Josh Barkey's Sick and Twisted Winning Contest Entry

Statistically speaking, it is probably easier to become a professional athlete than a professional screenwriter.

Over the past few years I've been doing everything I could think of to increase my chances, and one of those things is to upload scripts to The Blacklist website. For the un-initiated, The Blacklist is a Hollywood "best of" list. Every year, they poll various industry insiders and compile a list of the most-loved, but as-yet-unproduced screenplays floating around La-La-Land. You can't campaign to get on the list, but if you do manage to swing a spot, you're golden.

So anyways, the dude who puts together The Blacklist decided to use the cachet of the name to create a place for unproduced writers to get read. For a fee, you can upload your script to their site. And if their paid readers like what you've written, they'll recommend you to industry professionals.

The Blacklist people also run a blog called Go Into The Story, which is one of the best places on the internets for screenwriters to get screenwriting scuttlebut.  Go Into The Story recently ran a week-long, daily scene-writing challenge

The prize for the sixth day was my choice of either hosting or evaluation services on The Blacklist website, so I thought I'd give it a rip and maybe save a little money. 

The challenge? 

"Without using dialog, write a scene that reveals a man as a father who loves his son/daughter (not present in the scene).  WITHOUT using a photograph. Let's get more creative. No more photo-gazing, despite it being a quick and easy shortcut."

First, I read a couple of the winning entries from the previous day's challenges, in order to guesstimate the judge's tastes. Then I lay down on my floor, stared at the ceiling, and thought about what it means to be a loving father. When something came to me I went to my computer, sat down, and banged out the following scene.




A MAN sits on the edge of a rumpled bedspread, wearing only his pajama-bottoms. He is middle-age, middle-class, middle-weight… middle everything. He looks like death. He IS dead, almost.

He watches the floor as a WOMAN throws clothes into a suitcase lying open on the bed behind him.

She, too, looks dead. The sort of desiccated emptiness that comes when all the tears that can fall already have.

The Woman gently closes the suitcase. She watches the Man with a weary tenderness.

She SNAPS the suitcase-clasps shut.

At the sound, the man JOLTS a little, then settles back into himself.

The Woman picks up the suitcase and walks out of the room.

A door SLAMS.

The Man JOLTS again.

This time, he gets up. Walks across to a dresser. Pulls it open, and removes a small, snub-nosed pistol.

He flips open the pistol and removes all but one of the bullets.

The Man takes the pistol and steps into the


Halfway down the hallway he stops, turns, and steps in through an open door.

A moment later, he emerges clutching a bedraggled teddy bear. His pistol-hand drags a small, pale-blue blanket.

He tucks the pistol into the back of his pajamas.

He walks down the hall, out the front door of a suburban home and into a crisp, winter day. 


Snow covers the ground. The Man's breath is visible.

He walks, barefoot and shirtless, toward a sensible silver SUV. The 
Woman sits inside it. Forehead against the steering wheel.

The Man TAPS on the window.

The Woman looks up, her eyes streaming tears.

The Man lifts the teddy bear, offering it to her.

The Woman CHOKES, hard, on a sob. She keys the ignition, JAMS the car into gear, and PEELS out of there, in reverse.

The Man stands, watching the bare patch of concrete where the SUV had been.

The Man walks to the middle of his lawn.

Behind him, by the front door of the house, we can just make out a few wilted bouquets, with cards.

The Man pulls the pistol from the back of his pajamas.

He lies down on the snow in the middle of the lawn, and drapes the small blanket over himself.

He clutches the teddy bear close.

He puts the barrel of the pistol into his mouth.

He closes his eyes.




Now, before you judge me to be a completely perverse person (Who thinks of suicide when asked about what it means to be a loving parent?!?), I'd just like to point out that A. To me one bit of evidence that really shows how much I love my son is that the only thing I can think of that could ever potentially drive me to such dark ends is to lose him, and B. I beat out the twenty-seven other entries and won the competition.

So there. 

- - -

*Note: I put a lot of time into giving you this ad-free reading experience. If this post means something to you, you are more than welcome to pay me back by linking the bejeebers out of it on your social medias. And/or better yet, you could go pick up a copy of my book, "IMMORTALITY (and other short stories)." Dankegratzithanks.


  1. Congratulations Josh!

    Interesting choice for a scene. I'm curious why he only puts one bullet in the revolver. I'm also interested about your choice of a gunshot to end the scene instead of a click. And then maybe another click.

    Before I read your scene, I close my eyes and tried think of a scene of my own. I'm not a father, but what came to mind was also about loss: a single father dressed in black ushers out the last well-wisher dressed in black, from the looks of the interior of the house it's pretty obvious there was a funeral reception of some sort, a couple of matronly older ladies are doing dishes in the kitchen adjacent from the living room and one of them looks over to the father with profound sadness, the father looks around with an empty stare and heads up the stairs into his son's room where he proceeds to gently acquaint himself with what's left of his sons world. Something like that.

    Congratulations again, nice job.

    1. Thanks, Mark.

      Throwing in a couple of clicks is an interesting thought. But I'd still probably wanna go out with a bang. Because I'm sick like that :)

  2. LOL. Yeah, you are. Why one bullet though, I'm curious.

    1. Your curiosity is a beautiful thing. Why would I ever want to kill it?


Post a Comment

Popular Posts