Amy Klinger

Scene Stealers: A Few Faves from In Light of Recent Events

At this point in its existence, the actual writing of In Light of Recent Events (shorthand: ILORE)is a bit of a blur. Part of that is due to the nature in which it was written—over a decade, essentially in hour-long increments in the evening after working full-time and wrangling a family. But even without picking up a copy of the book, I can pretty easily rattle off my favorite scenes. The intriguing part of this exercise was thinking about why I like them.

If you haven’t read the book yet, you might want to bookmark this page as I can neither confirm nor deny the presence of spoilers.

No secret, it was a lot of fun writing the scenes between Audrey and Pooter. I knew how critical their first interaction would be in setting the tone for the book. While many of their other scenes were trashed or rewritten, this one remained remarkably intact from the first draft. Catching these two characters in the middle of what could have been any number of mundane moments in the five-day work week was given a lift by Pooter’s realization that the rhythm of the copy machine is the same as Talking Heads’ song “Road to Nowhere.” For Audrey and Pooter, it’s these kinds of small, unexpected bright spots in the day that make bearable the routine, the interminable meetings, and the gnawing feeling that they’re busy working but getting nothing done. Indeed, a road to nowhere. (But ask me how I really feel about corporate environments…)

Having completed an earlier version of the story that was completely first-person, it felt like a missed opportunity to give small windows into some of the supporting characters. Obviously, Pooter, but also Jamie, and in the end, Dan. When I started imagining Jamie’s childhood, it opened a lot of memories of my own. I, too, remember the gypsy moth infestation, including the day the airplanes rained pesticides on the town. My own experience was nothing quite as dramatic as Jamie’s. I was probably ten or eleven and we just stayed in the house while school was cancelled. Those images, though, of writhing, dying caterpillars pouring out of the trees and carpeting the ground will forever be burned in my brain.

Daisy was a later addition to the story, and I’m so glad she showed up. Her confidence, smarts, and WYSIWYG way of being were a joy to write dialogue for. And she talks a lot in this scene, showing off her smarts with a wink rather than condescension. She turned out to be the perfect foil to call bullshit on Pooter’s bullshit. Not-so-fun fact: I have since discovered that twice in this scene, I misspelled Wendell as Wendall. My humble and sheepish apologies, Mr. Berry.

RIGID FLOSSES, pages 255-256
Everyone knows a “Rigid” Knutsen. Someone who is a complete rule stickler with superhuman organizational skills and maybe not the best bedside manner. That’s the person on the surface. What I imagine, though, is that for people like Bridget, this committed sense of caring doesn’t stop at superficial things like process and neatness, it extends to the people around them even if they’re not able to express it. I knew I wanted to show that side of Bridget, upending Audrey’s expectations in a big way. It’s not Dan or Pooter or Jamie or Julie that comes to Audrey’s rescue, it’s competent, controlled Bridget—the person you want in your corner when the shit hits the fan.

TUG O’WAR WITH MRS. ASS, pages 267-269
Mrs. Ass and her unfortunate nickname were inspired by a woman who lived in the apartment next to my sister probably twenty years ago. We never knew her name or interacted with her because every time we were on the grounds in her vicinity, she would bend over and start gardening, hence, her rear was the only part of her we ever saw. The gesture seemed so deliberate, it left me imagining a backstory for her. But rather than making Mrs. Ass a benign presence, there was something really satisfying about having her turn menacing in the end…or as menacing as an old lady strapped to a gurney with an oxygen mask over her face could be.

What I most hope for readers of ILORE is that these scenes and all the ones built around them are fun to read, make people laugh, and maybe call to mind personal recollections about work and life and growing up as a kid and growing up as a grown-up. I’d love to hear these stories from you.

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