In my last two blog posts I talked about the games people play and how those games of Transactional Analysis could be used in story-telling and dialogue. The games also set up different positions to create good communication and also to create conflict and tension.
The conflict, or in some cases coming together of two people in these roles always has at the center a “Payoff”. With a little stretching of the imagination I can also say that a “motive” could be born through these same interactions.
For example, a motive could be for a husband to prove himself to the disapproving wife who at first loved his childlike antics (Child Role) but has come to only feel disapproval for his inability to hold down a job. Even his sense of humor and playful personality cannot cajole her out of her stern, (Parent Role) disapproving countenance.
So, who changed? I believe neither changed, but their personalities became magnified as they dug their feet deeper and deeper into their basic roles. What’s the Payoff?
As a writer of crime fiction I would magnify the Payoff into some sort of reason for committing a crime. Or for the antagonist to believe he is isolated and the world doesn’t understand him, therefore he is justified in striking out.
He develops a strong desire to prove to his wife that he is not childish and that he can be responsible. Maybe he thinks that if he robs a bank and brings home a lot of money she will respect him. He’s still operating from a child point of view (striving to get money without having to work for it).
The Payoff, he thinks, will be to gain the respect of his wife when she sees all the money he’s gotten. When he gets horror and anger instead from his wife he realizes she will probably turn him in. He has a choice to make. He could go on the run or he could kill her. Either way, he blames her since she obviously doesn’t appreciate what he’s done for her (Child reasoning). He convinces himself that it’s all her fault.
I would prefer that he go on the run. The arc of the story could come when he begins operating from the “Adult” part of his personality. As an adult he would turn himself in, take responsibility and make a deal for leniency. He would get his self-respect back and who knows? His wife may even come to forgive him and see him as a changed man. Those are all positive Payoffs from the adult position and actions.
I find games fascinating and the Payoffs and motives even more so. What Payoffs have you read in fiction that you really liked, or have used in your own writing?
Nancy A. Niles is the author of Vendetta: A Deadly Win, a co-author on Rubicon Ranch: Riley’s Story and a co-author on Novel Writing Tips and Techniques published by Second Wind Publishing Company.