Contemporary Fiction and Character-Driven Stories (free for the taking!)

If you like your contemporary fiction to be character-driven stories, then you may like this sampling from the novel non-Hollywood by Neal A. Yeager.

The full novel is available from Amazon and all of the other usual places, but on this page the author reads aloud from a few chapters which follow an intelligent young woman who is trying to make her way in LA.

The sample is free, so check out (and read along if you would like) a few chapters from the novel non-Hollywood: a character-driven story in the contemporary fiction genre.

Watch above, or click to view on Youtube

Power Lunch (is Better Drunk)

Chapter 18: Power Lunch is Better Drunk

Sarah drank.

It was a good wine and one that went very well with her pasta. Actually, it might be more accurate to say that the pasta went well with the wine, as she was quickly on her way to making the alcohol the main course — a status alcohol rightly deserves in all cultures but a status which so few individuals are willing to truly commit to.

Though the wine was good she had to wonder just what she was doing here in this particular restaurant. This had been one of ‘their’ favorites. Hers and Mitchell’s. Mitchell the agent. Mitchell the ex-boyfriend. Her ex-boyfriend because he had become a real agent and she was still a nobody actress wannabe and… Wait, that didn’t have anything to do with anything. The alcohol had her going off on tangents.

And she told herself that she shouldn’t refer to herself as a ‘nobody actress.’ She was a talented actress — just one who was thus far unknown.

Anyway, because this restaurant had been one of “their” favorites — hers and Mitchell’s —her first instinct had been to avoid coming here. Something told her that she shouldn’t do it. Not just the restaurant, but all of the “couple” things, it was as though someone had drawn a big red X through them. No more of those restaurants. No more walks at the Pier. No more weekends at the flea market. No more… and she started to realize how ridiculously far it could go if you’re crossing off anything shared with an ex. Did she have to buy a different car because Mitchell used to ride in her Mazda’s passenger’s seat? Could she never again use her bathroom because Mitchell used to use it too?

So she thought: screw it. Just because Mitchell didn’t want her any more didn’t mean that all of their favorite couple things were off-limits. And this restaurant was the first actualization of that resolve. It wasn’t just that “they” liked the place. You could separate a “they.” He liked the place. She liked the place. As the “she" part of “they,” Sarah felt that she had every right to come here. So she did.

Of course the decision was one thing, getting herself to believe it… well, that was the wine’s job.

Sarah stared across the table to the empty half of the booth. She couldn’t help seeing him sitting there, hearing him talk about “the business” in that excited way that made people think that either he was knowledgeable and enthusiastic, or think that he was a shallow, pompous fake. Well, she supposed, considering that his career was taking off, someone must have opted for the former. Either way, she saw him there and she heard him there and she knew that one way or another she would finish that bottle of wine by her own damn self.

As Sarah sat there thinking of Mitchell… suddenly there he was.

Not a wine and depression fueled phantom sitting across from her in the booth but the real live Mitchell being led to a table by a hostess. And unlike Sarah he was not half of a no-longer couple. Nope. On his arm was a somewhat-familiar looking, very beautiful young woman. Sarah couldn’t place her, but damn she looked familiar.

Then Sarah experienced that thing, that feeling like no other: the first time that you see your ex as your ex, as in post-couplehood. That odd, awkward, embarrassing feeling you get when you first see them. A feeling only topped by them being with a good-looking member of the opposite sex… and then hey, why not have them notice you seated by yourself downing a bottle of wine?

Mitchell noticed her.


Downing a bottle of wine.

As he walked by her table Mitchell stopped and said cheerfully, “Sarah, my God, how are you?”

She hesitated for a moment. That damned question, the “how are you?” question had always gotten her. She was always tempted to answer the question honestly, rather than politely. How am I? Oh, I have really bad cramps and gas, thanks for asking. But the truth is not what people want to hear when they ask that question. And in this case an honest answer would be long, complicated, hurt, angry and much-fueled by alcohol. So she came to her usual conclusion that an honest answer to the “how are you?” question was probably a good way to lose friends and influence nobody.

“Fine,” she replied.

Mitchell turned to the woman who accompanied him and motioning toward Sarah he said, “This is my friend Sarah. Sarah, this is…”

But Sarah didn’t hear the young woman’s name. Her mind had done a sudden jarring — like a locomotive hitting a boulder that had fallen across the tracks — at the sound of the word “friend.”

“Friend?” Had Mitchell just introduced her as his “friend?” Is that what she had just heard?

More wine!

Her brain clearly wasn’t ready for that yet. She was still trying to wrap her mind around changing the nameplate on her mailbox to only her name. To looking at the his and hers tubes of toothpaste in the medicine cabinet and not feeling the desire to bawl her eyes out. There was absolutely no way that she was ready for the man she had, up until very recently, shared a bed with to introduce her to a stranger as his “friend.”

Somehow Sarah managed to smile and shake the nameless beautiful woman’s hand. Then Mitchell and his date had followed the hostess over to a table of their own.

Sarah looked down at her pasta. It suddenly looked quite unappealing, just some rubbery, stringy, vaguely wormlike things. She stared at the pasta as the word “friend” bounced all echoey through her brain.


She turned and looked out the window. She tried to just watch the headlights go by. Tried to empty her head of the word “friend.” Tried to empty her head of everything actually. Wine should be able to help with that.

Then out of the corner of her eye, she saw Mitchell slide into the booth seat across from her. He said, “Do you mind?”

Did she mind? Again, if she were to answer honestly she probably wouldn’t be able to do so in fewer than a thousand words.

“No,” she said, “of course I don’t mind.”

Sarah glanced over toward Mitchell’s table and saw that it was empty.

“She’s gone off to the ladies’ room. She hasn’t fled the country or anything,“ he said.

