STORIES that have Driver of Action:
A Clockwork Orange: Actions put the characters in their respective positions in the story. Alex’s avoidance of school, beating of the tramp, attack on Billy Boy’s gang, rape of Mr. Alexander’s wife, and murder of the Cat Lady are what move the story toward his having to face the repercussions of these actions in the form of Mr. Deltoid, tramps attacking him, the authorities, prison, and Mr. Alexander’s attempt at revenge.
All That Jazz: How well the dancers perform determines who will be chosen for a part in NY/LA: “If you just stay in line for a minute, we’ll make our decisions. Look, there are only twelve jobs . . . (Aurthur and Fosse 7); Joe’s abuse of drugs and alcohol, combined with working and playing at a breakneck pace, contributes to his heart attack. Once this happens, he and the producers of NY/LA decide it’s time he recover in the hospital; Joe’s extramarital affairs forced his wife to divorce him; because of Joe’s indisposition, Jonesy decides to sound out Lucas as a possible replacement; and so forth.
Being There: When the Old Man dies, Chance is forced out of the only home he has ever known. Once on the outside, he is hit by a limousine, resulting in its owner, Eve Rand, taking responsibility for Chance’s recovery and well-being; and so forth.
Blade Runner: The story starts with Leon shooting blade runner Holden, demonstrating his ruthlessness; Gaff arrives to recruit Deckard; Deckard tests Rachael, showing how advanced replicants have become; Pris ambushes Sebastian to gain his trust; etc.
Braveheart: The murder of Murron forces William to decide to give up his neutrality and fight. William’s victory at Stirling forces the Scottish nobles to decide to present this commoner with a knighthood. Wallace’s sacking of York forces Longshanks to decide to send Princess Isabella to negotiate with Wallace, while he sends Irish, Welsh, and his own troops in France to fight the Scottish at Falkirk. Mornay and Lochlan’s desertion forces William to decide to take revenge.
Bringing Up Baby: In the first scene, a telegram arrives telling David of the arrival of the intercostal clavicle. On the golf course, Susan mistakenly plays David’s ball, forcing David to run after her to rectify the situation. At Aunt Elizabeth’s house, George the dog runs off with David’s bone, forcing David to decide between finding the bone, or going back to Alice without it. Baby is accidentally let out of the stall and runs away, and David must choose between not caring or dealing with Susan’s threat of telling Aunt Elizabeth everything.
The Client: The mob attorney’s suicide sets off everybody’s deliberations on what happened and how much Marcus knows. Ultimately, the senator’s body must be moved or discovered (action) to draw the story to a conclusion, and Marcus must disappear via the Witness Protection Program (action) regardless of what he decides to say about what he knows (decision).
The Crucible: The inciting incident in The Crucible is Parris surprising his daughter, niece, and other girls dancing “like heathen in forest” (Miller 10). He decides to send for Reverend Hale in the hope that he will confirm there are no unnatural causes at work in Salem; after his wife is taken away to jail, Proctor decides to take Mary Warren with him to court to prove the girls are liars, when this action fails, he decides to admit to being a lecher to prove the accusations Abigail has made against his wife are only an attempt to secure Proctor for herself; when Danforth forces Proctor to sign his name to the confession, Proctor decides to keep his integrity and protect other innocent people by ripping it up and going to his death; and so forth.
El Mariachi: Moco’s failed knock-off attempt of Azul, and Azul’s subsequent escape from jail, renews the hatred between the two men and begins a war that El Mariachi finds himself unwittingly caught up in.
Hamlet: Claudius’ murder of the king drives Hamlet to despair; The Ghost’s appearance drives Hamlet to seek revenge; Hamlet’s killing of Polonius drives Claudius to plot Hamlet’s death; Ophelia’s accidental drowning (and Polonius’ murder) drives Laertes to seek Hamlet’s death; and so forth.
I Love Lucy: Lucy decides how and when to tell Ricky the news after a visit to the doctor determines her pregnancy; after hearing about the problems that have arisen in his absence, Ricky decides to go back to work early; Ethel decides to reveal Lucy’s secret to Fred even after Lucy asks her not to; Fred decides to make a gift of his baseball treasures to the unborn child upon hearing the news; and so forth.
