Body Heat

Comprehensive Storyform

The following analysis reveals a comprehensive look at the Storyform for Body Heat. Unlike most of the analysis found here—which simply lists the unique individual story appreciations—this in-depth study details the actual encoding for each structural item. This also means it has been incorporated into the Dramatica Story Expert application itself as an easily referenced contextual example.

Story Dynamics

8 of the 12 essential questions

Main Character Resolve

Throughout the story, Ned pursues Mattie and her interests regardless of the danger or costs. At the end, however, he approaches the boat house and, sensing a booby trap, changes his mind and asks her to go into the boat house. This risks the very thing (Mattie) that he has so single-mindedly been pursuing.

Main Character Growth

EVERYONE tells Ned he should stop his destructive behavior—from the judge at the beginning, to Lowenstein (the D.A.), to Oscar (the Detective), to Edmond Walker (Mattie’s husband), to the arsonist, etc. And, indeed, Ned really does need to stop—a lesson he learns too late.

Main Character Approach

Ned prefers to resolve problems physically. To address his lust for Mattie, he smashes through the glass to get to her; when Mattie comments on how her husband’s death would solve HER problems, Ned suggests that they murder him; Ned goes through complex machinations (goes to Miami, rents a car, etc.) to establish an alibi; he physically threatens Mattie when he believes her actions will expose their involvement in Edmond’s murder; etc.

Main Character Mental Sex

Ned sees each problem as a separate hurdle to jump—each with its own issues, costs, and benefits. As such, Ned is completely blinded to the “bigger picture” of Mattie’s con and consistently falls prey to her manipulations.

Story Driver

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.

Story Limit

There are a limited number of ways that Mattie can get away with the murder and the inheritance. One by one the opportunities to thwart Mattie are closed down as her plan tightens.

Story Outcome

Mattie gets away with the murder(s) and the money. Because she is thought to be dead, no one is even trying to find out how she secretly escaped to Tahiti with ALL of the inheritance money. This complete success is mitigated in the epilogue/author’s proof by leaving Mattie’s subsequent “happiness” ambiguous. Does she regret her past actions as she lies there in the sun drinking exotic drinks with a handsome man, or is that neutral expression due to some other unrelated thoughts she has on her mind?

Story Judgment

Ned feels terrible that his decision has led to Mattie’s apparent death—she “obviously” couldn’t have known about the booby trap or she wouldn’t have walked into it (or so he thought). This judgment of “Bad” is mitigated in the author’s proof by having Ned figure out that he has been duped and that he strongly suspects the real truth: Mattie is alive and living exceedingly well off of the inheritance money.

Overall Story Throughline

"Getting Away With Murder"

Overall Story Throughline

Mattie’s con job is a long term plan of various activities that include assuming a friend’s identity, seducing Ned Racine (an attorney with a disreputable past), knocking off her husband, killing the friend whose identity she “borrowed,” gaining exclusive possession of her husband’s fortune, faking her own death, and framing Ned for the entire event. Everyone else in the objective story is brought together by these activities and it is a problem within the activities that concerns them.

Overall Story Concern

Mattie wants possession of her husband’s money; Ned wants possession of Mattie (and the money, secondarily); Edmond Walker sees everything as possessions (including his wife) and wants to possess as much as he can and keep others away from his possessions; Oscar is concerned with obtaining the evidence that will lead to the identity and capture of Edmond’s murderer(s); Edmond’s sister is concerned with getting some of the inheritance for her daughter; etc.

Overall Story Issue

There is an obvious thematic tug-of-war between Self Interest and Morality in the story: Mattie’s pursuit of personal gain at the expense of others; Ned’s pursuit of personal pleasure and his dubious ethical practices as an attorney; the D.A.‘s struggle with helping a friend avoid criminal charges vs. his moral obligation as a representative of the people; Edmond Walker’s self-professed self interest and his complete lack of moral concern for others; etc.

Overall Story Counterpoint

Overall Story Thematic Conflict
Self-Interest vs.Morality

Overall Story Problem

Mattie’s pursuit of being “rich and living in exotic lands” causes troubles for everyone in contact with her; Edmond Walker’s pursuit of possessions allows Ned to pass a personal judgment on him which makes it easier for Ned to kill Edmond; Mattie’s look-a-like friend’s pursuit of Mattie (and blackmail) gets her killed; Ned’s open pursuit of Mattie after Edmond’s death makes him a prime suspect; Oscar’s pursuit of the murderer’s identity creates trouble between Ned and Mattie; etc.

Overall Story Solution

Mattie escapes undetected and relocates to Tahiti.

