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NYU Tisch Dramatic Essay - "Hear My Notes"

Kiera9473 1  
Jul 27, 2017   #1
This is my dramatic essay for my NYU Tisch Film and Television application! I literally just finished it and would love some advice. I know it's pretty rough right now which is why I wanted to start early on my essays. Any advice to improve would be great!

Prompt: Dramatic Story - Introduce yourself. Describe an unforgettable event in your life and how it changed your perception of yourself or the view of someone close to you. This event can be dramatic and/or comedic. The assignment should be written as a short story. Please do not write about why or what lead you to pursue a degree in film and television production. Ultimately we are looking for evidence of your potential as a visual storyteller.

Hear My Notes

I almost got this. And no mom, I won't go to sleep until I get this.

Easter bunny goes dancing at Easter. EBGDAE. It's as easy as that. If only my fingers can pluck each string in order while saying the string names in my head. Some may hear a broken note played as my dedicated fingers tried to pluck one string while my pinky accidently hit another. As for me, I hear a voice. A humble voice speaking more than just the "Easter bunny goes dancing at Easter". A humble voice loud enough to push my fingers across the aluminum strings covered in dust from an old lamp hanging above. The voice was the only tune I needed to hear. This voice was the chorus to my unfinished song. This voice was my grandmother's. This voice stops time.

Time. My mind travels back to a time when my song first began. My hesitant eyes daze upon a clock as the tip of my pencil taps my blank homework sheet. 7:00...That's all I wanted to read. Brriiinnngg!!! The vibrato of the phone. Run. Pick up the phone before anyone else can. I know who it is because they always call right between homework time and dinner time. The perfect time. The vibrant voice of my grandmother says hello and asks how my day was. My answer is always the same, yet she is still enthusiastic every time I answer. However, my days aren't always as fine as I say they are. They aren't "fine" at all. I could make them if I tried to but the tunes won't flow out when I need them. I can't talk to anybody, as my social anxiety always gets the upper hand. This hand covers my mouth to which the notes are trapped and never see a time of freedom.

Freedom. That's what she gave me. As I pick up the phone, the voice forces the hand off and the notes flow out to whichever tune it chooses. As for today, this tune will be about my wildest dreams. I tell her I want to become a rock star. It's ironic, I know. How can I not be able to speak a single word in social situations yet want to scream a song at the top of my lungs? It doesn't matter to my grandmother. It's the best dream she has ever heard.

She says, "Work hard in silence. Let your success be your noise."

I told her I wanted to get a guitar to play like the legends, Slash and Ozzy Osbourne. She tells me she also wants to get a guitar so we can learn together and become rock stars. I mean how awesome would it be to have a rock star grandma? That's how cool she was. She would learn just for me. She wanted me to be myself, to stop worrying, and to just enjoy the moment.

A few weeks afterwards my grandmother bought a guitar. A "First Act: Adam Levine" guitar. It's not a Fender but it does the job for now. She says she will wait until I get mine so we can practice together. Who knew it would take days...months...even years for me to get my own. Who knew it would be too late.

Its August 3, 2010. We just came back from Dallas, TX from visiting my grandmother in the hospital. I have never felt so much regret or emptiness in my life. While visiting her, I felt as if all my songs have stopped, the singer has walked off stage and the curtains are closing. I don't know how, but I knew this would be the end of my duet. I knew she was sick, and it hurt so much that I couldn't feel my body and my mind was hallow. All the words I ever wanted to say to her, the thank you's and the good bye's were all gone....stopped by the hand that has been muting my notes my entire life. I couldn't say anything. There was no completion to this song. My 10 year old voice went back to being barely a month old, not being able to speak a word.

But I wanted to speak. I wanted to make noise. Sadly, it took till after her death for me to actually do something about it. Nothing was gonna stop me. I picked up her First Act guitar from the boxes in her home and struck a note. Any note. Turns out my song wasn't over, it was never over. I can and will finish this song until my fingers can play these strings anymore.

