Saturday, September 9, 2017

Savvy Saturday: Behind the Scenes Look at Unscripted by J.S. Marlo

~ * ~
His chair tipped back against the wall and his feet up on the top of his desk, Blythe stared out the window on his left while contemplating the last scene of the script in his head.
“Hello, honey.” Sweeter than liquid sugar, the sound of Isabella Neuville’s voice interrupted his reflections and made Blythe’s stomach churn. Without waiting for an invitation that would never have materialized, the stunning actress who played Vivian entered his cubicle. “You look lonely tonight.”
He was lonely, but that wasn’t something he wanted to remedy with her. “You should go home, Bella, before your skirt shrinks up to your cheeks.” And he didn’t mean the ones above her neck.
“Miniskirts are back in fashion, honey.” Like a cougar on the prowl, the blonde actress sat on the corner of his desk and leaned sideways across the top. “This little black leather skirt cost me a fortune. Don’t you like it?”
“No.” Overpriced and distasteful. “Get off my desk, Bella.”
Unlike many of his colleagues, Blythe liked having a big desk with large drawers. It gave him ample space to store memos, receipts, schedules, and his briefcase, and as an added bonus, it created a physical barrier between him and the unwanted guests entering his cubicle. Tonight, however, the obstacle hadn’t deterred Bella.
Propped on an elbow near his feet with her head cupped in the palm of her hand, she crossed one leg over her knee as if she intended to crawl toward him. Her long, toned legs showed off more skin than a beach volleyball player on a hot summer day, but he wasn’t interested in her fine attributes.
“In case you haven’t noticed, I’m busy.” He didn’t bother to conceal the aggravation in his voice. The script on his lap should have been a clue not to disturb him. “I’m reviewing the scene for the retake tomorrow morning.”
Her dark eyelashes fluttering like the wings of a hornet, she inched her free hand toward his knee and clawed at his pants.
“We could review together.” Whispered huskily, the words rustled with sultry overtone.
Disgusted by her shameless attempts to flirt, he grabbed his script, straightened his chair, and lowered his feet to the floor. “For the second time, Bella. Get off my desk.”
“It’s late.” Apparently oblivious to his request, she maintained her pose and tucked a lock of blonde hair behind her ear, showing off a pearl earring. “Would you like to join me for dinner?”
Her interest in him confounded him. For as long as he’d known her, she’d lived up to her reputation of only dating men that were at least a decade younger than she was. Surely she’d noticed his age. “I’m going to the hospital.”
She nibbled on her bottom lip, looking deceptively innocent. “Wouldn’t you prefer to eat first? I’m sure you’re tired of hospital food.”
Hunger—or desperation—wasn’t enough to make him seek her company. “Don’t you have some poor college boys to chase?”
“Not tonight, honey. How’s Claire? Any news on then shooter?”
The private inquiry jabbed an invisible knife through his chest. Bella didn’t care about Claire’s condition any more than she cared about the baby-faced lovers she seduced then dumped. Her morbid curiosity didn’t deserve to be satisfied.
“Good night, Bella.” He spoke firmly without trying to keep the impatience out of his words. To his relief, she withdrew from his desk.
“One day you’ll need me.” Those lines might as well be written on her forehead. She repeated them every time she caught him alone.
“Don’t hold your breath.”
An exaggerated sigh preceded her dramatic exit.
Outside the window, the sun had set over the park across the road. In the maze of streets beyond his sight was the hospital where his happy past and empty future collided.
Blythe glanced at his watch. Already seven thirty? It’d been a long day on the set, and after six retakes, Martin still wasn’t happy with the last scene they shot. When the producer called it quits, Blythe had retreated into his cubicle to unwind and ponder the parts he could improve upon in the morning. Unfortunately for him, staring outside the window for an hour hadn’t provided any feedback, so he retrieved his briefcase from the lower drawer and stowed the script inside.
Silence filled the office he shared on the seventh floor with five other actors, not all from Wild Rescue. He stood and looked above the partitions. No sign of life.
He left the light on for the cleaning crew and exited into the corridor. The elevator was down the hall to the right, and past it was the Pencil Wing, the name given to the opposite end of the seventh floor where the writers’ offices were clustered.
He veered left and walked to the stairwell connecting with the parking garage. When he opened the door, he came face to face with a maintenance guy.