Overall Story Symptom

It’s hot and everyone is trying to control their tempers and their behavior. Much attention is focused on the constraints imposed by society in general (including the law), and relationships (spouses, co-workers, friends, etc.) in particular. The police are trying to keep control in their town; Edmond Walker’s attention is focused on controlling his home, his business, and everything else around him; Mattie protests about being controlled by her husband (which is clearly not the reality of the situation); etc.

Overall Story Response

People are reacting to the strong controls around them by letting things loosen up a bit—perhaps a little more than they should. Clothes are loose, tempers are loose, passions are loose, “morality” in general is allowed to get a little too loose. The police bend the rules by easing up on their suspicions of Ned for a time; the D.A. leaks information to Ned about the damning evidence mounting against him; etc.

Overall Story Catalyst

Ned’s decision to help Mattie kill her husband (ostensibly because he is such a bad person and deserves it) is the most obvious example of how morality gets the objective story moving forward. Another example is Oscar’s determined pursuit of the identity of Edmond’s murderer and the evidence that will put Ned in jail.

Overall Story Inhibitor
Overall Story Benchmark

The degree to which people are seen to be engaged in activities indicates how the objective story is progressing. Early on, people seem to be doing very little—things are slow and relatively neutral. As the story progresses, however, we are shown that everyone becomes very busy with their prospective concerns: the detectives go from sitting around the station to interviewing possible witnesses to running all over Miami; Edmond’s other relatives go from casually expecting some of the inheritance to aggressively pursuing avenues that will include them in the inheritance; Ned goes from business as usual to collecting more and more evidence of Mattie’s duplicity; Mattie goes from sitting around in the local bar to enlisting Ned’s help in murdering her husband to busily preparing for her grand exit; etc.

Additional Overall Story Information →
Overall Story Throughline Synopsis

Mattie Walker, a beautiful seductress, manipulates a shabby, amorous attorney into killing her husband in a manner that allows her to inherit her husband’s substantial wealth and have the lawyer take the rap.

Main Character Throughline

Ned Racine

Main Character Throughline

Ned exists in a completely static situation with which he is entirely discontented. As an attorney in a small Florida town, he is in a dead end job in a place where nothing interesting ever happens and without any expectations for change. From the very first scene where Ned observes a fire burning in the city, he comments, “That is my history burning up out there.” What he doesn’t realize is that it is also a metaphor for his present and a foreshadowing of his future.

Main Character Concern

Ned doesn’t want to live in his present condition/situation forever. He sees himself destined for bigger and better things. That’s why Mattie’s promises of a future relationship with her without financial concerns hooks him.

Main Character Issue

Ned is always putting off things that are only significant to himself. Though his concerns are for the future, he procrastinates looking for another position, looking for another place to live, looking for his heart’s desire, etc. The times he SHOULD delay in order to get some objectivity, namely when he on the prowl, is when he doesn’t take time and ends up making very bad choices.

Main Character Counterpoint

Main Character Thematic Conflict
Delay vs.Choice

Main Character Problem

Ned pursues his goals to unhealthy extremes. Early on, we are shown how his persistent pursuit of his client’s interests irritates the ruling judge. Soon after, his blind pursuit of Mattie gets him into the predicament of his life—a lifetime sentence in jail.

Main Character Solution

Ned backs off from the booby-trapped boathouse door, even though Mattie has asked him to go there. This saves him from being blown up.

Main Character Symptom

As an attorney, Ned’s attention is drawn toward supporting his client’s positions. Once he hooks up with Mattie, his attentions work their way toward supporting Mattie’s plans and aspirations—whatever configuration they take.

Main Character Response

Most everybody tells Ned that his behavior is self-destructive and that he should stop whatever he is doing. He sees them as opposing him and his wishes and, almost as if to spite them, he consistently chooses to continue his self-destructive behavior.

Main Character Unique Ability

Ned is the Chosen One—Mattie’s choice for the fall guy. Though her subterfuge hides this from Ned (and the audience) for a good portion of the story, there is at least one scene in which this is made surprisingly clear. At the local bar where Mattie is known to hang out, every man there has sat next to her, tried to pick her up, and was given the brush off. A patron tells Ned that many guys have tried to sit at that bar stool, but Ned is the only one she has chosen. Ned’s past mistakes, his reckless behavior, and the ease with which he is manipulated makes him a perfect choice for Mattie’s plans and, in fact, is the primary reason she gets away with her scheme. Of course, Mattie can fairly easily rely on Ned making bad choices when given the right motivation (sex)—it has happened before, and it’s likely to continue to happen.

Main Character Critical Flaw

Ned’s hopes for having a long lasting, meaningful relationship with Mattie tempers his recklessness and frequently undermines his ability to satisfy Mattie. The last thing she wants is a moon-eyed, love struck man messing up her plans. We see this when Ned makes comments about their future life together—Mattie frequently puts the stops on that subject and finds some excuse for them to separate and meet later.