“Well not fleeing the country is always a good start to an evening,” she replied. “Have I met her before? She looks really familiar.”

Mitchell laughed and said, “Well, she should look familiar. She’s a prime candidate for Hollywood’s next ‘It Girl.’ She played the prostitute in last year’s third top-grossing movie.”

Then it clicked for Sarah: the woman accompanying Mitchell was an actress. Mitchell was always wining and dining actors and actresses. He was an agent. That was part of his job. He wasn’t out on a date with some random beautiful woman so soon after slicing and dicing Sarah’s heart. He wasn’t that shallow. He was doing his job. Well, actually his job was pretty shallow but at least it was his job and not a personal shallowness. And that was all right. And suddenly her pasta once again looked like something she might actually enjoy. In fact, she twirled some of it around her fork.

Sarah asked, “So, she’s a client?”

Mitchell shifted in his seat. “Uh, no.”

“A potential client?”

“No. She’s well-represented by someone else in the agency.”

And again it clicked for Sarah, only this time in the depressing and not-nice way.

“She’s your date?” she asked.

“Uh… Yeah.”

Pasta no more. Vino return-o.

Sarah said nothing. Frankly she could think of nothing to say.

Mitchell, like all people who got ahead in life due to their skills at talking, had a knack for zooming past the negatives and speaking ahead as if all was peachy-keen. He said, “I got your email. This part you’ve got, it’s pretty good. I think you’ll do great with it.”

“Oh,” she said flatly, “thanks.”

“It’s a well-written little scene she’s got there. A nice, poignant monologue and then she kills herself. I mean, ‘wow!’ Suicide. That’s a great one for a dramatic actor like you. And it’s your character’s suicide that sends the main character off toward her redemption. It’s a good little part Sarah.”


“You don’t sound too thrilled. What’s wrong?”

And how, she wondered, could he be dense enough to ask that particular question? Had he always been stupid and she hadn’t noticed or had he been hit by a taxi and suffered brain trauma since the night he had dumped her mid-celebration?

Sarah felt a sudden twinge of something — an urge to lay into him with her quite lengthy list of “what’s wrong” delivered with much volume, hand gesturing, general foul language and at least a little violence.

No. No, just keep it to the subject. Narrow the “what’s wrong” down to the “what’s wrong with the role.”

After a long pause, finally Sarah said only two words: “Ugly Girl.”

“Ah, I see.”

She sighed and continued, “The guy who wrote the script is obviously a good writer. But he couldn’t take the time to write this character a name? If she were ‘Susie’ or ‘Melinda’ or, hell, even ‘Moonbeam’ I would probably be thrilled with the part. But ‘Ugly Girl?’”

Mitchell looked at her and said, “I think that you’re looking at this the wrong way.”

“Am I? That’s the name that’s going to be in the credits. That’s what I’m gonna have to write on my resume. When my mom looks me up on IMDB that’s what’s going to stare her in the face. ‘Oh, there’s my daughter: Ugly Girl.’”

She plunked her pasta-twirled fork down on her plate. The impact made that squishy sound that pasta makes which always reminded her of the sound of alien tentacles. Staring at the pasta, not looking up at him, she continued, “And you tried to tell me. That’s what you were trying to tell me when… The night you broke up with me you… you said that you didn’t think I’d make it…. It’s because you think I’m ugly. And now here you come strolling in with Miss ‘It’ Girl.”

“Whoa, hold on,” said Mitchell, “No, no, no. You’re putting words in my mouth. For starters, no, I absolutely do not think that you’re ugly. It’s just…. Hollywood. It’s this business.”

Still she stared down at her pasta. He continued, “Hollywood and real life are two different animals. In real life you look fine. More than fine. I know for a fact that guys check you out.”

Sarah mumbled, “Guys who only like grilled cheese.”



“Real-world guys,” said Mitchell, “because in the real world you look more than fine. It’s just this town. In this town you throw a stick and you hit a supermodel.”

Sarah mumbled to the table, “Oh, can I?”

“Can you what?”

“Hit a few supermodels with sticks?” she said as she looked up. “Speaking of which, your ‘It Girl’ is on her way back to your table.”

Mitchell got up from the table but continued looking at Sarah. He said, “And what I said about your not making it… I put that badly. What I meant is that you should stop trying to be a movie star, stop always submitting yourself for lead parts and focus on what you’re good at, which is acting. There are many good actors who get a lot of work but never become stars. Be one of them.”

“Right. Thanks,” she said flatly.

She watched Mitchell head back to his own table where he gave little Miss ‘Next It Girl’ a quick kiss on the cheek. Sarah shook her head and refilled her wine glass. Although Mitchell and company were not looking her way, Sarah raised her glass for a toast. Then she said aloud, “Why aim for the top when you can aim for the middle?”

And with that, she downed the glass of wine and signaled for her check.


*The printed version of non-Hollywood follows a different character in its next chapter. You can read the book in that orderif you prefer, or scroll down to see the next chapters starring Sarah.

[ or just skip ahead to Chapter 21 ]

A character-driven story of seeing your ex for the first time

We've all been there.

That first time when you see your ex as your ex. And of course, different situations will bring out different feelings at that time. This contemporary fiction story, Power Lunch is Better Drunk, tells just such a tale of just such a situation.

And the situation occurs at a time when Sarah has decided to move on with her life. The whole point of coming to this restaurant is as an attempt to move on from the fact that she has been dumped. But what was meant to be a moving-on experience turns into a much different sort of experience with the arrival of her ex, in the company of a young woman.

Simply moving forward was a difficult enough decision. Now it has been complicated a few times over. Not only does she have to see her ex. She sees her ex with someone else. And she is forced to actually talk with her ex in these uncomfortable circumstances.

