Author Topic: "The Death of Mr. Miller"-rough summary  (Read 7983 times)

Offline SoundGeare

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"The Death of Mr. Miller"-rough summary
« on: June 11, 2014, 01:54:26 AM »
I've gotten a great opportunity in that my drama teacher agreed to put on a play I write. That will be next year, so I have the whole summer to finish it. I already have the general aspects of a story, and I want to iron that out before getting to specifics of dialogue and scenery. I will write a summary of it here, then post a rough draft in about a month or so, once I've worked out the rest of it.

ACT 1
Mrs. Miller, her daughter, and Roger are at the funeral of Mr. Miller. From the eulogy, we know that he was a bland office person and generally distracted from life. He wasn't a bad person, but he did nothing to make people miss him. His daughter is ambivalent toward his death. Roger, a coworker, expresses shallow condolences and reveals an affair between him and Mrs. Miller through insensitive chatter. Mrs. Miller is the only one truly bothered by her husband's passing. Though she had grown distant while he lived, she begins to see him in a better light after death. This new appreciation makes her start to resent the affair as a stain on his memory. She begins to grow distant from Roger who only wants them to move on. The daughter is troubled by the fact that she feels nothing for the loss of her father, but eventually decides that this is justified by his actions in life. However, this does not provide closure and she continues to show unconscious signs of grief. Throughout these occurrences, it is revealed by a scattering of short scenes that Mr. Miller is alive (or at least aware) inside of his coffin. He believes himself to be paralyzed rather than dead and misses his family dreadfully, regretting how he wasted the time he had with them. The first act ends on this melancholy note.

ACT 2
Mr. Miller lies in his coffin, repeating lonely sentiment. Something unearths him by accident and he stumbles out into the daylight. Finally free, he returns home but finds his wife married to Roger. He sees this from afar and runs off. Mr. Miller sees his daughter overhears a conversation she has. He is brought up offhand and she shows a disturbing carelessness to the subject. He flees from her as well, but the seeds of subconscious grief from act one continue to pervade her life. She was deeply scarred by the loss but refused to acknowledge it. The next scene shows Mrs. Miller unhappy and isolated, ignoring Roger's obvious affair. Mr. Miller sits on a bench at the park and talks to himself about how he's lost his family. They were both years older, and by that he now knows that he is dead. Finally accepting the fact, he hears an imaginary voice and follows it offstage.



That is the story as I have it so far. I will be working out the scene changes and order of telling later. I just want to know about the quality of the story itself. I don't want to devote months of time to it only to realize the whole things is just a string of cliches.
What do you think?

hillwalker3000

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Re: "The Death of Mr. Miller"-rough summary
« Reply #1 on: June 11, 2014, 05:35:12 AM »
Congratulations on your commission.
Interesting first act - presumably you will show Mr Miller's banal existence by various means. I'm not sure an eulogy would be concentrating on how boring the poor guy's life was. They usually stick to the deceased's positive attributes.

Act 2 I'm not so sure about.
a) What do you mean by 'repeating lonely sentiment'? If he's paralyzed there's not a great deal he can do to repeat anything
b) 'Something unearths him' - this is going to be a major stumbling block. Are we talking earthquake? Someone with an excavator? A raccoon? Coffins don't usually get unearthed, do they?
c) If he's in a paralyzed state he would have eventually died from starvation and dehydration - so is he now a zombie? Otherwise it's unlikely he would be able to stumble out of anything. And if Roger has married his wife it's obvious some time has passed since the burial. You're going to have a hard time convincing your audience that Mr. Miller survived.
I understand that the death is presumably meant as a metaphor for your MC being buried away. How you combine reality and fantasy is probably going to determine how the audience reacts.


d) He sees things from afar - and overhears conversations. But he's not doing very much else so having him take on such a passive role isn't going to be great viewing.
And I don't know what you mean here:
He is brought up offhand and she shows a disturbing carelessness to the subject.
e) How can you show this on-stage:
She was deeply scarred by the loss but refused to acknowledge it.
You're implying a great deal of history here - but it's a live play. It's mostly visual and the audience aren't mind readers. So are we going to have your characters addressing the auditorium, telling us how miserable they were? Or will there be flashback scenes?

I'm getting touches of Hamlet here and the ghost of Hamlet's father. It's the other characters' guilt and remorse that drives the play forwards. But I'm not sure it's something I'd want to sit through unless the dialogue is stellar.

