One of my most productive brainstorming activities is working my way through George Polti’s thirty six dramatic situations. I usually find numerous ways each situation can be used in my work in progress, even though I may toss it out later.
For example; Using the first dramatic situation; Supplication, I explore every character in my story and consider if there is a fugitive who needs the help of some greater power to help him or her against the enemy.
Next, I consider each character and ask myself if this character needs assistance for some duty which she is not allowed to do—and so on and so forth. You get the idea.
Here are the first seven. I think these are great.
(The dynamic elements technically necessary are: a Persecutor; a
Suppliant; and a Power in authority, whose decision is doubtful)
● (1) Fugitives imploring the powerful for help against their
● (2) Assistance implored for the performance of a pious duty
which has been forbidden.
● (3) Appeals for a refuge in which to die.
● (1) Hospitality besought by the shipwrecked.
● (2) Charity entreated by those cast off by their own people,
whom they have disgraced.
● (3) Expiation: The seeking of pardon, healing or
● (4) The surrender of a corpse, or of a relic, solicited.
● (1) Supplication of the powerful for those dear to the
● (2) Supplication to a relative in behalf of another relative.
● (3) Supplication to a mother's lover, in her behalf.
(Elements: an Unfortunate, a Threatener, a Rescuer)
● (1) Appearance of a rescuer to the condemned.
● (1) A parent replaced upon a throne by his children.
● (2) Rescue by friends, or by strangers grateful for benefits
3. CRIME PURSUED BY VENGEANCE
(Elements: an Avenger and a Criminal)
● (1) The avenging of a slain parent or ancestor.
● (2) The avenging of a slain child or descendant.
● (3) Vengeance for a child dishonored.
● (4) The avenging of a slain wife or husband.
● (5) Vengeance for the dishonor, or attempted dishonoring,
of a wife.
● (6) Vengeance for a mistress slain.
● (7) Vengeance for a slain or injured friend.
● (8) Vengeance for a sister seduced.
● (1) Vengeance for intentional injury or spoliation.
● (2) Vengeance for having been despoiled during absence.
● (3) Revenge for an attempted slaying.
● (4) Revenge for a false accusation.
● (5) Vengeance for violation.
● (6) Vengeance for having been robbed of one's own.
● (7) Revenge upon a whole sex for a deception by one.
● (1) Professional pursuit of criminals.
4. VENGEANCE TAKEN FOR KINDRED UPON KINDRED
(Elements: Avenging Kinsman; Guilty Kinsman; Remembrance of the
Victim, a Relative of Both)
● (1) A father's death avenged upon a mother.
● (2) A mother's death avenged upon a father.
● (1) A brother's death avenged upon a son.
● (1) A father's death avenged upon a husband.
● (1) A husband's death avenged upon a father.
(Elements: Punishment and Fugitive)
● (1) Fugitives from justice pursued for brigandage, political
● (1) Pursued for a fault of love.
● (1) A hero struggling against a power.
● (1) A pseudo-madman struggling against an Iago-like
(Elements: a Vanquished Power; a Victorious Enemy or a Messenger)
● (1) Defeat suffered.
● (2) A fatherland destroyed.
● (3) The fall of humanity.
● (4) A natural catastrophe.
● (1) A monarch overthrown.
● (1) Ingratitude suffered.
● (2) The suffering of unjust punishment or enmity.
● (3) An outrage suffered.
● (1) Abandonment by a lover or a husband.
● (2) Children lost by their parents.
7. FALLING PREY TO CRUELTY OR MISFORTUNE
(Elements: an Unfortunate; a Master or a Misfortune)
● (1) The innocent made the victim of ambitious intrigue.
● (1) The innocent despoiled by those who should protect.
● (1) The powerful dispossessed and wretched.
● (2) A favorite or an intimate finds himself forgotten.
● (1) The unfortunate robbed of their only hope.
If you don’t want to buy the book, The 36 Dramatic Situations can be found at this link;
http://www.unknownscreenwriter.com/pdf/36DramaticSituationsGeorgesPoltiExpanded.pdf A DVD is also available on this subject using the movie Training Day http://www.writersstore.com/brainstorming-with-the-36-dramatic-situation-jeff-kitchen