It's a character-driven scene. And one which brings up all sorts of surprises.

Watch above, or click to view on Youtube

Late at the Pier

Chapter 21: Late at the Pier

Sarah researched.

At least that’s what she told herself she was doing. It made sense for her as an actress, or aspiring actress rather, to know a little more about who was who in her desired profession, right? To that end she had picked up one of those fashion magazines on her way to work. These publications were full of actresses. Sarah had never really seen the appeal of these magazines — page after page of nearly identical photos: some celebrity or another standing on a red carpet somewhere wearing clothes that had been given to them despite the fact that they could afford to just buy them.

Different face. Different clothes. Same damned photo.

Why in the world, she wondered, would anyone find that interesting?

Sarah didn’t ordinarily read these things — if “read” was really what you would say people did with them. Yet she had to admit that it did make a certain amount of sense from a research perspective, in that the faces attached to these designer clothes belonged to whoever was hot at the moment. Some anonymous Jane wearing the same clothes would not be photographed, much less featured. So this was a good way to find out who would currently be considered a celebrity. This would possibly be information of use to someone who was aspiring to celebrity.

That’s what she told herself, but herself knew a liar when she saw one.

And there on page 22… Yep, there was what she both did and did not want to see: her ex-boyfriend Mitchell’s Next “It Girl,” assuming the standard red carpet pose.

Sarah closed the magazine and put it back in her locker. Her break was not yet technically over but she headed back out to the floor anyway.

There at the counter was Mr. Grilled Cheese. She had to stop for a moment to remind herself that he had told her his name. He had told her his name and it was… it was… William.

She walked over to Mr. Grilled Cheese and said, “William.”

He looked up at her and smiled. She realized at that moment that though she hadn’t really taken much note of him before, he actually did have quite pretty eyes. They were a greenish-blue, turquoise almost. And they brightened as he said, “Hello.”

“William,” she said, “I’ve had a change of heart.”

“Oh?” he said nervously.

“Do you like the Santa Monica Pier?”

“Do I like the Pier? Sure. Yeah.”

“I love the Santa Monica Pier. Sometimes I’ll go there after work. Just hang around. Watch the fishermen. Maybe ride the Ferris Wheel. And I think I’ll go tonight. And would you like to meet me there?”

Mr. Grilled Cheese appeared stunned. But after a long pause he finally regained his composure and answered, “Sure.”

“Great,” Sarah said and tapped the table twice. “Now I’ll get you that grilled cheese.”


The “date” itself wasn’t too awkward. Not overly anyway. They had just walked around The Pier talking. Actually Sarah did about ninety percent of the talking, which was something that she was very much not used to. It had always been hard to get a word in edgewise with her ex-boyfriend Mitchell, unless he was soliciting your opinion as to how terribly clever his opinion happened to be.

What a different experience to be out with a man who hardly said a word. Throughout the evening though, she couldn’t help thinking that what she really wanted was someone somewhere in-between.

But maybe that wasn’t fair. Maybe Mr. Grilled Cheese wasn’t talking because he was nervous. Or maybe yes, he really was this quiet, yet that quality might turn out to be something that she would come to really like once she got used to it.

At least he hadn’t asked her what her “type” was. Her ex, Mitchell, had asked her that when they first met. Before Mitchell had even asked her out on their first date he had asked her what her “type” was. No doubt he was expecting her to reply with the name of some movie star or musician or athlete or the like. He had appeared a bit stunned when, without hesitation, Sarah had replied “Christopher Nolan. I don’t know what it is, but I find the guy sexy as all get out.”

Luckily, Mr. Grilled Cheese had not yet asked that question.

At any rate, she ended up doing most of the talking. She had learned that Mr. Grilled Cheese was from a small town near St. Louis and that as a child he had a dog named Wiggles. The rest of the conversation had been hers.

So she talked on, the whole time avoiding the two biggest things on her mind. She wasn’t about to start talking about Mitchell: it is a rule universally accepted that a good way to ruin a first date is to start talking about your ex. And there was no way in the world that she was bringing up the whole “Ugly Girl” thing. No way.

As they strolled up and down The Pier they passed little carts, vendors selling all kinds of little souvenir-type things from hats to shells to photos to this one cart where this man would paint your name on a grain of rice.

Sarah and Mr. Grilled Cheese stood at a cart which sold all sorts of paraphernalia with the words “Santa Monica” emblazoned upon them. Hats and T-shirts and… oddly enough what caught her eye was a calendar. And it wasn’t the aerial photo of The Pier that grabbed her, it was the actual calendar part of the calendar. She looked at the little rows of numbers and suddenly something dawned on her, something that made the blood run from her face.

Oh God she thought.

“Oh God,” she said.


And in a flat tone of voice she replied, “I’m late.”

Mr. Grilled Cheese looked at her, puzzled.

“For?” he asked.

“For? Um… It’s this thing… This dental thing I was supposed to do” she replied in that same flat voice.

“Oh,” he said.


Once back in her apartment, having parted ways with Mr. Grilled Cheese at The Pier parking lot, she paced beside her bed. Back and forth and back and forth. After several minutes of this she said aloud, “This is stupid,” and climbed into bed.

But sleep? Yeah, right. That would be like trying to sleep with a three-inch thorn stuck in her foot.

Late. Of course she had known that she was late. She had just put it out of her mind. And then time had just gotten all weird with everything that was going on. She had no idea what the date was until she had looked at that calendar. So exactly how late she was had just sneaked up on her.

Maybe it was simply all of the stress. Stress. That was all. That was the reason for the lateness, not…

But what if she was, you know, that word that she didn’t want to think about…

Oh God.

