Welcome to Designing from Bones! Today is my birthday, so I thought a real world piece would be appropriate. How to use those interesting moments one experiences to fuel stories or dramatic tension.
I love to watch Cops and other Weird/Foolish criminal shows during spare moments because they are such excellent fodder for drama.
A few years ago, I was watching Cops when one of my favorite moments exploded in dramatic effervescence.
The camera pans into a well-groomed yard of dirt as the police car squeals to a stop.
A large woman stands over a trussed up man beating him with the handset of an old-school corded phone. The woman is the one that called the police, supposedly with the same phone she is currently re-purposing.
Once the officers manage to pull her off the bound man they release him and try to figure out just how this bizarre moment unfolded. Now we get to the juicy part, the how, because friends that is where the story is.
Note that the man’s comments were sparse and barely coherent. The woman, however, had a great deal to say.
Let’s start with what would translate as the “ordinary world tropes” of this type of situation:
- The two were a dating couple not living together. Trope.
- There was alcohol involved. Trope – of course.
- And then a drunken argument started. Trope, without a doubt.
These are all what one would expect. Predictable.
This is Act 1, the ordinary world. With foreshadowing. The stage set for drama. Characters in motion. Ready for the first turning point?
The man striking the woman as a way to forcibly “win” the battle. A trope, but also a dramatic moment that changes the context of the fight and ensures tense conflict. Act Two begins.
The woman is not the type to take abuse. She is tough. She isn’t going to take being hit by any man. And so, she hits this dumb ass back. Shift to Battle Scene.
The two begin to wrestle and throw weak punches. Neither of these people would be considered “small” – this is a struggle of Titans.
- The guy thought he had a fighting chance (motivation, antagonist plan).
- Dude should have run (but antagonists never do).
- He tried to overpower the woman (got muscle?).
- Much to his dismay, this woman was one of the Furies reborn (and should have been wearing a cape).
Conflict escalates. The woman grabs the old cord and dial phone, nice weighty unit, and pounds the guy. Knocks him senseless. And then, the woman looks down and sees the elastic phone cord and has an epiphany (a False Victory which is typical of the Midpoint).
“If I can tie this guy up while he is stunned then I win the fight.” (protagonist has a new plan).
And so, she did. Wrapped him up better than a rodeo calf. But, even in defeat and bound, this guy would not stop struggling or shut up (antagonist never gives up, remember).
So she called the cops using the phone he was bound to and then unplugged it. Why? Well, so she could drag him outside for the cops because she didn’t want them to get dirt on her carpet. No joke. Maybe dirt stains more than blood and beer (wiki-tunity for anyone interested).
And yet. The guy.
Defeated. Bound. Beaten. Dragged into the Yard.
Still. Would not. Shut up.
Call this the second turning point. When the protagonist (the abused drunk woman) is finally pushed into direct and final confrontation with the antagonist (not-very-bright drunk boyfriend). She Storms His Castle.
The woman told the police she warned the belligerent boyfriend. More than once. But when he wouldn’t stop, she grabbed the handset attached to the end of the elastic cord that bound him, and beat him (got muscle? reversed, ironic twist).
Finally, as the police arrive, the man – in an infinite moment of clarity (which happens when someone is pummeling you with a phone set) – shut up.
The woman got the last word, as she was hauled away to jail along with her man. I’m sensing a sequel in the making. Aren’t you?
Even if the situation itself is not appealing, just getting to experience the raw natural drama of the human world can provide jet fuel for our writing. Whether it involves phone cords or not.
Have a bizarre dramatic experience you’d like to share? Do you ever watch a show just to find moments like this (please share)? I’d love to chat with you!