So no mom, I can't go to sleep. Not yet. I don't watch the clock anymore. I do what it does. Keep going. I am going to teach myself all that I can about this guitar whether it takes me hours, days or years. Nothing is going to stop my song from ringing through every ear in this world. The hand has been defeated by the music in my soul and plays every word I ever meant to say but I never have the notes to do so. I went from playing "Easter bunny goes dancing at easter" string by string to playing Ozzy Osbourne's Crazy Train in no time. I play over and over again until it becomes who I am. Her voice is the power chord in my soul that keeps mind at ease and allows my song to continue with every note being louder than the last.
Holt [Contributor] 1543  
Jul 27, 2017   #2
Kiera, I know this is a rough draft so you have loads of room for improvement. I feel like this is more of a narrative than a short story presentation. I think your essay needs more physical interaction between characters and more dialogue to break the narrative. the character dialogue should be read instead of implied in order to create a better visual of what is going on. Let the dialogue set up the scene and deliver the memorable moments. It's a short story, so make the scenes flow in a way that is fluidly transfers the scene to your grandmother getting ill and eventually dying. Make it a more memorable scene. Perhaps you telling her you are sorry it took you so long to get a guitar and her saying she will practice in heaven with you or something like that. There really is a lot more room for the narrative to become more interactive. That should help to better highlight your potential as a visual story teller.

This is a really interesting expositional read. I liked it a lot; it was very emotional and easy to understand. But yeah, I have to agree with Holt. I'm not sure I'd consider it an actual story. It reads a lot more like a journal entry. It also feels like you are trying to get a lot in, and, in doing so, you're rushing all of the parts instead of really giving the reader one descriptive scene.

I think you need to pare this down and pick one interaction to focus on. Maybe it's you arguing with your mom about how you won't go to bed until you've practiced more. Maybe it's the interaction with your grandmother, or you at her funeral upset that she died before you could actually get your guitar. It could be scene where you tell her everything you wanted to tell her, where you imagine that she is able to respond (so that you can create some sort of back and forth dialogue. Maybe it's you and your family going through her things when you find her guitar.

You have a lot of directions you could take. Don't push it too hard- your writing is evocative; you just need to narrow it down and dig in.
OP Kiera9473 1  
Jul 28, 2017   #3
Thank you both very much. I agree with your comments and took your considerations in mind when revising the essay. I focused mainly on adding a story and dialogue and making it less of a narrative. I also added more details to make everything flow and add to the visualization aspect. Here is my revised essay:

Hiddengrace [Contributor] 68  
Jul 30, 2017   #4
I see that you did some revisions but it still doesn't flow as a coherent story. I like that you added more dialogue, but I still think it needs a narrower focus. It seems like you're trying to tell this huge story, from you practicing, your grandmother's voice and a short conversation, telling her your dream, her getting a guitar, visiting her at the hospital, and again practicing.

I get that you're trying to convey this journey you had and why it led you to this point, but each little scene reads like a flashback and they don't add up to create the story of one event. Further, it highlights your practicing guitar alone in your room, which the least powerful out of everything you've got in this essay.

I still think that highlighting one scene from this story will make a world of difference. It'll give you the room to create a setting that the reader can visualize and allow them to get into your head at the exact moment you want them to be.

Also, just an editing note- watch your tenses. You switch back and forth a lot between past and present tense and that should be fixed.
OP Kiera9473 1  
Aug 7, 2017   #5
Thank you so much for your feedback. I really appreciate it. I also see that the story isnt coherent. I also took out the first paragraph so it seems less like a flashback. I have always struggled with keeping the tenses the same in a story haha. I changed it up again to where it is more present tense, but there may still be a few errors. Anyway you can point out exactly where these errors are? Thank you for your time.

It's the same routine everyday. My song plays over and over again. It's like a life style now. My hesitant eyes (...) The perfect time. "Hello?" says the sweet voice of my grandmother. "Grandma!" the joy in my heart screams. "How are you?" she says. My answer is (...)

