Online Exclusive: Melodie Edwards’ “Heroine Addiction”

“Heroine Addiction,” a stage play script by Melodie Edwards, is the Grand Prize winner of the 86th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition. You can read an extended interview with Edwards here. For complete coverage of the 86th Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition, please check out the November/December 2017 issue of Writer’s Digest.

Heroine Addiction

Plot Synopsis

Sam is a reclusive and acerbic romance novelist whose work is popular, though of dubious quality. He keeps company with his three main characters, the Heroine, the Hero, and the Villain, who can only be seen and heard by him. They play-act, cajole, and argue with Sam as he works on his next novel.

His solitude is interrupted by his manager Arthur, who brings with him a young actress cast in the film-adaptation of Sam’s latest novel. She wants to workshop her upcoming role as the heroine with Sam, and they argue about women, romance, happy endings, and “literary whores.”

Left alone with his writing again, Sam discovers his own fictional Heroine is no longer cooperative.

 

CHARACTERS

SAM

A misanthropic author of popular romance novels. He’s acerbic, awkward, and an uneven mix of arrogance and vulnerability. Only Sam can hear and see his characters: HERO, HEROINE, and VILLAIN.

RACHEL

An up-and-coming talented actress, not quite beautiful but charming and playful.

HEROINE

A character from SAM’s writing. Classically beautiful, highly feminine and graceful. She is painfully sincere until Act II. Wears a dress from a different time period.

HERO

A character from SAM’s writing. Classically handsome, highly masculine. He oscillates between sincerity and sulky indifference. Sao a sword and cape.

VILLAIN

A character from SAM’s writing. Roguishly good-looking, he is snarky and flippant, sometimes overblown, sometimes intelligent and astute. Wears a sword and cape.

ARTHUR

SAM’s manager and agent. A slightly weary, slightly disengaged man of business, his closest relationship is probably with his phone.

 

SETTING

The interior of a New York apartment, specifically a cavernous living room. There is an old couch, coffee table, desk and footstool. Bookcases stuffed with books line the wall. All surfaces are scattered haphazardly with crumpled notes, newspapers, coffee cups, plates, and the occasional sock. The inhabitant, SAM, clearly sleeps, works and eats here, ignoring the rest of the apartment. The front door is to the right with an intercom. SAM sits writing at his desk.

A small spot of floor in front of him has been swept clear where HEROINE stands posed.

All scenes take place here. SAM, HERO, HEROINE, and VILLAIN never leave the room. Only ARTHUR and RACHEL use the front door to exit and enter

 

ACT I

Scene 1

Curtain rises on a single spotlight centred on HERIONE. She looks worried. SAM, dimly lit in the background, is at his desk. He is writing, and does not seem to notice HEROINE. Enter HERO. He strides on stage with energy, spots HEROINE, and comes up behind her, spinning her about and embracing her.

HEROINE

(relieved)

I thought you wouldn’t come.

HERO

I’d come through hell itself if you asked me to. I love you. I didn’t know it was possible to love a woman so deeply, so passionately, until you. You’re everything to me. Your beauty, your kindness, it blinded me like pure sunshine, like a ray from heaven, like a…

(breaks off; he’s fumbled a line and doesn’t know what comes next; after a pause he resumes as if nothing has happened)

I’d come through hell itself if you asked me to. I love you. I didn’t know it was possible to love a woman so deeply, so passionately, until you. You’re everything to me. You were like a finger of light that crept in and flooded the darkness that was my existence, flooded it with your beauty, your purity…

(stops again)

Ok, let’s try…Darling…

HEROINE

(waiting patiently with a love-struck expression)

Yes?

HERO

I love you. You’re everything to me. I love your beauty, your goodness, your…uh, purity…

SAM has crumpled up his writing and tossed it at the pair.

HERO (cont’d)

(drops his sincerity; becomes slack and flippant)

Ok, y’know what? Maybe put a placeholder here…

HEROINE

(still sincere, still love-struck)

Of course.

HERO

…just like right here, and we can just…

HEROINE

Yes.

HERO

…just fill that part in later, like…

HEROINE

Yes.

HERO

‘Cause I don’t know what’s going on with him, it’s just not happening today for that part. Ok, so declarations of love, I love you I love you I love you, and then…

SAM resumes writing.

HEROINE

(resumes as if there had been no interruption)

I love you too. So much. I would do anything you asked me to. But I was so frightened. They told me you had been in a fight…

HERO

(with bravado)

As if I couldn’t handle myself in a fight. I’m the best swordsman there is.

HEROINE

I just get so worried. If you were to be injured in battle…

HERO

Now stop that, sweetheart. I will always be here for you…

He leans in for a kiss but stops at the garbled sound of a pack of dogs whining.