“Sorry, Mr. Huxley, but someone spilled gallons of purple paint on the stairs. It’ll be a couple hours before we’re done cleaning. You should take the elevator or the emergency exit in Pencil Wing.”
Unless he carried something heavy, Blythe preferred going up and down a flight of stairs to riding an elevator. It kept his legs moving and his heart pumping, the only exercise he had time for lately.
To access the emergency exit, he backtracked, passed the elevator, and ventured into a sideways corridor where he came to an abrupt halt near Andy’s office. The door was ajar. And a woman sat on her knees in the doorway.
“Riley?” She had no business being alone in the Pencil Wing tinkering with the lock of Andy’s door.
Her head snapped up, and a pocketknife clanked on the floor. “Hux? What—I mean Blythe—Mr. Huxley—” A rosy blush spread over her face. “How should I address you?”
It occurred to him he’d never properly introduced himself. “I’d prefer Blythe, but Hux is fine.” Bemused by her actions, he crossed his arms over his chest and stared. “What are you doing posing as a locksmith?”
Rumors had circulated all afternoon about a new female writer joining the writing team for the rest of the season. Blythe never paid much attention to the grapevine, but he made an exception for the woman he’d abandoned in the lion’s den. When Martin had a bad day, he acted like an insufferable bastard, and today had been one of those days.
“I was locked inside and couldn’t get out, so I had to improvise.” The doorknob lay in detached parts near her knees. “But now I have to fix the mess I made.”
Unsure of her explanation, he squatted by her side to examine her handiwork. “Why didn’t you call for help?”
“The recorded message on the phone gave me five options, none very useful.” As she spoke, she inserted the square peg into the pawl and aligned the screws with the hole.
“So you took the doorknob apart?” He was impressed. “Where did you find the knife?”
“I always carry it with me.”
The pocketknife lay on the floor near his foot. He picked it up. “How did you smuggle it on the plane?”
“It was in my checked suitcase. Are you always this nosy?”
“Yes.” Her no-nonsense attitude reminded him of Claire. “Where did you learn to reassemble a doorknob?”
“I live on an old ranch that needs constant repairs. If I waited for my husband to fix things, we’d still be pumping water and using an outhouse.”
With those few words, she’d unleashed his curiosity. “You’re an interesting character.”
“Really?” Soft laughter trickled through the word. “Somehow, that doesn’t sound like a compliment.” She extended her hand. “Knife, please.”
“Why don’t you let me finish?” When she declined his help, he surrendered the knife. “How did you end up trapped inside?”
“I’m not sure.” She used the blade as a screwdriver. “Do either Andy or Paul play practical jokes?”
“Not Andy.” The senior writer had showed up on the set around six. After Martin wrapped up the scene, he’d requested Andy’s presence in his office. “If I’m not mistaken, he’s still in a meeting with Martin.”
“I see.” She secured the last screw and smiled. “All done.”
The chrome plate was in place, and it didn’t look like anyone had tampered with it.
“Great job.” It was late, and like him, he suspected she hadn’t eaten yet. He stood, and she did the same. “Would you have dinner with me?”
“Me?” A look of surprise registered on her face. “I appreciate the offer, but don’t you have a wife or a girlfriend waiting for you?”
The reference to Claire soured his disposition, and he took a step back. He didn’t need to be reminded of his obligations toward his wife, not when his latest altercation with Bella was still fresh in his memory. To blurt out an invitation had been a mistake. She was a married woman he’d met hours earlier, not a longtime friend.
“I’m not sure what I said to upset you.” Chewing on her upper lip, she turned her attention back to her pocketknife. “Maybe I should leave now.”
Riley hadn’t known about his wife. That much was obvious. And since his character wasn’t married, Blythe didn’t wear his wedding ring at the studio. “Riley...” The last thing he wanted was to hurt her feelings over a misunderstanding. “I’m the one who should apologize. I’m married, but my wife is in a coma.”
Her mouth opened and then closed without saying any of the platitudes he’d come to loathe, and it encouraged him to continue. “Most nights, I eat at the hospital, alone. Not sure I recall the last real meal I had. I thought...” Maybe loneliness had prompted him to send the invitation. He shrugged, feigning nonchalance. “Not sure what I thought, but I didn’t mean to offend you or make it sound like a date.”
“I understand.” A richer shade of green clouded her eyes. “If the offer is still good, I’d be happy to have dinner with you.”
~ * ~