Klute: Klute starts the action by going to New York to find Tom; Bree closes the door in Klute’s face; Klute stalks and tape-records Bree; Visiting the junkie Arlyn makes Bree run back to Frank and drugs; The stalker looks through the skylight and plays Bree’s voice over the phone, sending her in fear to Klute; Klute fabricates a story about a little black book, setting a trap for Cable; etc.
Lolita: Until Humbert first lays eyes on Lolita, he has decided not to rent a room from Charlotte: “Let’s get out of here at once, I firmly said to myself . . .” (Nabokov 37). He instantly changes his mind when he sees Lolita out on the “Piazza.” “Without the least warning, a blue sea-wave swelled under my heart and, from a mat in a pool of sun, half-naked, kneeling, turned about on her knees, there was my Riviera love peering at me over dark glasses” (Nabokov 38).
Othello: When Othello promotes Cassio over Iago, the ensign vows to get revenge; after Othello secretly marries Desdemona, Brabantio determines Othello is using witchcraft on his daughter; Desdemona defends her husband and her father decides to disown her; when the Turks send an armada against Venetian held Cyprus, the senate decides to send Othello to lead its defense; Cassio gets into a drunken brawl while he’s in charge of the guard and Othello decides to demote him; Iago lies to Othello about Desdemona’s unfaithfulness and the general decides to murder her.
Quills: Dr. Royer-Collard is hired to restore Charenton to its former glory; Her reputation ruined, Renee Pelagie decides to beg and bribe the doctor to stop her husband from writing his stories; Each time The Marquis comes up with a new way to put his stories into circulation, the doctor and Abbe must decide on a different course of action to stop him; and so forth.
Rain Man: When the EPA fails the Lamberghinis, Charlie decides to lie to his customers and give them a discount on the cars. When Mr. Mooney, the lawyer, reads the will giving Sanford Babbitt’s fortune to someone else, Charlie decides to find the beneficiary. When Dr. Bruner does not give Charlie his share of the inheritance, Charlie decides to “ransom” Raymond. After Charlie refuses to return Raymond to Walbrook, Susanna decides to leave Charlie. After Raymond throws a tantrum when expected to fly in an airplane, Charlie decides to drive to Los Angeles. After the bank seizes Charlie’s cars, he decides to use Raymond to win money in Las Vegas.
Rear Window: Jeff’s running out onto the racetrack put his leg in a cast and made him house bound; Thorwald’s going out in the rain at 1:55 a.m. makes Jeff suspicious, as does almost everything he does; Thorwald’s packing makes Jeff intensify his efforts; Lisa’s waving of the wedding ring alerts Thorwald to the fact he’s being watched; etc.
Rebel Without a Cause: Jim’s drunkenness lands him jail; Buzz cannot get out of his car in time to prevent his driving over the cliff which results in his death; Plato’s death brings the Stark family together; and so forth.
Revenge of the Nerds: In this story, actions lead to decisions. The Alpha-Beta house burns down, so they have to determine where to stay; the football team throws the freshmen out of their dorm, so the nerds have to decide where to live. It is also the action of the Alpha Betas trashing the nerds’ house which forces Lewis to face his moment of truth and decide to remain steadfast and show up at the rally to support Gilbert.
Romeo and Juliet: The “three civil brawls” (1.1.91) the Capulets and Montagues have engaged in force Prince Escalus to determine: “If you ever disturb our streets again,/Your lives shall pay the forfeit of the peace” (1.1.98-99), thus driving the story forward. Gibbons asserts: “In Romeo and Juliet the play’s decisive events occur with instantaneous suddenness: servants brawl on sight, the lovers fall in love at first sight, the shock of the tragic catastrophe converts the parents suddenly and completely from hate to love” (70).
The Silence of the Lambs: “BILL SKINS FIFTH” reads the newspaper headline on Crawford’s corkboard, and on Bill’s wall. This action leads the FBI to seek Lecter’s help; Miggs’ attack on Clarice evokes sympathy in Lecter and his decision to help her; Lecter’s clue about covetousness and his writing on the map leads Clarice to reinvestigate the Ohio murder; the moth landing on spools of thread in Gumb’s house leads Clarice to try to arrest him; Gumb’s cocking of his revolver warns Clarice and forces her to shoot him.
