Stories Driven by Decisions

STORIES that have Driver of Decision:

A Doll’s House: Mrs. Linde decides to visit Nora; Nora decides to forge her father’s signature to obtain a bond; Krogstad decides to threaten Nora with exposure if she doesn’t help him keep his position; Nora decides to leave her husband; and so forth.

The Age of Innocence: The story is moved along by decisions: Ellen decides to leave her unfaithful husband and return to New York, which leads to her being snubbed; Mrs. Mingott decides to publicly support Ellen, so May and Newland immediately announce their engagement to unite both families behind Ellen; When leading society families decide to refuse invitations to a dinner party Mrs. Mingott holds for Ellen, Mrs. Archer and Newland go to the van der Luydens for help; Ellen decides to divorce her husband, so the family asks Newland to advise her against it, because it would mean total social disgrace for Ellen and the family as divorce is taboo in their Victorian society.

All About Eve: Karen decides to introduce Eve to Margo, and Eve’s story gains Margo’s sympathy; Margo decides to take Eve into her home as her secretary, and this allows Eve to begin her manipulations; Max Fabian’s decision to make Eve Margo’s new understudy, without clearing it first with Margo, causes Margo to blow-up at everyone–leading to Bill’s decision to break up with her.

Amadeus: From the outset, as the play is a memory, we see that Salieri made a decision to oppose Mozart. All the action follows, including Salieri’s decision to tell us the story as “Ghosts of the Future!” He also decides to attempt suicide. In the objective story, the Emperor decides to change his habit and visit a rehearsal of “Figaro.” This results in the Emperor restoring a dance which the Director of Opera to the court had removed. The Director, Rosenberg, becomes Mozart’s enemy. Also, Mozart decides to go against his father and marry Constanze, resulting in his father refusing further financial assistance.

Apt Pupil: Todd decides to blackmail Dussander; Dick Bowden allows his son to continue his relationship with “Arthur Denker” despite his poor grade report; Rubber Ed decides to look up Todd’s grandfather; and so forth.

Barefoot in the Park: Corie’s decision to take an apartment on the sixth floor leads to conflict with Paul:

Paul: (Breathing with great difficulty, looks back down the stairs.) It’s six flights…Did you know it’s six flights?

Corie: It isn’t. It’s five.

Paul: (Staggers up the step into the room, and collapses on the suitcase.) What about that big thing hanging outside the building?

Corie: That’s not a flight. It’s a stoop.

Mrs. Banks’ decision to drop in unexpectedly on the newlyweds increases the tension between Paul and Corie:

Mother: Well, I really had no intention of coming up, but I had a luncheon in Westchester and I thought, since it’s on my way home, I might as well drop in for a few minutes…

…I know you must be busy.

Paul: Well, as a matter of fact–

Corie: (Stopping him.) No, we’re not, are we, Paul?

(He kills her with a glance.)

Corie makes the decision to set her mother up with Victor Velasco–without Mrs. Bank’s knowledge–thus creating conflict:

Corie: Well, if I told you it was a blind date with Mr. Velasco upstairs, I couldn’t have blasted you out of the house.

Mother: A blind date…(Doesn’t quite get it yet.) With Mr. Velasco…(Then the dawn.) The one that…? (She points up, then panics.) Good God! (Takes a big gulp of her martini.)

Body Heat: Each major turn of events is preceded by a decision that determines the nature of subsequent actions: Ned’s decision to pursue Mattie from the outdoor concert precipitates Mattie’s seductive behavior (the ice cream incident) and her unexpected disappearance; the decision to kill Edmond Walker forces the subsequent preparations and execution of the murder; Ned’s decision not to reveal Mattie’s involvement with the “botched” will leads to the redistribution of the inheritance (in Mattie’s favor) and an intensified investigation into the suspicious nature of Edmond’s murder; Ned’s decision NOT to go into the boat house forces Mattie to be “blown up” by the booby trapped door; etc.

Boyz N The Hood: The story deals with the decisions kids must make while growing up in the hood, and how every decision they make impacts their lives.

