Post #39 – Memoir and Fiction, Writing Alchemy – Kendra Bonnett and Matilda Butler
All you hear these days is transparency this and transparency that. So in the spirit of transparency, I’ve decided to give you a little sneak peek at what’s waiting for you inside Writing Alchemy: How to Write Fast and Deep (Memoir Edition). And I’ve decided to use our StoryMap: The Neverending Writing Prompt ™ to help me. It’s show time!
Using Transactional Analysis to Write Dialogue
I’ve pulled out my StoryMap and now I’m transporting my imagination to the fictive community of Five Points, Oklahoma. Poof!
I’m standing on the corner of First Avenue and W. Sooner Street. It’s a beautiful spring day. Some high clouds but the temperature is going to get up to the low 80s. We could use a little rain. Where there is no irrigation, the grass is as dry and brittle as the needles on a Christmas tree on January 2nd.
Today I need a color and cut, and I have a 1 pm appointment at Brandi’s Curl Up & Dye. As I open the door, I’m greeted not by the tinkling of the little visitor bell above the door. Not by the incessant hum of blow dryers. Not even the chatter and gossip among patrons. There’s a cat fight in progress. Brandi and her 2-year-old British Blue Shorthair cat are exchanging words:
“Samantha, get off that chandelier. Now.”
“Pssst! Hissssss! Merow!”
“Don’t you make me have to come up–”
Samantha cuts Brandi’s words off mid-sentence. With a hiss and a swipe of her paw, claws extended for effect, Samantha snags Mrs. Hallowell’s hair extensions. But because Mrs. Hallowell was running to grab the cell phone ringing in her purse, her momentum pulled Samantha out of the overhead light fixture and down onto the top of her head. She screams. Samantha hisses. And Brandi faints. As Brandi’s 5 foot 4 inch 165 pounds comes crashing to the floor, she takes the manicure cart with her and everything stops. All eyes…including a pair of bright orange feline orbs…are focused on Brandi passed out on the salon floor but looking like a shooting victim as the Fire and Ice red polish that Sally was applying to Suzi Eagleton’s fingernails pools next to Brandi’s left ear.
With everyone stunned into silence and inaction, Old Mrs. Shaw–sitting under the dryer and closest to Brandi–extends the glass of ice tea she’s been sipping and pours it over Brandi’s head.
“Where am I?” Brandi shakes the tea out of her hair and eyes.
As Sally helps Brandi to her feet, Brandi’s eyes focus in on Samantha, still tangled in the brunette hair extensions. The hairdresser recovers quickly and with two steps is by Mrs. Hallowell’s side and unraveling the recalcitrant cat from her customer’s coif. Successful, she tucks Samantha under her arm and charges out the front door.
This was too funny. Realizing that I won’t be getting my color and cut today, I tag after Brandi who’s charging down W. Sooner Street as fast as her stubby legs will take her. I catch up just as she turns left on Second Avenue.
“Where are you going?”
She doesn’t respond. But in less than two minutes I have my answer as Brandi crashes through the front door of Bad Cat: The Angry Pet Modification Clinic. I come in behind her, panting but in time for a lesson in Transactional Analysis and the “Yes, But” life script. Jane is sitting behind the receptionist’s desk and, as usual, is about to pop a donut in her mouth. Caught off guard by Brandi’s explosive entrance, she drops her donut, which lands on the counter in a cloud of confectioners’ sugar.
Brandi drops Samantha on the counter next to the donut. “This is the most defective cat I’ve ever had. I thought you were supposed to modify her.” Samantha, who had been occupied with pulling strands of Mrs. Hollowell’s hair out from between her toes, spies the donut and loses interest in her ablutions. She starts to lick powdered sugar off the desk top.
“Ah, Ms. Warfeather, hello” says Jane. “We’ve worked with Samantha–”
“Yes, but she’s no better than the first day I brought her home.”
“Samantha was a kitten when you got her. She had no discipline, so we–”
“Yes, but you don’t understand. She’s impossible. She hisses at me whenever I tell her what to do.”
“That’s just her way of expressing her opinion about–”
“That may be true, but she squirms every time I pick her up to play with her.”
“Well, that’s typical of the breed. What you need to do is–”
“I don’t care about that. She’s simply impossible. I want her fixed.”
“Ms. Warfeather, we do have an advanced program–”
“Well, yes, but I shouldn’t be expected to pay even more for a defective cat.”
“We’ll certainly take her back and find a new–”
“I’m not giving you my cat! I just want her fixed.”
“I’ll be back in a week to pick up my cat.”
And with that Brandi turned on her heel and marched out the door. Poor Jane stood slack jawed then looked down to see Samantha standing on the remains of her donut and looking up at her, powdered sugar dripping from her whiskers.
A Writing Alchemy Sneak Peek of Social Science Research Applied…A Big Savings for You
Okay, I’m back. Brandi and Jane’s exchange is an example of the “Yes, but” script, which is just one of the life scripts that psychiatrist Eric Berne documented in his book Games People Play. In this life game, the person with the problem will always find a way to reject the advice or suggestion. I’m sure you know people in your life who play this game without even realizing it. A few of the other game scripts are “See what you made me do,” “Look how hard I’ve tried,” “If it weren’t for you” and “I’m only trying to help you.” Remember, the people engaged in these dialogues are not deliberately playing a game. These have become their life scripts, often learned early in their lives from parents.
Understanding the games/scripts that are part of people’s lives takes your writing to a deeper level. This sort of dialogue doesn’t seem to advance the story–an important element of dialogue–but it does reveal how people in your story or memoir interact with others and builds greater dimensionality into your characters. If you’re writing a memoir, consider what kind of verbal games are played in your family.
Understanding life scripts and the unconscious games people play and putting these to work in your writing, is just one of many ways Matilda and I have used social science research and other techniques to help you get deeper inside characters, their actions, behaviors, motivations and interactions.