Charlotte Dent #Excerpt by @MorganRichter #ChickLit #BookClub #Fiction

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Trinket held her hands in front of her chest, palms and fingers touching. Spine ramrod straight, feet turned out, posed like a brass statue of Shiva. “In your hands is today’s assignment. Each of you has a scene from a brand-new play from a contemporary playwright. Your part will be marked. First of all, you need to find your scene partner. Then you and your partner will have fifteen minutes to read through your scene and create your character. Remember all we’ve learned thus far about character study. Go.”

Did drama class really need to be run like a game show? She opened her envelope. Already students were milling about, peeking onto others’ script pages in search of their scene partner. She looked at her scene and saw she was playing someone named Harmony. Her lines were highlighted. Trinket must have spent the whole day highlighting lines and sticking script pages into envelopes. Harmony’s scene was opposite someone named Addie. She looked around for her Addie.

Oh, hell. It was Melissa. Melissa had the matching scene, only with Addie’s lines highlighted. 

Melissa was glossy and beautiful and lifeless, a low-wattage vortex that dragged her scene partners into the abyss with her. Charlotte had never worked with Melissa. She might be a lovely person, and Charlotte might be a rat for thinking so poorly of her. She smiled at Melissa and held up her script. “I think we’re partners.”

Melissa looked at her and shrugged and didn’t say anything. She looked down at the scene, then up at Charlotte. “What are we supposed to be doing with this again?” she asked.

“Read through it. Figure out our characters, discuss them with each other. Perform it.”

“Oh.” Melissa looked back down at the pages for a long time. “Am I Harmony or… how’s that pronounced?”

“Addie. I think that’s you. See, your lines are highlighted.”

“Oh.” Melissa looked at her pages again, eyes fixed on the brief lines of character description at the top of the page. Charlotte read them, too: Harmony is a beautiful, strong-willed sixteen-year-old impoverished Appalachian girl who has become pregnant by Thomas, the governor’s son. In this scene, her God-fearing, tyrannical mother Addie throws her out of the house for what she perceives as a mortal sin.

“So I’m supposed to be an old lady?” Melissa wrinkled her nose.

“You’re the mother of a sixteen-year-old. You might not be exactly ancient.”

Melissa thought about it for a moment. “I think I’d had have a better understanding of the other character, the girl. We should probably switch.”

Because the Melissas of the world tended to get under her skin more than they should, Charlotte let her dangle. “The focus of the class is on developing characters. Good practice to play a character you’re not comfortable with.”

The look Melissa gave her was so humorless and filled with so much dislike Charlotte was sorry she’d bothered. She shrugged. “If you really want to switch, I don’t care.”

“Thanks.” Melissa beamed at her, best friends forever, and handed her the script pages. “It makes more sense. I’m just a young girl. It’s not like I’d ever be called on to play an old lady.”

“Fair enough.” It wasn’t. Charlotte should forget about it and move on. In the long run, this attitude would stunt Melissa’s future growth as an actor. In theory. In reality, the Melissas tended to do quite well for themselves, thank you very much. “Should we read?”

They did. The dialogue was bad on the page, leaden and obvious. That didn’t mean anything; good performers could deliver clumsy lines with grace. Melissa was stumbling and stilted, her inflections wrong, her delivery that of a child mangling the Scriptures at a Nativity pageant.

Melissa stopped mid-sentence. She reached into her pocket and extracted her vibrating phone, then frowned at the display screen.

“It’s my agent. I need to take this,” she said. She moved to the door and stepped into the hallway, already talking.

Agent. Melissa had an agent. That didn’t mean anything. It wasn’t a quantifiable measure of success. It didn’t mean Melissa was on the road to somewhere whereas Charlotte was doomed to a life of photocopying and fetching coffee.


When struggling actress Charlotte Dent is cast as a leggy killer robot in a big, brainless summer blockbuster, the subsequent hiccup of fame sends a shock wave through her life. The perks of entry-level celebrity are balanced by the drawbacks: destructive filmmakers, online ridicule, entitled costars, and an awkward, unsatisfying relationship with the film’s fragile leading man. Self-aware to a fault, Charlotte fights to carve out a unique identity in an industry determined to categorize her as just another starlet, disposable and replaceable. But unless she can find a way to turn her small burst of good fortune into a durable career, she’s destined to sink back into obscurity.

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Genre - General Fiction, Chick Lit
Rating - PG
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