The last time that she and Mitchell had made love was the night before he had dumped her. After having all of his dreams of being an agent come true. Which, incidentally, was something that got her steamed every time that she thought about it. Not that he had become an agent, but that he had made love to her the night before dumping her. Surely that last time he was fully aware that he was going to dump her. What a guy. He was going to dump her but he did her anyway.

For a brief irrational moment she thought that maybe he was trying to ensure that his prophecy of her failure would come true. Bastard thought that he could stop her acting career cold by knocking her up.

Immediately after thinking it she felt guilty. Whatever Mitchell was he wasn’t that. He wouldn’t want something like that any more than she would.

But she wasn’t wrong about such a thing derailing her career plans. It was one thing for an established actress to take some time off to have kids. Hey go ahead: reproduce, adopt, clone — whatever you want — as long as you lose the baby weight we’ll be waiting right here with that next gagillion-dollar movie deal. But have you ever heard of a young mom becoming famous? Sarah sure couldn’t think of any. So sure, throw ‘single mom’ on top of the list of obstacles she already faced in getting into the business. Why didn’t she just join the Nazi party while she was at it?

Sleep? Sure didn’t seem likely. She was hyperventilating as she stared up at the ceiling. How could she lose track of the friggin’ date when she knew that she was late? And how the hell could she even attempt to fool herself that sleep was an option?


Sarah was still dressed in her sleeper sweats as she walked into the 24-hour pharmacy on Pico Blvd. And she really hoped that the queasiness in her stomach was either the result of panic or of the grotesquely bright fluorescent lights and not from… something else.

She found the aisle she was looking for and, My God, how many home pregnancy tests were there on the market? They took up something like half the aisle. Of course if she thought about it, between the large number of women who hoped not to get pregnant and the large number of women who wanted nothing other than to get pregnant, well, these little tests were probably in big demand.

She wanted to find out the difference between the brands but found herself afraid to pick up one of the boxes. She was… well, she was embarrassed.

Suddenly Sarah had a flashback to her high school Spanish class. The teacher had been pointing out how a lot of Spanish words were so similar to English words that it was easy to figure them out. “Plato” meant plate. “Policia” meant police, etc. “But,” the teacher had said with a smile, “one word you want to be careful with is “embarazada,” guys especially, because it doesn’t mean that you’re embarrassed, it means that you’re pregnant.” And the whole class had laughed.

It wasn’t very funny to Sarah at the moment. And she couldn’t help wondering if maybe the Spanish knew exactly what they were doing and were, in fact, stating that, yes, pregnancy was embarrassing.

Instead of reading the boxes Sarah just grabbed one, tossed it in her basket and headed for the register. And then she froze. The woman operating the cash register reminded Sarah just a tad too much of her grandmother. And who would a young, unwed woman least like to bump into as she purchased a pregnancy test?

The grandmotherly woman called out to Sarah, “I’m open,” and waved her over.

Sarah slowly made her way to the register and placed her basket on the counter. The grandmotherly woman smiled and rang up Sarah’s pregnancy test.

The transaction completed, the older woman handed Sarah the bag containing her single purchase. In a comforting tone the grandmotherly woman said, “Best of luck.” And Sarah had to wonder whether this woman’s version of luck would be a positive or a negative.

“Thank you,” said Sarah.


Back at the apartment, Sarah stared at the box. After that rush to get the thing, the urgency to have the result known, she suddenly found herself hesitant. She stared at the box for at least fifteen minutes. Just stared.

“Just… just get on with it,” she said aloud. But the foreboding — it was a certainty, a certainty that the result was going to be positive and that her life would change irrevocably — it held her back.

Finally though, she forced herself. She took the test and the results were… negative.

Sarah collapsed, her head atop the bathroom sink, and cried with relief.


*The printed version of non-Hollywood follows a different character in its next chapter. You can read the book in that orderif you prefer, or scroll down to see the next chapters starring Sarah.

[ or just skip ahead to Chapter 24 ]

Contemporary fiction of a night at the Santa Monica Pier

Sarah's attempt to move on takes another step in the right direction. And takes another step backward.

In this contemporary fiction story, our actress Sarah has decided to try to move on with a personal life after her breakup with the Australian agent who had unexpectedly dumped her. Her plan to move on is to accept the invitation of a date from someone else.

But what of this someone else?

A regular customer at the restaurant where she works, she had only until recently referred to him only as Mr. Grilled Cheese (since that was his usual order). Certainly not as exciting as a Hollywood talent agent with a sexy Australian accent, but there is something to Mr. Grilled Cheese that she feels might be something. So she accepts.

But the date night at the Santa Monica Pier doesn't go quite as expected, and unforeseen events carry our character-driven story to a late night pharmacy and a stressful test.

Watch above, or click to view on Youtube

Dramatic Female Monologue

Chapter 24: Dramatic Female Monologue

Sarah eh-hemmed.

She was trying to get her acting teacher Coach Bobbie’s attention during the chaos before her Wednesday acting class. She was using the time-honored technique of clearing her throat to do so. And she was having absolutely no success.

As Sarah reached to tap Coach Bobbie on the shoulder, Tracey, the model whose image graced the giant billboards on Sunset Boulevard, came bounding up and with the giddy enthusiasm of a six-year old shouted, “Coach Bobbie! Coach Bobbie! Look!”

As Coach Bobbie turned her way, Tracey held up a one-inch, rounded plastic triangle. Coach Bobbie said, “Well hello Sweetie. What have you got there?”

“It’s a guitar pick.”

“So it is. Where did you get it?”

“New York,” said Tracey, “ I was there last week for a modeling shoot and I met…” And here, Tracey held out the guitar pick so that Coach Bobbie could see the signature of a famous rock star.

“Oh My God!” exclaimed Coach Bobbie.