(...) We could talk about anything for hours. "So what are you up to now? What big dream is going through that mind today?" She asks. "I have a new dream now grandma. I want to become a rock star. I want to rock out on a guitar to my favorite songs! I wanna be on stage with the legends, shredding my guitar during the solos then smashing it at the end like the cool guys!" I said. It's ironic, I know. (...)

"I want to get a guitar to play like the legends, Slash and Ozzy Osbourne! Mom won't let me get one now, but I'll get one eventually." I said hopefully. "That's great! I'll get one too, and maybe that way we could learn together! It could be like our little band!" She says. My eyes lit up with glee. I mean how awesome (...)

(...) "I'll wait to you get yours so we can practice together, ok?" She says over the phone. I can't wait either.

(...) All I could do was stare at her. Not a word could leave my mouth. The hand won the battle again. She said, "Kiera, why are you looking at me like that? What's wrong?" I didn't notice I was staring. All I could say was "No reason, I'm fine." Fine. Out of all words, I choose "fine". I look over to see the guitar in the corner, still in the box. She has barely played it. She was waiting for me. I really wanted to say, "Grandma, I'm sorry I never got my guitar. I'm sorry you had to wait for me. I'm sorry we never got to learn together. I'm sorry that these words took so long to come out. I'm sorry I'm always sorry too. If only if I could just hear your voice, just one last time." But for once in my life, the tables were turned, and all she could say was...nothing. I can no longer physically hear her. I'm sad. I'm angry at the world. I want to make noise. Sadly, it took till after her (...) And she's there, somewhere, screaming "Encore!"

(...) I want to go from playing "Mary Had A Little Lamb" to playing Ozzy Osbourne's "Crazy Train" in no time. I will play over and over again until it becomes who I am. In my head, I can still hear her voice. I just have to believe I can. Her voice (...) No more waiting to become. It's time to simply be.
Hiddengrace [Contributor] 68  
Aug 8, 2017   #6
@Kiera9473, I see that you are working hard to make your story flow better, but I still think it's too much in one essay. you are severely limiting your storytelling capabilities by trying to do too much in a limited amount of space. I think the best part is the August 3rd sequence, and I think with some skill, you can also get in bits and pieces of the other parts too. Also, since this all happened in the past, why did you choose present tense instead of past tense?

If this were my story, I might write something like this:

Visiting my grandmother in the hospital, I couldn't help but remember her as the lively, encouraging role model she has always been to me. Even though she was pale and fragile in that hospital bed, she still cared more about me than she did about herself. I don't know how she did it. I felt so hollow I could barely form a sentence, and she was the one asking me what was wrong when it should have been the other way around. I noticed the box in the corner of her hospital room. She had brought her guitar with her even though she barely played it, and she couldn't know that that meant to me. Looking at the guitar, still in it's cheap box, I remembered the day she told me she was going to buy one. That was the same day that I decided I wanted to learn, the day my rockstar dreams were born. Ironically, my social anxiety made it hard to have even the simplest conversations in public; I knew my anxiety would add to the challenge, but my grandmother believed in me.

"Work hard in silence," she told me. "Let your success be your noise." I grew more confident with her encouragement, even though my mother wouldn't even let my get a guitar then. It didn't matter to my grandmother. In fact, she thought it would be fun to get her own guitar, too, so that we could learn together. "We could be our own little band," she told me, and though I didn't even have a guitar, I believed her. She would learn to play just for me. Those finger callouses would be worth it to her if it helped me to stop worrying and be myself.

Do you see how much more that feels like a story? I used what you wrote, but I slowed it down, and added in descriptions and actions (which you could add more). It's okay for the story to be in your head, so to speak, more than action and dialogue, but yours is so jumpy and the sentences are so choppy that it fells.... sloppy. I also changed up the order, used the last part as the beginning and then transitioned into remembering the past, and then you can go back into the future again.
OP Kiera9473 1  
Aug 11, 2017   #7
@Hiddengrace Thank you so much. This is reallly helping my story and also my story telling capabilities. I never really wrote stories, I actually dont even write that much, so this really helps. Thank you.

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