HERO

(flippant again)

Ok, I have no idea what that was.

SAM

Wolves.

HERO

What?

SAM

It’s wolves howling.

HERO

Wolves? Sounds like dogs.

SAM

I’m from suburban Boston, like I really know what wolves sound like. This is what it sounds like on Youtube.

(off HERO’s look)

Fine, go again.

HERO

(resumes dialogue with HEROINE)

But darling, listen…what’s that noise?

A more realistic sound of wolves howling is played.

HERO

Wolves! My beloved, we need to leave these woods immediately. Come, let us be gone!

They turn to exit the stage, but are paused by SAM.

SAM

Where?

HERO

What?

Sam

Where are you going?

HERO

What are the options?

SAM

You’re going to come across an abandoned cottage, just as the rain starts to pour.

HERO

Do we…too early in the plot, or do we make love in the cottage?

SAM

Do you?

HERO

My beloved, we must be gone!

Exit HERO and HEROINE with speed. SAM resumes writing. Enter VILLAIN. He is limping, cloak ripped, a sword in hand.

He sheathes the sword and sits down. SAM looks up, and then leisurely walks across the stage to pour himself a drink.

SAM

Your jacket is ripped.

VILLAIN

Wolves. Or some kind of dog-wolf hybrids, they howled funny.

SAM

Best I could do, ok?

SAM pours another drink and hands it to VILLAIN who downs it in one shot.

SAM (cont’d)

Becoming an alcoholic?

VILLAIN

You tell me.

Enter HERO. He is running, visibly distressed and out of breath.

HERO

Wolves are not usually that big!

SAM

That’s what they look like on Google!

HERO

What did you google, the hound of the Baskerville?

VILLAIN

I think the howling sounds funny. Don’t you?

HERO

What’s he doing here? I tried to fend the beasts off but I got separated from her!

SAM

I told you there were going to be wolves.

HERO

Yeah, but…

The sound of the intercom buzzer interrupts him. SAM walks over the intercom on the wall by the door, presses the button to speak.

SAM

Go away.

ARTHUR

It’s Arthur.

SAM

Go away, Arthur. I’m working.

HERO

(aside to VILLAIN; gesturing)

They were like this big!

ARTHUR

C’mon man, let me up.

SAM

(sighs)

Fine. Come up. Door’s open.

SAM presses another button, and then opens his front door, leaving it ajar, before returning to his conversation with HERO.

SAM

So why didn’t you have your sword out? You might have made it to that cottage…

HERO

Don’t patronize me. I asked you, I asked you if it was too early in the plot for a sex scene.

SAM

Well maybe it is, and maybe it isn’t.

HERO

You son of a bitch.

Enter ARTHUR.

ARTHUR

Ok. Do me a favor.

SAM

Sure.

ARTHUR

Please, please, please, when you do interviews from now on, do not tell them that you talk to your characters. If you were charming, we could pull that off. Maybe. But you’re not charming. You’re you.

He’s checking his cellphone, clearly at ease and used to this, despite his exasperation.

SAM

Cheers.

ARTHUR

It comes off creepy, is what I’m saying.

SAM

Yeah, got that.

ARTHUR

Not “I’m an artiste and reality does not apply,” but like “lock me up Zelda Fitzgerald-style” crazy.

SAM

Ok.

ARTHUR

Or like “homeless guy in line at Fedex trying to mail a dead squirrel” crazy.

SAM

What’s the going price for dead squirrel airmail by the way, I might need to know…

ARTHUR

Not funny.

SAM

Like if I used the overnight courier…

ARTHUR

Sam…

SAM

You said I should appear more romantic, artistic.

SAM saunters back to his desk. ARTHUR throws down his briefcase and drops his jacket over a chair, the chair that VILLAIN happens to be sitting in. VILLAIN does not appear disturbed and simply moves the jacket to the side.

ARTHUR

When I said that, I meant grow your hair out or something. Speak a little French. Dress better. As your manager, agent, and publicist, as far as I’m concerned we are selling you as the latest Lord Byron…

VILLAIN

(muttering)

…that’s a stretch…

ARTHUR

…the great romantic writer of this century. But now instead of articles about your new book, or the upcoming movie of your last book, all they’ll care about is if you’re a little bit unhinged.

HERO

So focusing back on me for a second, am I having sex tonight or not?

ARTHUR

Did you have company today?

ARTHUR picks up the two glasses on the liquor tray from SAM and VILLAIN.

SAM

Nope.

ARTHUR

Right. What was I thinking.

He pours himself a drink.

VILLAIN

(to HERO)

Maybe he fed your girl to the wolves.