Bull Durham: Annie decides who her lover/student will be this year. Crash decides to stay (or decides not to quit). The unseen team management is seen only in terms of their decisions (to hire Nuke and Crash, to fire Bobby, the player with the sixteen game losing streak).

Candida: “Candida” focuses on the decision Candida is asked to make, to stay with Morell or leave with Marchbanks:

Morell: We have agreed-he and I-that you shall choose between us now. I await your decision.

It is made clear, however, that Candida may decide on neither man:

Candida: Oh! I am to choose, am I? I suppose it is quite settled that I must belong to one or the other.

Morell: Quite. You must choose definitely.

Marchbanks: Morell: you dont understand. She means that she belongs to herself. (Shaw, 1895, p. 551)

Casablanca: Ugarte’s decision to entrust Rick with the Letters of Transit makes it difficult for Ilsa and Laszlo to obtain them; Rick’s nod of the head to let the band leader strike up “La Marseillaise” causes Strasser to close the club and threaten Laszlo; Laszlo’s altruistic decision to put Ilsa’s safety before his own impresses Rick so much that he helps the couple escape, putting himself at risk; etc.

Charlotte’s Web: Mr. Arable decides to spare the runt’s life and allow Fern to raise Wilbur; after Charlotte decides to help her best friend stay alive she implements a plan of action; Wilbur decides to take Charlotte’s egg sac back to the farm; and so forth.

Chinatown: Noah’s decision to use Jake to find his granddaughter forces the subsequent actions to take place; Hollis’ decision to oppose Noah leads to the breakup of their friendship and to Hollis’ eventual murder; Evelyn’s decision to trust Jake with the truth leads to her death; etc.

Four Weddings And A Funeral: The story is about commitments and marriages. The decisions to enter into each marriage drives the action forward.

The Fugitive: Dr. Kimble’s decision to report the failing results of RDU90 (Provasic) leads to his wife’s murder; the jury’s guilty verdict leads to Dr. Kimble’s death sentence; the guard’s decision to open the grating leads to the wreck; Dr. Kimble’s decision to return to Chicago leads to multiple chases and near misses; Dr. Nichols’ decision not to turn in Dr. Kimble leads to his being hounded by Gerard, etc.

The Glass Menagerie: Decisions drive actions in the story: Amanda’s decision to marry “father” has led to her abandonment; Laura’s decision to never return to Rubicam’s Business School drives Amanda to skip the D.A.R. meeting; Amanda’s decision to look for alternative means of supporting Laura drives her to telemarket subscriptions and Tom to bring home the gentleman caller; Tom’s decision to join the Merchant Marines leads to the power being turned off; Jim’s decision to keep his engagement a secret leads to the fiasco at the Wingfield’s; Tom’s decision to leave for good forces Amanda and Laura to support themselves; etc.

The Godfather: If it were not for decisions made in the Objective Story, the characters would not be forced to take the actions that they do. The “Turk,” Sollozzo’s move to hit Don Corleone is an action which is forced by the Don’s decision to not support his drug running scheme. The deliberations about how to deal with the “Turk” lead to Michael having to murder him. Sonny’s considerations about how the gang war should be fought leads to a prolonged conflict and his own death. The Don’s decision to end the war leads to Michael’s return to the States. Tessio’s decision to betray Michael leads to his own assassination. Michael’s decision to become the new “Godfather” leads to the “Baptism of blood” massacre. There are always a variety of ways for everyone to proceed towards their goals, and the characters constantly deliberate over them, forcing actions to follow.

The Graduate: Mrs. Robinson decides to seduce Ben; Ben later decides to take her up on her offer; Ben decides to acquiesce to a date with Elaine; Ben decides he’s going to marry Elaine; Elaine decides, at the altar, to leave her groom and run off with Ben.

The Great Gatsby: Although in love with the young soldier, Gatsby, in his absence Daisy decides to marry Tom:

“And all the time something within her was crying for a decision. She wanted her life shaped now, immediately-and the decision must be made by some force-of love, of money, of unquestionable practicality-that was close at hand.”

The Buchanans, Gatsby, Nick, and Jordan decide to go into town on the hottest day of the year, which results in confrontation and death:

“So we drove on toward death through the cooling twilight.”