The Simpsons Christmas Special: Bart gets a tattoo, and it can only be removed if the procedure is paid for up front. Marge has no choice but to use the Christmas savings to pay for it. Mr. Burns denies his employees their annual Christmas bonus, compelling Homer to decide if he should come clean with his family, or find another way to raise the money.
All Good Things (Star Trek: The Next Generation): Picard is thrown back and forth through time and must therefore come up with a plan to deal with it.
Star Wars: It is the Empire’s creation of the Death Star that forces the Rebellion to confront the Empire directly; it is the Empire’s boarding of the CouncilorÕs ship that forces Leia to send the plans with R2D2 & C3P0; it is R2D2’s run into the desert with the vital holographic message that joins Luke and Obi Wan and convinces Obi Wan to end his days as a hermit; it is the Stormtroopers barbecuing of Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru that sways Luke’s decision to join forces with Obi Wan; it is the presence of the Stormtroopers in the Cantina that influences Han to take Obi Wan’s group to the Alderaan system; etc.
Sula: After Sula swings Chicken Little into the water leading to his accidental drowning, Nel and Sula decide to keep mum; Nel decides to end her friendship with Sula after discovering Sula and Jude naked; after Sula overhears Hannah confess to her friends she loves her daughter but does not like her, Sula determines she no longer can count on others; after the psychological battering of the war and its resultant terrors; Shadrack decides to devote only one day a year to fear; Plum’s drug addiction causes his mother to decide to end his life; and so forth.
Sunset Boulevard: The story is moved along by actions: When the finance men try to repossess Joe’s car he runs from them, gets a flat tire, and hides in Norma’s driveway. When he tells Norma that he’s a writer, she decides to hire him to rewrite her script. Betty reads some of Joe’s work and decides there’s one story worth developing. She begs Joe to work with her on it, and he decides to sneak out on Norma to write the story with her. When Norma discovers that Joe is writing a script with Betty, she decides to break up the partnership. Joe walks out on Norma, so she decides if she can’t have him, no-one else will.
Tootsie: When George informs Michael that no one will hire him, Michael decides to prove him wrong, and dresses in drag to get the soap opera job. When Dorothy threatens Ron on the set, Rita decides to give her an audition. Michael stands up Sandy for a dinner date and she decides to stand sentry at his apartment. Julie invites Dorothy to her father’s farm for the weekend, and Michael decides to go despite Jeff’s warnings. After Dorothy tries to kiss her, Julie decides to end their relationship. When Julie rejects Dorothy, Michael decides to shed his disguise and reveal himself on live television.
Toy Story: All the precipitous events of the story are things that “happen” which force the characters to deliberate on how they should respond–Andy’s birthday party occurs early, Buzz Lightyear “lands” on Andy’s bed, the decorative motif of Andy’s room changes (note the lyrics of the song “STRANGE THINGS ARE HAPPENING TO ME”), Buzz is thrown out the window by accident, Sid pulls Buzz and Woody out of the claw machine, “moving day” arrives, etc. (The mother’s “decision” to move is not part of the movie, nor is her “decision” to buy the Buzz Lightyear toy.) The final “action” that resolves the Objective Story is the sudden appearance of Buzz and Woody next to Andy in the car.
Unforgiven: Quick Mike’s slashing of Delilah, and Little Bill’s mild punishment for this heinous action prompts Alice to offer a reward; Kid Schofield’s arrival and the dying of the hogs pushes Munny into pursuit of the reward; Munny’s killing Davey sets Little Bill on their trail; Little Bill’s torturing to death of Ned makes Munny come after him; etc.
Witness: Jacob’s death causes Rachel to visit her sister for advice, placing her and Samuel at the train station; Samuel’s exploring puts him in a position to witness the murder; the killing of the undercover cop causes Book to investigate; Samuel’s identifying McFee puts him in danger; Book’s punching out the redneck exposes him as non-Amish; etc.
X-Files: Beyond the Sea: The teenagers are kidnapped and Mulder and Scully investigate the case; when Boggs sends for Mulder, he and Scully question him; Boggs describes where the victims are being held which leads to Scully finding evidence that advances the investigation and raises questions as to Boggs’ involvement in the kidnapping; after Mulder is shot Scully threatens Boggs; when Boggs withholds valuable information, Scully decides to approach the warden on his behalf.
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