HERO

He can’t do that!

(pause)

Can he?

(pleading with SAM)
She’s my Heroine. I love her.

VILLAIN

Love ‘em and leave ‘em!

HERO

Ok, that’s why you’re not the hero.

ARTHUR

Look, you wanna pretend you talk to your characters, that’s fine, but you know what? I’m not just your manager, I’m your friend. And friends don’t let friends make asses of themselves on TV.

(pause)

And managers don’t allow it either for professional reasons.

SAM

I always felt like you were more my henchman than my friend.

ARTHUR

Rewrite it any way you want, just stop making me chase you down for this crap.

SAM

Ok, let’s strike a deal. I promise not to cause any more trouble in interviews.

(pause)

If you promise I never have to do an interview again.

ARTHUR

(groans)

Sam…

SAM

It’s a win-win!

HERO

Ok, enough of this!

HERO forcefully knocks the liquor tray to the ground. ARTHUR, thinking he is responsible, bends over to clean it up.

ARTHUR

Oops, sorry.

HERO

Where is she?

SAM regards him intently for a moment. ARTHUR is still cleaning up the tray. SAM begins to write.

HEROINE (offstage)

Darling…

EXIT HERO, running. SAM watches him go with a wistful expression. VILLAIN meanwhile has gotten bored and picks up a stray book to read.

ARTHUR

Well, you’re place is such a mess anyways…So aren’t you going to ask me what else is new?

SAM

Nope.

ARTHUR

Well since you asked, I didn’t just come here to scold you for your behavior. I wanted to tell you there is progress on the movie!

SAM

(uninterested)

Movie?

ARTHUR

The movie they are adapting from your last book. The one that is going to make us both rich, and you even more famous.

(off SAM’s blank look)

Care just a little bit, Sam. The full cast is lined up now, they’ve started doing some table readings. The woman playing the heroine, uh, what’s-her-name, miss up-and-coming, she wants to talk to you.

SAM

Talk?

ARTHUR

To you, yes. I tried to dissuade her.

SAM

Why?

ARTHUR

Because you are a very unpleasant conversationalist.

SAM

No, why does she want to talk to me?

ARTHUR

She wants to talk about the character.

SAM

About my heroine?

ARTHUR

Yes.

SAM

Why?

ARTHUR

God, you’re such a pain in the ass! Because it’s just what’s done. You talk. About the character, about the character’s motivation, about…whatever! This is what most writers do when their stuff gets mounted. I’ve kept you out of the loop as much as possible, but you have to do some stuff, Sam. You have to do the occasional interview, you’re gonna have to talk to the odd actor, ok? Best I can do.

SAM

The other actors don’t want to talk to me?

ARTHU

They saw your last interview…Y’knkow the one where you made the interviewer cry by telling her she was a vapid waste of breathing space? So no, they’re good.

VILLAIN

So only the girl was brave enough to want to talk to you.

ARTHUR

So only the girl was stupid enough to want to talk to you. Anyways, she’ll be here soon.

SAM

(alarmed)

What, now?

ARTHUR

I knew if I asked you first you’d say…

SAM

No!

ARTHUR

…No.

SAM

At the very least, a heads up would have been nice.

ARTHUR

(checking his phone)

She’ll be here in two minutes. Heads up.

SAM

This is ridiculous. I don’t have time for this.

ARTHUR

Listen, it will be quick and painless, ok? Might even be good for you.

VILLAIN

Not good for her.

SAM

Good for me?

ARTHUR

(genuinely losing his temper for the first time)

Yes! Look, I know you hate talking to anyone but yourself, but once in a while you need to have a conversation where both sides of the dialogue aren’t supplied by you!

There is a pause. SAM is clearly upset and a little hurt. ARTHUR senses he’s gone too far.

ARTHUR

(placating)

Sam…buddy. Give her ten minutes, please.

(pause)

And I won’t make you do any more interviews for three months.

SAM

Five.

ARTHUR

Four.

SAM

Done. But if she cries because I’m mean it’s not my problem.

ARTHUR

Deal. So…

(looks around the messy apartment)

…want to clean up a little?

SAM

No.

ARTHUR

Just a thought.

He takes a seat.

VILLAIN

Hey. Nothing’s happened to me for like three chapters now.

SAM

You want something?

ARTHUR

No, I’m fine, thanks.

VILLAIN

A little action, please. I’m bored.

SAM writes something and the sound of wolves howling is heard.

VILLAIN (cont’d)

Seriously? Stupid freaky wolves.

VILLAIN exits. The seconds tick by waiting for the actress, RACHEL. ARTHUR is at ease, messaging on his phone.

(CONTINUED)

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