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Stirring the Plot: P!nk goes into a bar

I have to thank P!nk (aka Alecia Moore) for inspiring this post with her song, "You and Ur Hand." Superficially, it's a feel good, girl power, bar anthem with a good beat. I imagine it gets frequent club play.

I like P!nk, not so much her punk girl persona, rather the woman who sings with her heart in her teeth, whose words and voice give me chills, in a good way. Glitter in the Air and Run Away are a couple of P!nk songs on my frequent play list.

Her song "You and UR Hand" is a perfect example of hidden motivation. The premise of the song is: a woman, let's call her Jane, dresses up and goes to a bar or club with her friend, let's call her Sally. Jane asserts that she just wants to drink and dance and be left alone. "We didn't get all dressed up just for you to see..." Which sounds good ... on the surface.

The expressed motivation is that Jane and Sally want to go to the bar to dance and drink and be largely ignored by the male population. This is a justification. There's no need for Jane and Sally to dress up in provocative outfits and go to a bar if they don't want to be bothered. They can drink, dressed in softy sweats, and bitch about men at home on the comfy couch. They could dance to music in the living room without being molested, and the alcohol is a whole lot cheaper if you buy it at the grocery store.

Subliminally, these girls want to go out and see and be seen. Jane is probably an extrovert. If Sally is an introvert, she will likely hate going to the bar with Jane. That will be the first conflict. Maybe Sally is the voice of reason and tries to talk Jane into staying home.

They don't. Jane and Sally go to the trouble of dressing up and doing their hair and drive to a club: "Looking tight, Feeling nice, It's a cockfight, I can tell, I just know, That it's going down, Tonight..."

This is another justification. Jane could wear softy sweats to the bar and leave her hair oily if she really wanted to repulse men. The second important clue from this line is that Jane goes into the bar with a chip on her shoulder. In fact, she is spoiling for a fight. Why? Maybe she just broke up with her boyfriend. Does she expect him to be there? Maybe her self esteem is at an all time low and she wants guys to hit on her to make her feel desirable. Maybe she hates men at the moment and wants to entice then reject them to make herself feel better, not a very healthy thing to do. Maybe Jane wants to release her aggressive urges by picking an actual fist fight with someone, an even worse thing to do. Jane could end up in jail for drunk and disorderly conduct.

"At the bar six shots just beginning, ... Midnight, I'm drunk, I don't give a f—" Getting plowed is a self-destructive way to deal with grief or anger. It usually turns Jane into her worst self. So Jane is primed for conflict walking in the door then fuels her rage with excessive alcohol.

Uh oh.

Let's say hapless Dick goes to the bar too. Maybe Dick wants to get drunk either as a response to a momentary, situational trigger or he's an alcoholic. It's highly unlikely that he wants to dance by himself.

Maybe Dick is there to make a love or lust connection or simply to meet up with friends to discuss football. If he runs into Jane and Sally, poor Dick won't know what hit him. He'll take the bait. He'll see a scantily clad Jane and assume that she is equally on the prowl. That's where the conflict starts.

"Don't touch, Back up, I'm not the one, Buh bye, Listen up it's just not happening, You can say what you want to your boyfriends, Just let me have my fun tonight, Aiight. I'm not here for your entertainment, You don't really want to mess with me tonight."

Dick won't understand Jane's incendiary reaction to his innocent, or wolfish, flirting. He may be a gentleman and simply shrug and move on and think, "Wow, what a ...." (fill in the descriptive term). He may get angry in return. He may offer insults to salve his wounded pride. If Dick is also drunk and decides to get verbally abusive, the night will not end well.

There's an even darker undertone of contempt to the song:"Just stop and take a second, I was fine before you walked into my life, Cause you know it's over, Before it begins, Keep your drink just give me the money, It's just you and your hand tonight."

It's one thing to tell Dick to keep his drink. A deeper motivation is revealed when Jane says, "just give me the money." For what? What has she done to earn money? Maybe Dick is her ex-boyfriend and he has been leeching off her for a while and she thinks he owes her money. Maybe Dick isn't her ex but, since she's had scummy boyfriends in the past, Jane thinks all men owe her money. Either way, those are fighting words. The word prostitute might get thrown into the conversation. The dialogue is likely to get ugly fast.

The evening could end in a verbal brawl. It could end with an arrest. It could end with Jane and Dick making up to go home and repeat the dysfunctional cycle all over again the following weekend.

In summary, something as simple as song lyrics can inspire your story conflict, especially when the lyrics reveal faulty thinking, dysfunction, and hidden motivation. You can "show" the hidden motivation by attitude, dialogue, and action instead of "telling" your reader the psychological motivations.

And if you hit a writing slump, just turn on your favorite playlists. I'm sure something will inspire you!

For more on how to motivate your characters based on personality type, check out:

Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict in paperback and E-book.

Story Building Blocks: Build A Cast Workbook in paperback and E-book.

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