Designing from Bones ~ The Dramatic Cord

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.

COPS. Photo by Luciiano Casla (Wikimedia CC)

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.

Bell Western Electric Rotary Phone by Infrogmation (Wikimedia CC)

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.

Battling Titans at the entrance to Prague Castle by Shiraz Chakera (Flickr CC)

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 Live version Wacka-Mole App, now for Android. Photo by Martin Cathrae (Flickr CC)

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!

Peaceful Journeys.

About Gene Lempp

Gene Lempp is a writer blending elements of alternate history, the paranormal, fantasy, science fiction and horror for dark and delicious fun. He unearths stories by digging into history, archeology, myth and fable in his Designing from Bones blog series. “Only the moment is eternal and in a moment, everything will change,” sums the heart of his philosophy. You can find Gene at his Blog, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads, WANATribe, Google+, Pinterest and StumbleUpon.
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17 Responses to Designing from Bones ~ The Dramatic Cord

  1. Happy Birthday, bro! Oh, and for the moral of the tale above? I’ll borrow from “Men in Black” : “Don’t start nothin’; won’t be nothin’.”

  2. prudencemacleod says:

    Hi Gene, Happy Birthday! As always, I love this designing from bones. great story. I usually go hang out at the mall to watch the world unfold. She great characters there too.

  3. A fabulous man, who helps everyone in the blogosphere mentions that it is his birthday. But then he decide not to mention it again and just post this really cool post instead. Meanwhile, he is secretly wishing for cyber-cupcakes and lots of birthday love from his blogging buddies.

    Okay, so I didn’t do it right.

    But I want you to know what a great teaching post this is AND I hope you are out having a wonderful birthday! You give us so many gifts, each week — in posts & mash-ups — I really hope someone is pampering you today!

  4. I.J.Vern says:

    Hi Gene 🙂

    Came by to tell you Happy Birthday! Have a great day 🙂

    Can’t think of a show right now along the lines you described, it’s late at night here :D. I laughed at “Still. Would Not. Shut Up.”

  5. Happy birthday, Gene! You deserve a joy-filled day and year—scratch that, decades, to come. You’re one of the first WANA tweeps I connected with, and consistently one of the best. 🙂 Thanks for all the support you give writers and the fabulous example you remain.

  6. Kristal Hollis says:

    Happy Birthday!!
    I’m impressed with your play by play, writing lesson, via COPS. Well done! This is going in my bookmarks. 🙂

  7. Jenny Hansen says:

    This post made me laugh from beginning to end – partly because my dude freaking LOVES Cops (and I swear you two are like me and Natalie who were separated at birth) but also because I’m happy to know that it’s your birthday today!!!

    [You being a Libra explains quite a bit, actually. If one believes that sort of thing…]


    • Gene Lempp says:

      John Holton & Homefront: Thanks!

      John Hager: Thanks! Good line from Men in Black, but then if one never starts anything life would be dull 🙂

      Pru: Oh yes, love the mall – well, public in general is entertaining. Walmart is another interesting location 🙂

      Renee: You are too sweet, my friend! Yes, I was properly pampered and I’d love some cyber-cupcakes, low-cal deliciousness 🙂

      Irene: Thanks! Glad you enjoyed the post and always a pleasure to see you 🙂

      August: A joy-filled decade (holds breath) they make such a thing? Thanks for your kind words, they are deeply appreciated 🙂

      Kristal: Thanks on all counts! Glad you enjoyed the post 🙂

      Jen: “You being a Libra explains quite a bit”…no, I don’t buy into that, but yes, you are right, it still explains a lot (grins). Your hubs sounds like a very cool guy (which by default means I might be as well) – a lovely birthday greeting. Thanks, Jen 🙂

  8. Catie Rhodes says:

    Loved this post. I laughed hard. Happy belated birthday.

    Bizarre real life experience. I don’t think this is as good as Cops, but I’ll lay it out there.

    I used to love people watching in the tattoo parlor. One night, this moderately drunk man wanted my tattoo artist to “fix” a tattoo he’d gotten of his son’s name. It seems the original tattoo artist had misspelled the name. My tattoo artist, in an attempt to make sure the spelling would be correct, asked the man to write his son’s name on a piece of paper. The man had to call his son and ask him the correct spelling of his name. My session ended about that time, and I had to leave. But it was with great regret…

  9. intheAMDay says:

    Love this, Gene. Can’t wait to read some of your other posts. Sometimes my life plays out like an episode of COPS, minus the cops…I know what to do with the bodies. Picked this post up from fellow tweeter Janice Hardy @Janice_Hardy. Thanks for sharing. Happy Birthday month!

  10. gloriaoliver says:

    Happy Belated BIrthday! Hopefully you didn’t paint on your special day. 😛 Hope you had some fun!

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  13. lynnkelleyauthor says:

    Better late to the birthday party than not making it at all, right? Happy belated birthday, Gene. Love this post and all the drama and irony. That’s exactly why I sometimes watch reality shows – packed with real life drama and things we just can’t make up. Thanks for such an entertaining post!

  14. Marcia says:

    Kicking myself for missing your birthday, Gene. I just stepped out of my cave and saw this post. Let’s celebrate your birthday again. Watch this>> Hope your birthday was a blast, my friend!
    Love the idea of reality TV as a learning tool. Looks like the best way to see scenes play out firsthand! Thanks for all you do, Gene.
    I wish you at least 50 more happy birthdays!

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