10/13/08: Backstory-er At Large!

Dear Dick Wolf:

It dawned on me as I was doing homework for my acting class today that I have a bit of a knack for writing backstories. Not to toot my own horn, but seriously – I can backstory with the best of ’em. I LOVE fleshing-out characters. Thank goodness, since, you know, it’s kind-of important when you’re an actor…So I thought, maybe I could be a backstory-er! There are a hundred-bazillion* actors in this town, many of whom are lazy and don’t want to do their homework. So, I could write their backstories for them! They get a fully fleshed-out character and I get a few bucks in my pocket. Hey, we all gotta do what we can in these struggling economic times.

Or, here’s a thought…I could help YOU! Do you need any backstories created for upcoming projects? I’m on it! I’m sure you want a sample, right? No problem! Here, take a look at this one I created for a monologue called “Truck” from the play Vital Signs:

Name: Ruby Jewel Knox
DOB: May 18, 1974
Birthplace: Covington, GA. Population: 8,147

I grew up in a double-wide trailer, an only child. My parents fought alot, dad was a drunk. Mom worked as a bartender – that’s how they met. They were nice to me for the most part growing up, it was each other they didn’t like.

I was a smart kid in school. A good writer, I won a lot of class awards for stories. Out teacher would assign a topic every week and we had to write a fictional story based on it. He used to put the best one in a frame and hang it in the front of the classroom. My stories were often picked as the best one. Some of the kids were snotty to me because of it, but I tried not to let it get to me. I knew they were jealous. At least, that’s what my mom always told me.

In high school I didn’t have many girlfriends because the guys liked me a lot. I had one boyfriend, Justin Jenkins. We dated sophomore through senior year. He dumped me right before prom for a girl from another school. A blonde. I got revenge by sleeping with his best friend, Ben Wilson, but was ostracized because of it. No one would date me after that. No one would take me to prom.

I moved to Atlanta after graduation. Got a job waiting tables and took a couple of writing courses at community college. I was hell-bent on writing a novel and being a success! However, I wasn’t very disciplined. I dropped out of the college courses after second term and started waitressing full-time. I was also bartending before I turned 21…I dated a lot of men who turned out to be bad news. A lot of drinkers. After far too many years in Atlanta, I decided to try my luck in the Big Apple. I’d always been a looker, maybe I could be an actress. Or write a TV show and sell it.

At age 26, I hopped in my Nissan Sentra and busted out of Georgia. Five hours into my roadtrip, I stopped for lunch at a restaurant in Marion, Virginia. They had a “help wanted” sign out front so I offered, figuring I could make a little money. I ended up planting roots for three years. I lived with Jake for most of that time, an alcoholic. We met at a bar and moved in together almost immediately…After we broke up, I decided to leave town and start over – again. Finally get to New York. But as I was driving through West Virginia, my car started having trouble. I made it to a mechanic in Milton. My engine was toast. It was gonna cost me $1,200 bucks for a new one…Exasperated, I stopped in at a restaurant across the street for a sandwich – Rusty’s Truck Stop. I was taken aback to find that everyone working in the place was naked!

My waitress Donna was sweet. I asked her what it was like working there and she said she LOVED it! She’d been waiting tables nude for 17 years. It was great money – the most popular truck stop in the state! I told her I was passing through when my car broke down, and asked her if she knew of any place that was hiring. I needed to make some money to get my car fixed. While I was there, one of the waitresses had a fight with the cook and walked out. Donna joked that there was an immediate opening if I wanted to give it a whirl. At first I was apprehensive, but she talked me into it. Said I could stay with her until I got enough money to move along. By the time I finished my BLT, she’d already talked the manager into hiring me.

I started the next day. I was a little nervous, but when I saw how comfortable everyone was, it didn’t take me long to warm up. This was early August. By November, I’d made enough money to get my own place. I didn’t need a car – I lived close to the truck stop and everything I needed was within walking distance. Donna and I were neighbors. If I needed something more than a couple of miles away, she’d let me borrow her car…We spent holidays together. Donna had a son that died when he was 16, in a car accident. That was 19 years ago. She had a boyfriend that she lived with named Wyatt. They’d been together 6 years. They looked after me.

I’d been working at Rusty’s for more than two years when Reverend Billy Frost stopped in, one night in early December. It was about 10:30 pm and the weather was cold. I liked Milton and had made friends there, but I didn’t want to stay forever. I was lonely. I had a couple of short-lived flings here and there, but nothing substantial. One of the flings was with Ray, a night cook at the truck stop. He dumped me after a couple of months, saying that he’d “lost interest.” He’d talk about me sometimes to the other guys in the kitchen. They were cool to me, but Ray was a jerk. I put up with him for the tips. He wasn’t going to drive me away…

I started going to church after that. I’d never been much into God but had taken a recent interest. I’d even bought a Bible and was reading it. So, when the reverend came in and offered to take me out of there for good, I knew it was a sign from above. He was so handsome, and I was sure that God had sent him to me, and my life was finally going to be right. Donna wasn’t working that night, otherwise she probably wouldn’t have let me walk out. Ray was working, so I made the spontaneous decision to take the reverend up on his offer.

Reverend Billy Frost dumped me off at a pizza parlor three days and 1,400 miles later. I went inside to grab some dinner for us and when I came back out, he was gone. I was humiliated and empty. He’d given me a fifty dollar bill for the pizza. Between the leftover change and the tips in my purse, I had a total of $70 dollars. That was it. Billy had stopped at a K-mart the day before and bought me a pink track suit. So there I was, stranded by the side of the road with one outfit and no money.

But I didn’t want to go back to Milton. I called Donna and told her I was on my way to Vegas, and that I’d call her when I got there. I stayed the night in Laramie and the next day, I hitched my way to Vegas, where I’ve been working for the past year and a half at the Kozy Kocktail lounge. I live in a small apartment, but at least it has a bedroom.

Someday I’ll finish that novel.

*******************************************************************

Now, I know that’s not fully fleshed out. What are my parents’ names…what did dad do for a living…are my folks still alive…who were my childhood friends…which extra-cirricular activites was I involved in growing up…how did I dress…what TV shows did I watch…? And so on (although, The Dukes of Hazard was filmed in Covington when I was four-years-old, so we watched that a lot). There are endless questions to answer when it comes to backstory, but for a monologue, I think there’s enough here to serve the material…Also, for this piece, I decided that I’m talking to a handsome customer who’s been flirting with me all night at the lounge. He’s a construction worker from Washington state, on his way to Palm Springs for his brother’s wedding.

So, that’s my sample. Interested in hiring me??? Let me know! However, if you choose to utilize my writing skills, I reserve the right to hit you up for an acting gig in the future. Deal?

Oh, and if you want to see the monolgue this was based on, check out my new Monologues I LOVE page. So far it’s the only one listed. I’ll post more soon!

Thank you. Amen.

*Rough estimate based on the amount of competition I’ve encountered at auditions.

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Published in: on October 13, 2008 at 11:11 pm  Leave a Comment  
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