This is a scene taken from Unscripted – Duty Bound #1. It takes place inside a production studio. One of the many reasons I love that scene is that I get to introduce three amazing characters—Blythe, Isabella, and Riley—while showing two sides of Blythe’s personality.
Now, let’s delve deeper into the scene, shall we? For easier reference, I divided it in five colorful parts: blue, orange, purple, green, and red.

Let’s look at the blue section first: Isabella’s failed seduction attempt.

Isabella is a talented actress, so I figured if I exaggerated her shameless behavior, she would manage to make it ring true. She was my first “cougar”, so I had lots of fun writing that part, from miniskirt to college boy, but then she crawled on Blythe’s desk. Both my editor and I could see her on that desk, but I couldn’t give justice to her description. I must have written that scene a dozen times while my editor tore her hair out. Come to think of it, Blythe probably wanted to pull his hair—or Isabelle’s hair—out too LOL

Now that I look back at the entire scene, I realize I could have cut it into two or three different scenes.

Next stop, the orange section: after six retake, the producer wasn’t happy with the shot.

While I wrote Unscripted, a colleague at work asked me about the storyline. I told her it took place into a movie studio, and the two protagonists were a male actor whose wife was shot and a new female writer who joined the show. Well, my colleague knew a producer who was coming into town to shoot a documentary on emergency services. She introduced me to the producer and he allowed me to shadow him for two days while he filmed on location at the fire station. I sat on the production meetings, I met the actors, I held the script, I watched while they set the scenes and shot them, I talked to real firefighters, and got a tour of the fire station. It was an amazing experience and it provided me with so much inside information. One of the things that stuck me was the number of “retakes” the produced took. He did a retake even if the first scene was good, but he always stopped at six even if all the scenes were bad, because in his experience, it only went from bad to worse after six retakes. He preferred to restart fresh in the morning. I can honestly say, there was nothing glamorous about being on location for two long days. It was hard work and exhausting.

Now, let’s move to the purple section: Blythe’s face-to-face with the maintenance guy.

I needed an excuse for Blythe to take the stairs at the other end of the corridor instead of the ones near his office. I racked my brain to come up with something believable, but harmless, that could put a staircase out of commission for a few hours. Since it’s a production studio and there are indoor sets on the premises, I figured paint. I was painting at the time (I’m always painting something in the house), so I could see myself dropping a gallon while I rushed up or down the stairs. It would make a terrible mess in a staircase (and on my antique rose carpet), take a while to clean, and force Blythe to use the other exit. You may wonder why the paint is purple? Don’t worry, I wasn’t painting anything purple in the house. I just love purple.

And this was the reason the previous post was purple.

Here’s the green section: Riley fixing a doorknob.

One cold winter morning, not long after I started writing Unscripted, I went out to check my mail. It was -30C outside, so I pulled the door shut behind me. Well, the doorknob stayed in my glove. I wasn’t crazy about changing it when it was that cold. I could have asked my hubby to come back from work and do it, but he kind of resembles Riley’s husband, and I didn’t want to wait till spring for a new doorknob. Besides, there was a gaping hole in the door that let the frigid air in. It couldn’t wait. I also stuffed a rag in the hole before I drove to the hardware store, but that’s another story. Anyway, while I froze my fingers changing it, I swore I’d put a doorknob in pieces somewhere in my story. So, here it is. When my editor reviewed that part, she asked if I checked the name of all the knob parts. I’d kept the instruction sheet from the doorknob kit I bought, so it gave me the correct terms. My editor also asked where Riley found the knife since she flew in that day, and it couldn’t have been in her carry-on. See, that’s the reason Blythe is so nosy about the knife. My editor wanted to know.

Now let’s look at the final part of that scene, the red section: Blythe invites Riley for supper.

On set, Blythe projects a formidable and intimidating persona, but in reality, he’s a very private actor agonizing over his personal life. On the spur of the moment, he invites Ryley for supper, a friendly supper, not a romantic supper. Well, my editor sent me back that section many times for rewrite. She’d be like “Blythe is too pushy”, “Blythe is too creepy”, ”His motives are not clear”, “Why would Riley accept?” You know, it’s hard to explain why Blythe threw the invitation out when he doesn’t know why he did it either, but for me it was important to portray the real Blythe, not the actor. And Riley isn’t lying when she says she understands. Trust me. She truly does.

So, did I pique your curiosity yet? How about a nice blue blurb?

After a bullet shatters his world, actor Blythe Huxley befriends Riley Kendrick, a new writer on the television show Wild Rescue, never expecting to discover a kindred spirit.

No stranger to tragedy, Riley lends a compassionate ear to Blythe's difficulties and soon becomes entangled in a web of illicit affairs and deadly intrigue.

When an arsonist and a killer both strike, Riley's fate intertwines with Blythe's, and her life and her heart hang in the balance. Will they be able to protect their past? And save their future?

“Unscripted – Duty Bound #1” is available at

I am J. S. Marlo


You can visit my website at, email me at, follow me on twitter @JSMarloAuthor, or friend me on Facebook


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