“Yeah, he was super-sweet. And he asked me to have lunch with him. Though he didn’t really eat much — I guess rock stars don’t. And he gave me this.”

“Oh, I see. It’s got his signature on it.”

“Yeah, they make them for him like that. He doesn’t even have to sign them.”

Sarah looked away as she waited patiently for this vacuous little scene to play out. And as she looked away she noticed something. One of those things that she never liked noticing but couldn’t help noticing. She noticed the way that all of the guys in the room were staring at Tracey’s bouncing form. The intensity of their gazes — well, all of the straight guys anyway — was quite a sight.

There was something fascinating about watching the guys watch Tracey — the way that they were so entirely focused on her — the room must have dropped away for them. The way that they were so obviously, blatantly staring at her — might as well take a black marker and write “LUST” across their faces because it was that damned obvious.

Sarah’s initial reaction had been one of disgust. Even though Tracey wasn’t a close friend of Sarah’s, Tracey was a person: a human being, not an object, not a piece of meat. These guys owed at least the pretense of respect.

Then suddenly Sarah saw it in another way. It just hit her in the face. She didn’t want it to but it did. It was such an obvious thing that she couldn’t help it. Sarah stared at the guys staring at Tracey and she suddenly realized: this was what stardom was made of.

“He was really nice. A real gentleman,” Tracey concluded and walked off toward the chairs.

Sarah spoke up, “Um, Coach Bobbie?”

“Yes Sweetie?”

“I got this part. This part in a small… it’s a small part in a small…”

“Oh!” Coach Bobbie exclaimed. Then he held up his hand to get the attention of the class. “Everyone! Everyone! Sarah’s got news!”

The class hushed and all eyes turned toward Sarah.

“Um… yeah… news,” she said, “Well… I got a small part in an independent film and…”

A few people started clapping and Tracey shouted out, “Yay!”

“Well, thanks,” Sarah said as she blushed deep red. “Anyway, it’s basically just this one… um… this one monologue and then… well then she kills herself.”

Coach Bobbie lit up, “Oh, awesome!” he shouted.

“Thanks… Basically, I just wanted to see if I could perform the monologue here in class and… I don’t know… Get some feedback?”

“Well Sweetie of course,” said Coach Bobbie, “Everybody get settled. We’ll give Sarah a minute to prepare then we’ll hear it. How’s that?”

“Um… fine,” said Sarah, “Thank you.”

As the class members shuffled into their seats Sarah studied the sheet of paper which was her monologue. A few minutes was all she needed to prepare — she had run over this thing a million times and felt that she knew it cold. As soon as the class fell silent, Sarah dropped the sheet of paper, looked up and launched into her speech.


When she finished Sarah looked out at her audience of classmates. The room was silent — the same type of silence that had come immediately following her audition, the kind of silence that can only mean that she had gotten them.

And then they started to clap. They started to stand. They started to cheer.

And now it was Sarah’s turn to be stunned. She bowed to her classmates and smiled. This felt good. This felt right. This was what being an actor was all about.

And yet…

She couldn’t help noticing how this wasn’t the same as what she had seen just a few minutes earlier. They thought that she had given a great performance. They were impressed. And Sarah was flattered. Yet as good as it was, their praise for her hard work and talent still didn’t match the intensity that Tracey had inspired simply by bouncing up and down.

Sarah might be a great actress but Tracey was a star.

Then Sarah reminded herself not to do that to herself.

She relaxed and enjoyed the applause.


*The printed version of non-Hollywood follows a different character in its next chapter. You can read the book in that orderif you prefer, or scroll down to see the next chapters starring Sarah.

[ or just skip ahead to Chapter 28 ]

A character-driven dramatic female monologue is the best female monologue

Someone pursuing an acting career is likely to spend a lot of time at acting classes.

So it is for our character Sarah, as she tries to work her way through the complications of her personal life, she at the same time continues to pursue her classes.

And this particular session, she actually has something wonderful to bring to the table. Her recent casting has given her a wonderful character-driven monologue. Hers is the tragic character in this particular independent film. Her character gives a wonderful and deeply moving speech, and then commits suicide. The monologue is a terrific challenge for an actor, and luckily Sarah has the exact sort of talent necessary to pull this off.

So tonight, in front of her classmates, Sarah will give her performance of this dramatic female monologue.

This could give her the feedback that she needs from her peers, and possibly some tips on improvement from her acting coach.

But first, she needs to get the attention of her instructor and her classmates, while competing with the undeniable appeal of another member of the group.

It's a challenge. But Sarah is a talented female actor, and she is ready to take up the challenge of a great monologue and a possible great onscreen moment.

Watch above, or click to view on Youtube

Not Really an Actor

Chapter 28: Not Really an Actor

Sarah ???ed.

“This is Jeremy,” the message had said, “from Coach Bobbie’s acting class.”

Jeremy? Jeremy? Who the hell was Jeremy? He said he was in Sarah’s acting class, but… Was he the guy who played the circuit board in the condom-making machine? Or was he the guy who sobbed his way through that really uncomfortably strange reading of Blanche DuBois from A Streetcar Named Desire?

“I was wondering,” the voice continued, “if we could talk? I’m finally putting my shoot together and I was so impressed with that scene you performed in class that I would like for you to be in my film.”

Jeremy! Right. Now she remembered. Jeremy was the little shy guy who kept performing scenes that he had written, claiming that he was weaving the individual scenes into one script a la Good Will Hunting.

Jeremy… His scenes were actually not badly written, they were just badly acted. Matt Damon he was not.


“So I’m not really an actor,” Jeremy said as he and Sarah sat in the comfy seats of the coffee shop on Highland Avenue. This was a statement that surprised Sarah not in the least. “I am really a writer/director — that is my goal. I am attending the class for two reasons. One: I feel that if I am going to direct actors, then I need to know what the acting process is like. I need to communicate to actors in their own vernacular. Two: I felt that acting class might perhaps be a good place in which to meet actors with whom I might wish to work.”

