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My Continuing Feud with Hattie Harrington and All That She Stands For

November 26, 2012

Hattie Harrington is not a real person. She doesn’t live anywhere, she doesn’t have any children, she’s never had a job, as a matter of fact, she’s never even taken a breath.

But alas, she continues to haunt me.

Hattie Harrington was a character in my first almost-full-length play. All the Young and Restless Days of Our Passions at the Bold and Beautiful Hospital, my homage to soap operas, was going to take the playwriting world by storm. It was going to afford me the high life that all one-time-published playwrights enjoy. The big cars, the flashy life, the ability to help all the poor people in the world (even the ones that were not yet poor but would be at some point—published playwrights can also see the future)…all because of this one amazing play. I directed my masterpiece, putting it on stage at a summer camp, and then I spent several hundred dollars printing and binding the scripts, and sending them to every publishing company I could find. I imagined that in the ensuing bidding war, I was going to have to break a lot of publishers’ hearts.

Only it wasn’t theirs that got broken.

Well, okay—I didn’t get my heart broken. But rejection letters...aren’t pleasant. Especially if you’re living in an imaginary world where your plays are fantastic from the beginning and need no extra work. Most of the rejections were form letters, some said they loved the title (which I actually can’t take credit for, so THANKS), and once I even got the dreaded “It looks like you had fun writing this” (which is what I imagine you tell a three-year-old when they show you a picture they drew with thousands of lines and colors but for the life of you, you don’t see a bear anywhere.)
I was in shock. How could this happen? After mentally mocking the lack of knowledge shared by these so-called publishing companies, I read my script again. But it was as if I were reading it for the first time
because the problem was so glaringly obvious.

Hattie Harrington.

You see, Hattie Harrington, the daughter of Halice Harrington, was probably the most horribly written character in the history of the written word. She was boring, unlikable, and offered no justification for her fictional existence. I did give her an exciting objective: kill her uncaring mother. But that was all I gave her. And when I went back and read her scenes, her dialog was reminiscent of Charlie Brown’s teacher. True, she might be saying words, but were they any better than that “waw waw waw” sound? No, they were not.

But as hideously written as Hattie was, what she represented was even worse. She represented my failure to look at my work honestly, to see the [desperate] need for improvement. Some people even offered me critiques of my work, but I ignored them because clearly I knew better. If I had taken those critiques to heart, the play would have been better. Probably.

Now, I try to keep the focus on telling the best story. I’m more open to critiques, more willing to work and rework scenes or plays. Taking the focus off my ego and placing it squarely on the story has made a huge difference.

Recently, I started reworking AtYaRDoOPatBaBH. I kept the characters I liked, even some of the scenes that worked pretty well, and I hope to repackage it as a good play.

Alas, there is no Hattie. Her spirit, however, is felt every time I work on...anything. So maybe instead of feuding with her...I should thank her. But then I realize I can’t. Because she isn’t real.
-Steven Stack

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