Prompts: Objectives and Obstacles

Don't make me take off my earrings, young lady!

Don’t make me take off my earrings, young lady!

It was the first writing class for the semester, so I’m going to do just the *tiniest* cop out and use one of the in-class exercises that I wrote. It was, after all, from a prompt:

Write a short scene in which a character pursues an objective and encounters several obstacles along the way.

We had thirty minutes to write. Here’s what I came up with:

The upstairs hallway is a sea of muted earth tones and spotless beige carpet. A series of framed photographs progress in a tidy line down the length of the hallway showing a prim suburban family of four: white and affluent, one daughter, one son. The farther along the hallway the photos progress the older the kids become. The daughter is now a teenager.

Late evening sunlight streams into the hallway through three open doors leading into bedrooms. The fourth door is closed and sports a large black and yellow sign that screams: KEEP OUT!!!! From behind the door can be heard the thumping bass line of rock music.

GLORIA (Mid 50’s), impeccably dressed, coiffed, and made up, appears at the bottom of the stairs.

Evelyn? Dinner! What would you like
to drink?

There is no response from the closed door.


No response. Gloria sighs and reaches for her cell phone. She sends a business-like text.

TEXT: Dinner is ready. Milk or

Gloria waits expectantly for a moment, but there is still no response.

Annoyed she marches up the stairs and down the length of the hall. She raps on the door sharply and then tries the doorknob: locked.

Evelyn? What did I tell you about
locking the door. Evelyn?

Her voice is drowned out by the loud music. She knocks again, with more force. And then struggles violently with the doorknob in vain.

Evelyn, open this door!

Gloria stands for a moment with her hands on her hips and gathers her wits. After a moment she takes a bobby pin out of her hair and attempts to pick the lock with it. She twists too hard and the bobby pin breaks off in her hands.


She struggles with the doorknob once again, then takes off one shoe and uses it to hammer on the door right in the middle of the KEEP OUT!!! poster punctuating each word as she screams:


The door does not open.

Gloria, red faced with rage, takes off her other shoe. She sets both shoes neatly inside one of the nearby doorways and walks to the end of the hallway with even, deliberate steps. At the top of the stairs she turns and tilts her head from side to side, popping her neck. She bounces on the balls of her feet a few times to warm up and then charges the door with her shoulder down like a linebacker.

Just before she crashes into the door it opens and EVELYN (14) emerges. She wears all black and has enormous, sound- canceling headphones on even though music is playing at full blast on a stereo system beside her desk. She is absorbed in her  cell phone and fails to react as Gloria barrels past her into the bedroom and lands face first on the unmade bed.

(Without looking up)
Do we have any pop?

She looks up and sees Gloria on the bed behind her.

C’mon Mom I thought you said it was
dinner time.

Evelyn shuffles down the stairs.

Ok, so the ending is a little bit slapstick, but at least it wraps up neatly: better to have a trite ending on paper than a brilliant ending that no one can read. 🙂

~ by Gwydhar Gebien on January 15, 2014.

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