Sarah noticed that Jeremy had an odd way of speaking — it wasn’t actually an accent but instead was some strange affectation which she assumed that he had invented under the impression that it made him sound unique and thoughtful. But what it probably made him was terminally dateless. Sarah said, “Well, meeting actors in an acting class sounds like an excellent plan.”

“Thank you. I believe that this approach is especially sound considering the type of material that I write. I very much feel that the pieces I write are very much actor’s pieces.”


“I cannot imagine myself — even if I had access to those obscenely large Hollywood budgets — I still could not imagine myself writing that sort of spectacle-based drivel. Films should be — well, fiction in general should be, but most definitely films should be — about the characters. About their philosophies. About their struggles. About their souls, if you will.”

“I will,” said Sarah.

“Yes,” Jeremy continued, “I had a feeling, an entertained hope, that we would be, as they say, ‘simpatico’ on that point. Honestly, I think that there are only a few individuals in Coach Bobbie’s class with even a modicum of talent. You, of course, are one of them. The rest… I truly believe that many of the rest of them are simply wasting their money on that class. But back to my point: I believe in really delving deeply into a character. I believe that characters should be turned inside-out, their very innards exposed to the light.”

Sarah jumped in, “Oh, so you’re making a horror film?… With the… innards and all.”

Jeremy chuckled. Though Sarah thought for a moment that she maybe noticed a hint of condescension in that chuckle.

Jeremy continued, “Well, let us hope that it does not turn out to be so. Regardless, I truly feel that I write the sorts of characters that actors can really sink their teeth into, as it were.”

Sarah controlled the impulse to respond, “It were!” Instead she said, “That’s great. Any role that you can really dig into is great.”

“Yes,” he responded, “I do believe so. Actors, it seems to me, derive gratification from plumbing emotional depths. I noticed, for instance, that those in class seemed envious that you were to portray a suicide. Along those lines, the part I envision for you is a young woman who is the definition of complexity. I’ve not completed writing this character, but I see her as running the gamut of human emotions.”

Sarah leaned back in her comfy chair. She was liking this. The guy may talk a bit funny, but she really liked his ideas. She said, “Well, so far I like it.”

“Good,” he replied, “because I need an actor for this role who is both competent and confident. You strike me as a confident actor.”

“Confident” wasn’t really a word that Sarah usually associated with herself. But, hey, what the hell, if she could act then she could act confident. Right? And just to prove the point she confidently took a swig of her coffee.

“And,” Jeremy continued, “you will need that confidence, as I am envisioning for your character a very intense monologue, delivered entirely in the nude.”

Sarah coughed up her coffee. “What?” she sputtered.

“A very intense monologue. Extraordinarily intense. And performing it in the nude would simply push the intensity level even further.”

“Oh, I’m sure it would,” she said, “but I’m… I’m not really one for that kind of thing.”

“You’re hesitant about nudity?”

“Hesitant? I think it’s more along the lines of ‘no friggin’ way.’”

Jeremy continued, “There should be no shame in nudity. It is our most natural state.”

“Uh-huh. Look around this room Jeremy. Do you see anyone in their ‘most natural state?’”

Jeremy paused and looked at her thoughtfully. He pondered her. Then his eyes quite noticeably went down to her breasts. He said, “You should not be ashamed. You have a very nice figure.”

Sarah put her hand over her eyes and began to laugh. A ‘nice figure?’ Oh God. First she has one guy who thinks she’s too ugly to deserve a name and now another who wants her naked.

Why was it she wanted to be in this business again?

“Look,” she said, “I understand what you’re saying. But I can’t do that. I’m flattered that you’d like me in this part but if it absolutely has to be nude… I just can’t do that.”

“But the intensity Sarah.”

“I’m sure. Yes. But I can’t”

“I see. Well… I admit that I am at a crossroads then. I would like you in this part but I also feel that the writer/director is an artist, and that an artist should not compromise his vision.”

“In this town?” she blurted out before she could stop herself.

“Yes, well,” he began, then paused — a long, long, awkward pause. After which he stood up and said, “Well, I thank you for your time Sarah. And I look forward to your next performance in class.”

And with that he walked across the room and out the door without so much as a glance back at her.


*The printed version of non-Hollywood follows a different character in its next chapter. You can read the book in that orderif you prefer, or scroll down to see the next chapters starring Sarah.

[ of just skip ahead to Chapter 32 ]

Great writer of character-driven stories; but a really bad actor

There are many who would claim that the real purpose of acting class is not to learn acting, but rather to network with other actors.

After all, in a business where "who you know" matters as much as it does in Hollywood, then it can be pretty darned important to get out there and know as many people as you can.

In this chapter Sarah has met someone who could indeed turn out to be very important to her career as an actor. The person she meets is an aspiring screenwriter, who states that he is only taking this courses so that he can experience what the actor's experience is like, which hopefully will lead to his being a better screenwriter.

Hopefully the class does accomplish this writing goal for him, because he is, in fact, a terrible actor.

But he also is someone who recognizes the talent of Sarah. And Sarah realizes that this terrible actor is actually quite a good writer of character-driven scenes. So she definitely is both flattered and interested when he states that she is the one he wants to play the lead when his script becomes a film.

There's only one catch.

Watch above, or click to view on Youtube

The First Real Acting Job

Chapter 32: The First Real Acting Job

Sarah cursed.

