Hello. I’m fairly new to fiction writing and Dramatica. I read, commented and posted on a few posts when you all were over at Google+. Glad to see you all are still active here at this new location.
My writing has been focused mostly on very short works. This is my first attempt at making something longer, even if it’s just a longer short story.
The Story I’m working on currently, called Bingo Night at St. Stephen’s, has this form:
STORY ENGINE SETTINGS:
“Bingo Night at St. Stephen’s”
MC RESOLVE: Steadfast
MC GROWTH: Stop
MC APPROACH: Do-er
MC PROBLEM-SOLVING STYLE: Linear
IC RESOLVE: Change
OVERALL STORY (Doris can’t win 'em all, can she?)
DOMAIN: Situation/Being Winners
CONCERN: The Future
ISSUE: Being Biased vs. Openness
BENCHMARK: HavingSomeone’s Condition Grow Progressively Worse OR Slowing Someone OR Advancing
SIGNPOST 1: The Past
SIGNPOST 2: How Things Are Changing
SIGNPOST 3: The Future
SIGNPOST 4: The Present
INFLUENCE CHARACTER (Doris (Bernice’s friend))
CONCERN: Changing One’s Nature
MAIN CHARACTER (Bernice Johnson)
UNIQUE ABILITY: Approach
CRITICAL FLAW: Delay
SIGNPOST 1: Doing
SIGNPOST 3: Gathering Information
SIGNPOST 4: Understanding
ADDITIONAL STORY POINTS
GOAL: The Future
CONSEQUENCE: Innermost desires
COST: Changing One’s Nature
REQUIREMENT:How Thing’s Are Changing
PREREQUISITE: Impulsive Responses
PRECONDITION: Playing a role
Getting to the actual Story Weaving, I decided to use the Signposts in the Plot Progression Report as a method of crafting out scenes. My intention is not to make this into a full length novel, nor look to create 64 scenes (i.e. 4 story through lines X 4 signposts X 4 sequence events). So I used the Plot Progressions in a way that might be different than intended. Instead of crafting 4 separate scenes for each Signpost, the signpost is a single scene that moves through 4 phases. In this case the signpost (and also the scene) is “The Past” and it moves from “Value” to “Confidence” to “Worry” to “Worth”. This might not be what the model was intended for, but I found it an interesting way to write a scene that moves through dynamics. Just wondering if this dynamic translates into the written scene. I’d enjoy any and all feedback, either Dramatica based or otherwise.
So here goes what equates to a draft chapter, or first portion of a short story, dealing with the OS Story Signpost 1 “The Past”, and that moves from “Value” to “Confidence” to “Worry” to “Worth”:
BINGO NIGHT AT ST. STEPHEN’S
The warm, sweet smell of peanut butter cookies baking in the oven permeated the kitchen. Bernice Johnson sat at a blue Formica table, one hand fumbling in a small bowl filled with peanut slivers, the other held a phone pressed against her ear. Into it she said, “I know, Mabel. Doris has been very lucky over the last few weeks.”
“You know, I’ve kept a tally?” said Mabel.
Bernice reckoned Mabel had too much free time on her hands, then said, "Really? You have? "
“Mmm-huh. I’ve been keeping track of it in a little notebook I bought at the Big Y, 'bout a month ago. Now, where is that little sh…?" Mabel’s phone clunked on her kitchen countertop and her voice drifted away. Sounds of her rummaging echoed through the phone receiver.
Bernice waited. She pulled a peanut sliver from the bowl, nibbled on it and wondered whether Mabel was keeping records on her too. Perhaps an inventory of baked goods she brought each week to St. Stephen’s? An analysis of the ratio between the number of fruit pies vs. cream pies? Or how many times she put nuts in her chocolate chip cookies versus not?
Mabel’s voice returned, now huffing. “Here it is… Over the last five weeks… Doris has won a total of… eighteen times.”
Bernice stopped her chewing. “Eighteen?”
“Yes, you heard right: eight-teen.”
“Sure about that?”
“Mmm-huh, and I’ll tell you what they all were. Got it all written down right here… Let’s see, over the last five Fridays, Doris has won: three Diagonals, two Inside Diamonds, one Outside Diamonds, two Four Corners, one Inside Four Corners, two Postage Stamps, one Roving ‘L’, two Straight Line Across’s, three Straight Line Downs and one ‘X’. Now, I’m not a statistician, but what are the odds of that? And with, what is it, 80 to 100 people each night?” Mabel griped some more. “Do you want me to tell you how much she’s won?”
Bernice said nothing, sipped from her coffee and waited. It didn’t matter whether she’d said ‘yes’ or ‘no’, Mabel was going to tell her anyway.
“Between cash and prizes, and factoring in her entry fees and cards, Doris has walked away with — are you ready for this? — forty-three hundred dollars.”
Bernice swallowed the peanut. “Sweet Jesus. That’s a lot.”