Once he is disillusioned, Nick decides he can no longer live in the East:

“After Gatsby’s death the East was haunted for me like that, distorted beyond my eye’s power of correction. So when the blue smoke of brittle leaves was in the air and the wind blew the wet laundry stiff on the line I decided to come back home.”

Harold and Maude: After the Chemistry lab explosion, Harold decided he liked being dead, and took up faking suicide; Mrs. Chasen tells Harold what she’s decided to do with his life:

MRS. CHASEN: I only have a few minutes, Harold, but I do want to inform you of my decision. […] In short, Harold, I think it is time you got married.

(Higgins, p. 11)

Mrs. Chasen decides the answers to the dating questionnaire herself; Confronting Maude in the nude, Harold starts to make his own decisions:

MAUDE: Do you disapprove?

HAROLD: Me! No. Of course not.

MAUDE: (she wants the truth) Really. Do you think it’s wrong?

HAROLD: (thinks, decides, reports his conclusion) No.

(Higgins, p. 34)

Maude decides to end her life, bringing the story to an end.

Heavenly Creatures: The Art class teacher decides to pair up Pauline with Juliet, which begins their bonding process; getting a diary for Christmas a second time, Pauline decides on a more selfish New Year’s resolution; Mrs. Hulme decides she’s more interested in Bill’s feelings than his wife’s, leading to their affair and her divorce; Mr. Hulme decides to go to England, and place Juliet in South Africa; Mrs. Rieper decides that Juliet and Pauline should spend their last three weeks together; etc.

Lawrence of Arabia: Dryden decides that Arab Bureau needs its own man on the spot, and sends Lawrence to Arabia; Lawrence decides to cross the Nefud and take Akaba, endearing him to both Arabs and British; Allenby decides to sit back and let Damascus fall apart, so he can step in and take the reins; etc.

The Philadelphia Story: Tracy has decided to marry Kittredge; Sidney Kidd decides to trade the story on Seth Lord for an account of Tracy Lord’s wedding; Tracy and the family decide to play along with the ruse; Dexter and Seth both decide to show up for Tracy’s wedding; Dexter and Mike decide to turn the tables on Kidd; Ultimately Tracy decides she doesn’t want to marry George after all.

The Piano Lesson: The story is moved along by decisions: Boy Willie decides to buy Sutter’s farmland and sell the piano to finance his own farm. He decides to pressure Berniece to sell the piano which causes her to fight him with accusations and finally threaten his life. Doaker decides to educate Boy Willie about the importance of the piano to the family, inciting Wining Boy to support Berniece which further divides the family. Avery’s decision to exorcise Sutter’s ghost causes a struggle against good and evil which forces Berniece to act to save her brother.

Platoon: Chris Taylor decides to drop out of college and enlist in the military for active duty in Vietnam; Sgt. Barnes decides to send Sgt. Elias’ squad out for an all night ambush resulting in Gardner’s death and Chris’ injuries. These two soldiers were new to the platoon and lacked the experience they needed and might have gained if Barnes hadn’t decided to send them out so soon; It’s decided that the platoon should move further on to a nearby village suspected of Viet Cong activity. The platoon commits war crimes against the village as a means of releasing frustration for the deaths of the members in their platoon. Elias’ decision to report Barnes’ criminal conduct at the village precipitates a rift between the members in the platoon (some siding with Barnes and others siding with Elias), and ultimately causes Barnes to kill Elias. Sgt. Barnes’ decision to kill Elias and later, his decision to try and kill Chris, provokes Chris to kill him.

Pride and Prejudice: Mr. Darcy’s decision not to ask Elizabeth to dance at their first meeting is why she and her family and friends take an instant dislike to the man; Elizabeth’s refusal of Mr. Collins’ proposal gives leave for her best friend, Charlotte, to encourage his attentions; Elizabeth’s decision not to reveal Wickham’s true nature leads to her youngest sister committing folly; and so forth.

Reservoir Dogs: Joe decides to form a gang to pull the heist; Mr. Orange chooses to go undercover; Mr. Nice allows Mr. Blond to stay in the warehouse with the kidnapped cop. At film’s end, Mr. Orange decides to confess to Mr. White, who decides to kill him rather than giving himself up to the police.