H3K

Offline SoundGeare

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Re: "The Death of Mr. Miller"-rough summary
« Reply #2 on: June 11, 2014, 08:21:43 AM »
For the eulogy, I'm going to make it very weak so as to show that he didn't really have any positive attributes. Also i'll make the ones they do include very weak like "He was excellence at keeping pencils sharpened" or something droll like that.
a)Just sadly talking to himself.
b)They don't, so I will have to work out that bit of plot. Right now I have the part filled by something unknown.
c)He isn't in a paralyzed state. Mr. Miller is dead, but, being sentient, believes himself to be paralyzed. In the second act he is a ghost.
d)I'll have to work on that. At this stage everything is flexible.
e)Those sentences refer to what will be discussed or shown. Probably through dialogue or lingering ticks. I haven't decided how to show them yet, just that they will be shown.

What I've written here is mostly about what I'm going to get across. I haven't wholly decided how it will be gotten across. Aside from the uncertainties of things I've left vague, how does the plot sound?

hillwalker3000

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Re: "The Death of Mr. Miller"-rough summary
« Reply #3 on: June 11, 2014, 08:49:36 AM »
how does the plot sound?

A man discovers what a failure his life turned out to be when he comes back from the dead.

Simple enough plot - it's what you do with it that will decide how it works out. Good luck.

H3K

Offline 2par

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Re: "The Death of Mr. Miller"-rough summary
« Reply #4 on: June 11, 2014, 08:55:16 PM »
Okay, I think you're going to have to decide how to treat the realms of life and death, and possibly the realm in between them where it just might be possible for them to at least feel something different is around them.

Also, I don't seem to be able to feel anything for any of the characters. The regrets that each has must have some type of closure. For instance, if Mr. M. sees what a failure he was as a human, perhaps he can make a determination to do something for each of those he left behind. There has to be conflict. Where is it? The mother and Roger. The mother and daughter. The daughter and a boyfriend. All are related to the man's passing. He may take serious note of these things and resolve to help them come to ways of coping with their hidden griefs and forging new resolutions.

There are several plays where the wife talks to the dead husband - of course, most of them do not know if the dead one is able to hear them, but they communicate with faith. Somehow it relieves them of certain stresses and helps to confirm their resolutions. And there are other plays, Carousel comes to mind, where the dead man communicates with faith and the wife feels, or knows, that things will be well.

Offline Slow_Walker

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Re: "The Death of Mr. Miller"-rough summary
« Reply #5 on: June 12, 2014, 06:51:46 AM »
Act 2 I'm not so sure about.b) 'Something unearths him' - this is going to be a major stumbling block. Are we talking earthquake? Someone with an excavator? A raccoon? Coffins don't usually get unearthed, do they?
Okay, now that we know he's a ghost, he doesn't have to be unearthed, he just needs to wake up...perhaps wearing the opposite colours (light grey for dark grey, etc.) to what he wore when he was being buried? - think Randall & Hopkirk (Deceased)...and possibly needs to check the calendar to emphasise the passing of time.

Offline themillionthmonkey

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Re: "The Death of Mr. Miller"-rough summary
« Reply #6 on: June 12, 2014, 11:40:44 AM »
I think the initial conceit is good: a man's ghost realises that he wasn't loved, even by the people supposedly closest to him. The big unanswered question is then what does he do about it? Currently, he does nothing but mope a bit and then leave - would a bit of rage-filled haunting be out of the question? Perhaps Mr Miller somehow takes revenge on Roger for being with his wife, becoming in death the force that he failed to be while alive? A climax of the play in which Mrs Miller has to beg her dead husband to spare the life of her lover even though she has since repented the relationship and pushed Roger away could be quite dramatic and compelling.

I also wonder about the relevance of the daughter, and generally don't find her believable. She is ambivalent towards her father's death at his funeral despite the fact that he was not a bad person. If Miller's daughter is repressing or severing her emotional ties with her father, the chances are that it's because he did something awful enough to make that happen. Just being unremarkable is not enough (in my opinion) to make a child feel so little towards a parent. I think the daughter either needs a reason to have hated her father (perhaps the same reason Mrs Miller turned to comfort in the arms of another man?) or to be removed altogether from the story, as I don't feel she adds anything.

If I were to make a single suggestion about this piece, it would be to heighten everything. Make the characters more dramatic, the situations more tense, the scenes more compelling. At the moment it is a story about several ordinary people and beyond being a bit of a ghost story doesn't really have much drama to it. Try re-writing the plot but being as over the top as you can manage at every turn - it might be ridiculous, but you may also produce a few usable ideas.