Here she was on her way to her first actual, real acting gig — she had been given a role and she was ready to give a great performance in that role — and she was completely lost in the middle of the city. In her head she could hear her ex Mitchell saying for the 473rd time that a GPS was a good investment. And she heard herself replying for the 473rd time that a good map and a little extra time were all an intelligent person needed. You don’t need some computer voice yelping out monotone driving directions.

Now she cursed both of those voices, each for a different reason.

Another one of those L.A. things: when you’re lost, you usually can’t just pull over and look at a map, because pulling over is an art in and of itself. A good parking space on a public street with no restrictions is a treasured thing — folks prowl for a parking space in L.A. — they’d sell their sexual parts to little gray aliens in return for a good parking spot. So, there is no such thing as casually pulling over. Add in the legendary Los Angeles traffic and being lost turns into a seriously stressful event.

And it naturally happens on days when, oh say, getting lost could kill the first break of one’s career.

So she cursed again.

She realized also that she was wasting perfectly good exasperation. She was on her way to this seriously serious event. She was on her way to commit suicide, for crying out loud. Well, to play a character who was committing suicide. She needed to save all of her exasperation for the film set.

Of course it was starting to look as though it didn’t really matter. She was never going to find the location. She was ruining her acting career just as it got started. The one way to go from being unknown to known in this business was to not show up for work on a film, then everyone knows who you are and no one would even consider hiring you. She might as well pack up and head back to…WHITE TRUCKS!!!


Ah, the white trucks. The splendid, lovely, plain old white trucks of the film industry. She took back every bad thing that she had ever said or thought about them. At this moment there was nothing she loved more than a big ol’ boring white truck.

Sarah pulled into the lot where the white trucks were parked. The lot was next to a building which appeared to be some older apartments. A headset-wearing production assistant met her at her car.

As the young man escorted her through the parking lot Sarah looked around her. It seemed to actually be a bigger production than she would have thought. This was a non-union shoot and her understanding of those was that they had no money and amounted to a crew of three with the director running around with a video camera. But this set actually looked… well, it looked like a movie set. There were lights and everything!

A couple of the white trucks appeared to be grip trucks. There was a catering truck bustling with activity. There was one of those portable restroom trailers — ”honey wagons” they’re called in the business, she reminded herself — and they came to a stop in front of what appeared to be a makeup trailer.

The P.A. was looking down at a call sheet and said, “So you’re playing… “ and here he stumbled a bit. Sarah got the feeling that he was a nice enough guy to feel embarrassed to utter the words “ugly girl” to a girl’s face.

And speaking of the Ugly Girl thing: she had mentioned to Mr. Grilled Cheese that she didn’t like her character’s name (she didn’t mention that the character’s name was Ugly girl — no need to get into that, just let him assume that it was, oh, Veronica or something). Mr. Grilled Cheese had simply said, “Can’t you ask them to change it?” and she had stood there stunned that she hadn’t thought of that rather obvious solution. It wasn’t too late to change the character’s name. She would simply ask the director if it could be changed. Simple.

“Oh!” the P.A. said, “This is the suicide girl. You’ve got the best scene in the film.”

“Thank you,” said Sarah. And she thought ‘Suicide Girl’ would actually be an acceptable character name.

The P.A. continued, “Yeah, I actually read the script the morning I got here. Usually, I don’t get to, being just a P.A. and all, but there was a copy just sitting there and the U.P.M. didn’t have a task for me yet, so…”

Sarah wasn’t exactly sure what U.P.M. stood for, but she assumed that it was one of those crew things and not some bondage discipline or something. She said, “That’s great. I would think that not reading the script would make your job harder.”

“My job? Not really. I’m basically a gopher. So I don’t really need to know the actual story that the film’s telling. But I like to. I’m hoping to direct someday.”

Sarah said, “I have this friend who says that in this business you should never hope for anything. You have to say that you are definitely going to do it or it’ll never happen. Actually, his exact quote is ‘hope is for losers.’”

“That’s probably true,” he said. “Probably true. What?” he practically yelled, “It’s a big, pink thing. What did you think it was?”

Sarah turned to the P.A. with a start. He held out his hands and said loudly, “Big and Pink! You’ve seen the prop list. What the hell do you think it is?”

And Sarah realized, with a blush, that he was talking to someone over the headset.

“Don’t ask me,” he continued, “Ask Roger. He’s the prop master. Jesus!”

Then the P.A. turned back toward Sarah and said, “Sorry about that. Here we are: Wardrobe-slash-Makeup. Tell Clarissa that I’ll be back to pick you up in one hour and 10 minutes.”

“One hour and ten minutes.”

“What? Say that again.”

“One hour and…”

The P.A. shook his head at her. “She just got here. She hasn’t been to… O.K. … Well Sarah, they want you on the set. So, I guess we’ll come back here later.”

Sarah followed the P.A. into the building. They went up the stairs and down a hallway which was snaked with electrical cables, until they arrived at apartment 210 which was filled with giant lights and several people.

Standing beside the camera was the director. The man had both hands clenched in his hair and was pulling. Of course Sarah had heard the expression “pulling your hair out” before, but until now she had never seen a real live example of it.

The P.A. caught the director’s eye and said, “I’ve got Sarah here.”

The director looked at her without releasing his hair. “Oh good, Sarah, it’s good to see you again. Look, we don’t have as much time at this location as we thought. So the scene we were going to shoot before yours we’re moving to a different location. We’re also going to move the suicide scene to another location and shoot that next week. But we’re going to shoot your speech here real quick first.”

“Oh,” she replied, “Sure. I’ll just run back down to Wardrobe. How much time…”

“Now,” the director said.

“Now? I haven’t been to Wardrobe yet.”

“What you’re wearing is fine.”

The P.A. jumped in, “What about makeup?”

“Makeup?” said the director, his hair still clenched in his hands, “She’s playing the ugly girl. What the hell does she need makeup for? Look, Sarah I’ve got like five minutes before we get kicked out of here. Can you do the scene or not?”