Rosemary’s Baby: Rosemary and Guy’s decision to break their lease and take the apartment at the Branford is the initial catalyst for the story. Guy’s agreement to have dinner with the Castevets leads to the unspoken offer of trading his wife for his career. It is Guy’s decision to agree to the scheme that puts the plot in motion. At the climax of the story, it is Rosemary’s decision to become a real mother to her child that resolves the story problem.

Searching for Bobby Fischer: Josh decides to keep the chess piece instead of trading it for a baseball. He reluctantly decides to play and defeat his dad. Dad decides to seek classes for Josh. After initially refusing to accept Josh as a student, Bruce decides to teach Josh. Josh ultimately decides to compete at the championship for himself. He offers the draw to Jonathan.

The Sun Also Rises: The decision the objective characters make to go to Pamplona for the festival of the bulls precipitates the action that follows. During the week’s frantic festivities, events come to a head. For example, Brett takes up with the young bullfighter, Romero, and ultimately leaves town with him; Robert Cohn, pugnacious and wildly jealous, hits Jake and Mike and beats up Romero.

Taxi Driver: Travis’ decision to become a taxi driver, especially one who will work anywhere, exposes him to lowlife “scum”:

PERSONNEL OFFICER: We don’t need any misfits around here, son.

TRAVIS: You kiddin? Who else would hack through Bed-Sty or Harlem at night?

PERSONNEL OFFICER: You want to work uptown nights?

TRAVIS: I’ll work anywhere, anytime. I know I can’t be choosy.

(Schrader, p. 5)

Travis’ decision to pursue Betsy leads him to volunteer; Betsy’s decision to go to a porno movie with Travis makes her reject him, which in turn ramps up his alienation; Iris’ choosing of Travis’ taxi to seek refuge in brings her and Sport to Travis’ attention; Sport’s decision to pay Travis with the “dirty” $20 bill leads Travis to pay back the “wages of sin” with death; etc.

To Kill a Mockingbird: Atticus decides to take Tom Robinson’s case even though he is certain to lose; the jury decides Tom Robinson is guilty of raping Mayella although evidence points to the contrary; Aunt Alexandra decides to move into the Finch household and exert her influence over the children; Heck Tate decides against arresting Boo Radley for Bob Ewell’s death “‘It ain’t your decision, Mr. Finch it’s all mine'” (Lee, 1960, p. 303); and so forth.

The Verdict: As a courtroom drama, the direction of the case follows various decisions and ultimately comes down to a single decision — the verdict.

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?: The decision to have the guests over drives the initial actions of the story; Martha’s decision to tell Honey about their “son” forces George to change tactics and begin to intentionally play games with them (formally it was only between he and Martha); Martha’s decision to ignore George’s warning and tell them about his being a “big . . . fat . . . FLOP!” drives George to smash the bourbon bottle; George’s decision to ignore Martha’s passes at Nick and to read a book drives Martha to follow through with her threats and go to bed with Nick; etc.

Washington Square: Morris Townsend decides on Catherine Sloper as his heiress, and begins to court her; Aunt Penniman decides to lend her help to the courtship; Catherine decides Morris is the man for her and attempts to convince her father as such; Doctor Sloper decides Morris is not fit to be his daughter’s husband and begins to wage a campaign against the scoundrel; and so forth.

When Harry Met Sally: Harry and Sally decide to share a ride to New York; Helen decides to leave Harry; Sally decides she wants more out of the relationship with Joe than he is willing to give; Jess and Marie decide they like each other better than their blind dates; and so forth.

The Wild Bunch: Harrigan decides to wait until the Wild Bunch come out of the railroad office and catch them in the act, thus causing the townspeople’s slaughter; Thornton makes a decision to hunt down Pike rather than face jail; Pike allows Angel to take a case of guns, leading to his capture by Mapache; The Wild Bunch decide to go for the gold and get guns for Mapache; Pike decides to rescue Angel from Mapache’s men; etc.

Excerpted from
Dramatica Story Development Software

This entry was posted in Example Stories. Bookmark the permalink.