Hope this helps and good luck with your play.

Offline ChonkyDay

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Re: "The Death of Mr. Miller"-rough summary
« Reply #7 on: June 13, 2014, 07:41:27 AM »
The concept is really interesting. I think that the story really should be fleshed out a little more, though. So far, as others have mentioned, there doesn't seem to be much conflict. I don't see any clear closure or story arc either. Everyone starts out unhappy, and then they all end up unhappy with the same feelings they had when Mr. Miller died.

This is definitely the type of play I would go see, but there needs to be some more work put into the story in order to give it some pizzazz. Maybe act two should be more about how everyone's moving on with their lives. Here are just some ideas:

- Mrs. Miller could see that she made a mistake marrying Roger and leave him, and then maybe visit Mr. Miller's grave and apologize.
- The daughter could realize that she always took Mr. Miller for granted and finally take steps to grieve.
- And Mr. Miller could have closure in knowing that his family has moved on and he could maybe do something to prove that he's sorry for being such a bland and distracted all the time.

If you don't want it to end on a happy note, there still needs to be some closure other than just Mr. Miller accepting the fact that he's dead. There's no major change in his character, or any of the characters from the beginning to the end and it doesn't make for great viewing.

Offline SoundGeare

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Re: "The Death of Mr. Miller"-rough summary
« Reply #8 on: June 14, 2014, 08:17:08 PM »
Thank you for your critiques and opinions. I will definitely take them into account when it comes to the writing of this. You've given me some interesting ideas, and I'm glad the idea doesn't instantly ring a thousand copyright bells.
I will find a way to work in more conflict, but I've intended to keep the assorted griefs without any closure to show exactly what has been lost, rather than show a brief sadness then patch it up by conversing with a ghost. The conflict is generally internal: how each character reacts to Mr. M's death.
That's a good idea on the costume change, but I'll have to think about it. The second act is based around Mr. M realizing that he is dead, so providing such a concrete marker might mess with that.
I see that the daughter's character is unrealistic, and will work on her motivations. Sadly, a haunting would be out of the question, since Mr. M is a)not a ghost with any physical presence, and b)not likely (personality-wise) to react in any over the top or even remotely violent way. He was the type of person who sat in the passenger seat of their life and didn't mind.
And character growth is noted as a necessary.
This is in no way a finished work or concrete synopsis, so details of the plot are still to be worked out. However, I know now that it is a mostly original idea, so I can begin work on it. Surely there will be some half dozen edits and/or rewrites before I have a finished product, but I have a good direction in mind.
Writing begins Monday, wish me luck!

Offline ChonkyDay

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Re: "The Death of Mr. Miller"-rough summary
« Reply #9 on: June 14, 2014, 09:20:25 PM »
Good luck!  ;D

Offline greyman

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Re: "The Death of Mr. Miller"-rough summary
« Reply #10 on: June 14, 2014, 11:18:45 PM »
Love that line about keeping pencils sharpened, some black humor will help out what will otherwise be a very dark play. I don't think his coffin needs to be unearthed per se, maybe he just wakes up on top of his grave and can't figure out why?

Offline SoundGeare

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Re: "The Death of Mr. Miller"-rough summary
« Reply #11 on: June 15, 2014, 12:49:33 AM »
Depending on how my mood swings while writing, this is going to include either some or a lot of irony and black humor. Especially during the second act. I feel I should have mentioned this before, but at least it's out now.

Offline 2par

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Re: "The Death of Mr. Miller"-rough summary
« Reply #12 on: June 15, 2014, 01:17:16 AM »
Wait a second there, Sound. Before you go off on thinking about black humor, and other clever writing, etc., the first thing you have to think about is the story - the beginning, the middle and the end. If you don't have conflict and change, then there's no story.

Offline SoundGeare

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Re: "The Death of Mr. Miller"-rough summary
« Reply #13 on: June 15, 2014, 11:42:32 AM »
I know. I didn't say I was going to use black humor instead of a story. I'm going to figure out the story, and then as I'm writing add black humor/irony. That's just how it is in my head right now.

Offline 2par

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Re: "The Death of Mr. Miller"-rough summary
« Reply #14 on: June 25, 2014, 09:28:47 PM »
Okay. Figure out what you want to Say...what your theme is.