Over twenty years ago, I was listening to a bombastic radio talk show host, when Chick McSorley came into my head. Chick didn’t have a name, or a face, he was just a glimmer of an idea. When you have a character in search of story it can be problematic. The day he came to me, I didn’t brainstorm. I tried to write the first pages of a scene. The scene was hollow and had no direction. Chick remained lifeless without a story or any true identity except his bombastic attitude. So where does a writer go from there. Nowhere, you just put the character back in your head and let him percolate for a while
My characters love to talk to me and seven years later, Chick did, while I was reading a book about Baseball Announcers. He made it blatantly apparent to me that his story needed to be told and he screamed at me. “Hey Murray, this is me. Yeah, I’m a bombastic Baseball Announcer, I work in a radio station in Washington DC. I’m was a former big league Shortstop with a lot of promise. I busted my knee twice and my career was in the can. Losing my livelihood sucked, and I started drinking and I became a bitter SOB. I’d make a hell of a character. You need to bring me to life.”
Chick was right, I needed to bring him to life. I worked on him for about five years off, but never finished a first draft. Once again I had to put Chick on the shelf to percolate some more. It wasn’t until this past week, that I picked him up off the shelf to see if some new insight had come to me.
Originally Chick was an analyst for a Major League Baseball team. In the last few days, I ditched the The Major League Baseball idea. A flagship station for a Major League Baseball team didn’t seem to fit the character of this very messed up radio station. A few days ago, I moved the station to Maine and it’s now the flagship for the Red Sox double A affiliate, the Portland Seadogs. Of course since I moved the team to Portland, that meant I also had to change the call letters of the station. Yesterday, the irony of the new call letters hit me, they fit the name of the Broadcast company in a sense and it was not my intention to do that, but I really like the call letters now and plan to keep it.
The premise for this play is a simple. You’ve probably seen this type of story told many times before. It’s the disgruntled veteran who is forced to work with some wet behind the ears kid to. The play starts a few weeks after the death of legendary broadcaster Ned Plummer, Chick’s only friend and broadcast partner. The station is in search of a new play by play guy. The Owner of the station gets this whacky idea that he will look on Youtube and find some young talent. He finds this young kid named Marty Busby. Marty is fresh out of Syracuse communications department. His forte has always been Basketball, because of the fast pace. When the Owner finds Marty, he is working for a college network broadcasting a Baseball game. Marty hates Baseball. He finds the game laborious, slow and tedious. It doesn’t suit his style. Marty can never think of anything to fill the time. During this broadcast, Marty’s worst fear happens, a rain delay. It’s bad enough that Marty has to fill during a Baseball game, but now he has to fill more time during a rain delay. Marty’s producer has this hair brained idea that he should sing show tunes. He picks “Being Alive” from “Company”, but loses his voice during the peak moment of the song. The Owner of the station, decides this is Ned’s replacement. Chick resents this kid from the start. Chick embarrasses Marty throughout both the talk show and the Baseball games. Finally, it comes to a head and Marty stands his ground and begins to relax on the air. As the season moves into a hot pennant race, Chick and Marty slowly find respect for one another and from time to time, Chick gives Marty some pointers. Along the way a new friendship is born.
This has been a difficult play to write because the story has no ending yet. When I find myself in this situation, I usually have trouble moving through a first draft. I would write forty pages of the script and feel the writing was forced and not very good. Other times the writing was better, but it was taking far too long to get into the story. The last few days I have been working through the kinks. I have ditched a prologue that I liked. I found the Prologue was bogging down the story. I have decided to give Marty’s love interest a promotion. She becomes the Producer of the sports broadcasts and their sports talk show. As I have worked through some of the trouble spots, I realized that Chick McSorley is no longer a character without a story, he’s a character that is deeply flawed and he speaks through me to find some direction. I always find the flawed characters the most interesting and difficult characters to write.
As the days move along, I will keep people up to date as to what is happening with a play, I call Play by Play. It’s about broadcasting and the wild world of radio broadcasting.