Novelizing a Screenplay: Rocket Summer – the Berta excerpt.

rocket summer movie posterHere’s the latest excerpt on the slowly progressing process of converting a screenplay into a novel.

Berta was a character that originally had a much bigger part in the story… she was inspired a bit by the storyline in Breaking Away, where the kid has to get a job at the local car wash. He’s derided by his pals for taking the job (and being responsible) and is so incensed by the whole thing that he quits before he even starts, punching the time clock (literally) and walking off before his first shift begins.

I always felt like that was an interesting story point, but that by having him quit right away, we missed an opportunity to see how the experience of working  might have affected the story.

Berta was my take on that… Lacey’s boss at the job Lacey hates. But I kept Lacey on the job, because I felt it was part of her maturation process. Through all the edits, Berta’s part has been mightily whittled down, but I’ve brought some of it back in the novel.


The kitchen at The Angry Bull wasn’t any better than the dining room. Lacey was standing at the sink under flickering fluorescent lights, running hot water and watching the steam bead up and run down the greasy yellow wall, when Berta rolled in. She was a big woman, completely obscuring the seat of the electric scooter that wheezed somewhere beneath her. Tiny dimpled nicotine stained baby hands clenched the little handlebars. She talked around the cigar butt clenched in her teeth, and her voice was gravel in a tin can. “Lacey! Why you standin’ around? I pay you to stand around?”

Lacey shifted her weight. The sticky floor smacked like wet lips under her sneakers. “Just waitin’ for the washer to finish. Should be done in a sec’.”

“You got time to lean, you got time to clean.” Berta jabbed toward the sink with a pink sausage finger. “You see that crap around the drain? That black crap? That ain’t supposed to be there. You scrape that crap up while you’re waitin’.” She tossed the cigar butt into the sink. “Then the garbage goes out to the dumpster. Tomorrow’s pickup day. Time is money, girl. Time is money.”

She jockeyed her scooter around, and buzzed slowly away to her office.

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