyone we trust. Continue reading “What if our lives were in three act structures?”

Short Stories, Writing

My Child

Originally appearing on the In Between Time Festival Gathering Storm mini site, this is a reactionary piece I was asked to write as part of my role as Festival writer. It relates to the themes of the international festival, which in 2015 was Storm. I focused on the the future prospects for my unborn child. Not like, about to born, as in I am not pregnant. Maddy Costa, the Guardian reviewer who was curating the site, put the poem next to letters from children addressed to grown up’s, explaining how to make the world a better place. It is delightfully creepy. Have a look

My Child

By Ellen Waddell

My child will have a sense of wonder about the world, they will look at everything with a sense of eager anticipation, desperate to find the root cause, to dig into the circuits and tear out the wires, unyielding in their search to discover who put them there in the first place. Continue reading “My Child”

Short Stories, Writing

Pretzels

I noticed you like talking about Pretzels a lot so when you returned home I ran to your door in London with a white pretzel. It had been dipped in the milky bar kid, but you shook your head at me. You did not want my pretzel. I thought it was because you just wanted to have a coffee with me and hang out and talk instead. The pretzel would be unnecessary decoration as we got to know each other properly, away from all this technology. But it was because you were attacked by a Pretzel somewhere far above the ocean.

Short Stories, Writing

Salvaging: A One Sided Conversation

So shall I start or do you want to go first? No? How does it work? It’s simple. I tell you everything I am scared of – living, dead or otherwise, and you do the same.

…..

Well, the point is we both feel exposed. It’s all about building trust, about showing each other our vulnerabilities, and in doing so; we get rid of all pretenses and accept each other for what we truly are. I mean, who we truly are. We let go of the shackles of the past, and are reborn as more authentic versions of ourselves. Think of it like a, I don’t know, an iPhone update or something. Like a way of moving on. Continue reading “Salvaging: A One Sided Conversation”

Short Stories, Writing

When the Manic Pixie Dream Couple talk

Let’s get minimum wage jobs and talk about how we will spend our lottery wins. You can’t make art with flat pack instructions. You can’t make love with wikihow instructions, and where is Waldo? Really? You know all I wanted when I was younger was someone to drink Ribena with, to talk about Judy Blume with. But If we break up, who gets the netflix account? But if we break up, who gets the spotify account? But that’s all you are really, a person who pins things on their pinterest account. And you only listen for the sake of talking. I bait you to undermine me constantly. I want you to punish me for drinking the last of the milk. No relationship really works without a little bit of mutual flagellation. You flagellate my back, I’ll flagellate yours. You ignore my faults, I’ll ignored yours. Mutual Assured Implosion. I drank all the wine again.