“Yes,” said Sarah. “Yes, of course.”

“Good… Everybody take your places. We’re just gonna shoot this. Sarah, you stand right here. That’s your mark. Don’t move. You stay right there and we’re just gonna slowly move in on you, okay?”

“Okay,” said Sarah.

Before she knew it, the crew called out their various mysterious commands, someone snapped a slate in front of her face and the director shouted, “Action!”

And she did it.


“Cut!” yelled the director. “That was great Sarah, thank you. Okay everybody, we’re moving on. That’s a wrap for this location.”

The crew began to scurry about as Sarah stood in her same spot. “That’s it?” she asked.

The P.A. replied, “That’s it.”

He escorted her back down the cable-strewn hallway, down the stairs and out to her car. As Sarah started the car, the clock caught her eye. Her first professional gig had lasted all of 9 minutes.


*The printed version of non-Hollywood follows a different character in its next chapter. You can read the book in that order if you prefer, or scroll down to see the next chapters starring Sarah.

[ or just skip ahead to Chapter 33 ]

A contemporary story of the first time on a film set

For any film actor, there are few experiences as exciting as the first time on a film set.

All of the training, all of the hustle, all of the work, and now they have finally arrived at their first film set.

For Sarah it is particularly exciting as she is to deliver a beautifully written character-driven monologue on this, her first film experience.

But there is also a lot of stress in the situation. And that stress is not helped by the fact that she gets lost on her way to the location.

And when she arrives, it quickly becomes clear that there is trouble afoot with this production.

Can she deliver the goods with a fantastic read under tremendous time pressure?

This contemporary fiction story from the free audiobook adaptation of the novel non-hollywood endeavors to find out.

Watch above, or click to view on Youtube

Epic Fail Film Set

Chapter 33: Epic Fail Film Set

Sarah jumped.

The catering truck had come barreling out of the parking lot, tires screeching and pots rattling, nearly mowing Sarah down as she stepped out of her car at the location where she was supposed to finish filming her part as Ugly Girl. Though if she hadn’t stepped out of the way just now, she would have been playing Flattened Girl.

Welcome to your second day of professional acting.

And wouldn’t that be a strange way to go out? Flattened by a grill full of scrambled eggs on wheels. Sarah said under her breath, “I’m supposed to kill myself today, not be killed today.”

A woman walked by saying, “I’m right there with ya hon.”

And it was then that Sarah noticed that in entering the location she was most definitely going against the flow of traffic. Several people were getting into their cars all around her.

Sarah looked over at the white production vehicles and saw the driver of the “honeywagon” climbing into the cab of his truck. She asked him, “You’re leaving?”

Without looking at her he said, “That’s what I usually do when I don’t get paid.” And he slammed the door and started his truck.

To say that Sarah was confused and anxious would be an understatement. As she made her way into the location she couldn’t help but notice that all of the people around her sported the same angry looks as the honeywagon driver.

This did not seem to be a happy place.

The one face that she was looking for—that of the director — was nowhere to be seen. But all around her it was obvious that things were being packed up.

Sarah stopped a burly man who was carrying a large light stand. She said, “I just got here, what’s happening?”

The burly man looked at her and said, “We’re ‘on hiatus.’ “ Then he started giggling, a strangely high-pitched giggle quite like a little girl. “They ran out of money so we’ve got a ‘temporary stoppage.’ Yeah right,” he said and again giggled disturbingly.

Sara really wanted to know just how temporary this temporary stoppage was supposed to be, but that giggling covered her arms in goose bumps. So she figured that perhaps she should ask someone else.

She looked around the dispersing crowd and finally saw the production assistant who she had dealt with last time. “Hey!…” she started to call out to him but then realized that either he had never given her his name or that she had forgotten it. So instead she dashed over to where he was loading some file folders into a car. Sarah asked him, “What’s going on?”

He smiled pleasantly and said, “Temporary stoppage.”

“‘Temporary stoppage?’ What exactly is a ‘temporary stoppage?’”

The P.A. continued smiling and loading his car. He seemed quite chipper as he said, “What does ‘temporary stoppage’ mean? You’ve never been in one of these situations before?”

“I’ve never been in a film before.”

“Ah. Well, first there’s no such thing as a ‘temporary stoppage.’ It’s a euphemism. They say ‘temporary stoppage’ when it’s permanent. Basically, the project is dead. There’s some kind of money problem that they didn’t tell us about. The film will not get finished. None of us will get paid. And you’ll never see a frame of it anywhere, not even a crappy video release in the bargain bin” he said as he finished loading the car, “It happens.”

He looked at Sarah and again smiled pleasantly and said, “And now I need to go find another gig before next rent day rolls around. This time of year it could be tricky. But hey, that is show business.” And as he hopped in his car he said, “See you on another shoot on down the line.”

The production assistant, whatever his name was, drove away and Sarah stood there watching the various crew members load up and head out.

So that was that. Her first professional gig and it had just gone up in flames. Wonderful.

Well, she thought, so much for suicide.


*The printed version of non-Hollywood follows a different character in its next chapter. You can read the book in that order if you prefer, or scroll down to see the next chapters starring Sarah.

[ or just skip ahead to Chapter 40 ]

When movies collapse (contemporary fiction)

Though most people don't know it, the collapse of a film production is a not-uncommon occurance.

There are any number of reasons that a film production might collapse. Though usually those reasons all pretty much boil down to money. Or the lack of it.

So productions start. They are shut down. And once shut down they are likely never to revive again.

Such is show business. But it is a hard lesson to learn for a first time actor who had been expecting this to be the start of something.

A hard lesson.

Contemporary fiction and character-driven stories