“Mmm-huh. You beat your sweet baby aspirin it is.” Mabel grumbled, “So Bernie, what do you think?”
“Well, Mabel. I guess Doris Freeman had a retirement plan after all — and BINGO was it’s name-O.”
Mabel roared with laughter. “Oh Bernie, you’re a hoot". Her laugh was contagious and Bernie couldn’t help but catch it. The two friends reeled in hilarity, infectious and rhythmic, and it took awhile for Bernice to catch her breath. As she did, she drew in the aroma of her baking cookies: almost done.
There was always something baking in Bernice’s kitchen. Bernice knew that nothing, at least nothing sweet nor confectionery, was baking in Mabel’s (Mabel was a cook, not a baker). But Bernice sensed something was cooking in Mabel’s mind, when, after their boiling laughter had simmered down, Mabel asked, “Do you think Doris has been cheating?”
"I’m not sure how anyone can cheat at Bingo,” Bernice said. “Why? Do you think maybe her little sweetie, Harry, is fixing the numbers for her, before he calls them up for the rest of us?
“Still, how could anyone pull that off? It sounds kind of far-fetched, don’t you think? Plus, it just doesn’t sound like Doris. She can’t even plan a dinner party right. Who serves rice with pasta? How do you expect her to organize The Great St. Stephen’s Bingo Racket? I mean really, we sound ridiculous, don’t we? She’s just not capable of something like that. She might be a bit of a loon. But she’s not a criminal.”
Lacking any real evidence, nor confidence, that something fishy was going on, Bernice decided it must have been just blind luck that Doris was winning. But she wanted to have some fun with Mabel’s growing suspicion. So she proposed, “I guess, Mabel, we’ll just have to beat her at her own game. Figure out some way to win, ourselves. And if not, then we’ll have to figure out a way to…", she paused, then drawled, “… a way that she can’t win — could never win again. You know… put an end to it.” Bernice smirked and listened to Mabel’s protracted, awkward silence, waiting for her reaction to unfold.
“Do you mean cheating, Bernie? That we should cheat? You’re kidding, right? I could never—”
“Not exactly, Mabel. And I don’t mean cheating. I’m thinking of something else.” Bernice paused, then said, “Let’s see… there’s poison. Rat poison. I think I’ve got some in the cupboard under the sink. You could put it in a pot roast. Or, I could bake it in something like a pumpkin pie—”
"Or, Clarence has a gun upstairs and some saws down in the basement—”
“And you’ve got all those large plastic bags to wrap up the body. Betty has her farm and all that land. I’m sure we can find someplace to bury her— "
Bernice chortled, her large body shifted in the chair and the blue plastic upholstery squeaked underneath her. “Oh, Mabel. Of course, I’m kidding. What do you think I am? Some kind of crazed lunatic? I am not going to murder Doris!”
The two laughed some more as they drank their Taster’s Choice and recounted stories of them and Doris together. Reminiscing seemed to dispel their immediate concerns about her. But when the laughter subsided at last, Mabel confided, “I don’t know if I want to go to Bingo anymore if Doris is just going to win, win, win all the time. I mean, what’s the point? And it’s getting expensive, Bernie. I don’t know if I can afford it anymore. Doris can’t win 'em all, can she?”
Bernice breathed in more of the air around her — the smell of her own baking always calmed her — and she said, “Aw, Mabel. It’s just been some dumb luck, that’s all. At some point she’ll have to lose. Eventually, she’ll suffer a losing streak like we’re having right now. And we’ll, all three of us, laugh about it. So let’s just put it out of our minds—” Bernice’s oven timer clanged. “Oh, Mabel. Gotta go. Cookies are done. Don’t want 'em to burn. Bye.”
Bernice hung up the phone, got up from the table and pulled the cookies out of the oven, putting them on a wire rack to cool. She sat back down at the kitchen table to finish her coffee. Jesus, Mary and Joseph. Forty-three hundred dollars. Oh, what I could do with that extra money. I’d buy Clarence a new TV to start with: one of those flat ones, with all the bells and whistles.
She leaned out from her squeaky chair, opened the junk drawer and pulled out her calculator. She clicked on its keys, tallying up her last five weeks of Bingo: $20 (entry plus 12 card fee) times five weeks, that’s $100; Then her winnings, $30 + $20 + $15 + $30 + $40 = $135; Minus her entry costs of $100, leaves her a $35 gain; Minus the costs to make the baked goods she brought each week, say about $6 a week; leaving Bernice a profit of $5, total. Peanuts. Hardly worth it.
Bernice considered the bowl of peanuts she’d been munching on, grabbed a handful from it, raised it into her mouth and chewed. She glanced up at the ubiquitous painted portrait of Jesus over her table, recalled all this business about Doris and swallowed. She wiped her hands on the sides of her apron, got up from the table and set off to bake some more things for tonight — including, she decided, something special for Doris.