Main Character Benchmark

The greater progress is made on the murder case, the greater Ned is concerned with his future: the future of his relationship with Mattie, his future career, etc.

Additional Main Character Information →
Main Character Description

Ned Racine is a sleazy, self-interested, horny attorney. What he has in good looks doesn’t begin to compensate for what he lacks in ethics.

Main Character Throughline Synopsis

Ned Racine is a bored, slimy lawyer whose shoddy legal work has gotten him into problems in the past, present, and most likely future. He is stuck in a small town in Florida without any expectations of leaving. That is until Mattie Walker comes into his life.

Influence Character Throughline

Mattie Walker — Married Woman

Influence Character Throughline

In Mattie’s high school yearbook she wrote that her goal was to be rich and live in foreign lands. This single fixation defines her better than anything else and explains her willingness to do anything to accomplish this goal.

Influence Character Concern

Mattie wants to be able to satisfy her wildest desires because she has taken the worst that life has to offer (drug addiction, use and abuse, emotional torture, etc.) and she will NEVER live that way again.

Influence Character Issue

Mattie’s hopes are other peoples dreams. Where most people only dream of living in luxury in exotic lands (dreams that could never be realized), Mattie’s ruthlessness makes those “dreams” into mere desired expectations—optimistic anticipations of a very real possibility.

Influence Character Counterpoint

Influence Character Thematic Conflict
Hope vs.Dream

Influence Character Problem

Mattie is driven by logic. She has determined what it is she wants, what steps she needs to get there, where the situational leverage points are located to control the balance of power, and how to work the entire male-dominated system to get where she wants to be.

Influence Character Solution

If Mattie ever allowed herself to let her feelings have control of her decisions, she could begin to find true happiness (or at least resolve her personal issues) over settling for comfort. The epilogue/author’s proof emphasizes this particular point by showing Mattie’s creature comforts met, but leaving it ambiguous as to what she is feeling.

Influence Character Symptom

Mattie’s focus on control makes nothing but trouble for Ned. Her complete control over him makes him a pawn in her plans and leads to Ned to being put in jail for Edmond’s and her murders.

Influence Character Response

Mattie’s (seemingly) uncontrolled sexuality and unbridled passion reels Ned back to her every time he begins to slip away from under her control.

Influence Character Unique Ability

Mattie’s ability to create credible fantasies of Ned and Mattie’s future together, and her ability to make Ned believe in the highly implausible likelihood of their getting away with Edmond’s murder, keeps Ned from falling from her influence.

Influence Character Critical Flaw

The longer it takes for Mattie’s plan to come to fruition, the greater the likelihood her plans will be foiled. Because it has taken her so long, her old girlfriend (with whom she switched identities) has located her and is blackmailing her by threatening to expose Mattie’s true identity; the delay of the monies held in probate almost allows Ned to figure out what’s really going on before Mattie has had time to transfer the funds to her secret accounts and set up her “death”; etc.

Influence Character Benchmark

At the beginning, Mattie has complete control over her actions and reactions. As events progress and chaotic events increase, however, her unthinking reactions threaten to give her plans away and reveal the degree of her concern. For example, her fleeting look of displeasure toward Ned when she discovers him talking to her look-a-like girlfriend; her surprise and mild panic when her husband pulls out a gun with which to get the intruder; etc.

More Influence Character Information →
Influence Character Description

Mattie Walker is a beautiful, young woman with an ugly past. She is sexy, sultry, and willing to do almost anything to get whatever she wants.

Influence Character Throughline Synopsis

Mattie Walker was a nobody who is working her way toward financial and emotional independence—one man at a time. She has a scheme that will get rid of her current husband and let some schmoe take the blame for it.

Relationship Story Throughline

"The Heat is On"

Relationship Story Throughline

The subjective story throughline shows how passion can blind a man to being manipulated by a ruthless woman.

Relationship Story Concern

Ned and Mattie come into conflict over becoming a couple. Up until the invalidation of Edmond’s will, the concerns are more on the external pressures of their relationship. The relationship is supposed to be a big secret—one that Ned almost blows on a couple of occasions (mistaking Mattie’s friend for Mattie and coming on to her, etc.). When the relationship becomes public, the concern turns to the internal pressures on their relationship. Ned’s accusations about the effects of Mattie’s misdeeds conflicting with Mattie’s protestations of innocence and “hurt” that he would think that she is responsible, etc.

Relationship Story Issue

Echoing the Self Interest/Morality thematic conflict in the objective story throughline, the subjective story throughline (Ned and Mattie’s relationship) examines the commitments Ned and Mattie make to each other in an effort to sustain the relationship, versus each one’s responsibility to their own self interests (Mattie’s scheme; Ned’s position as an attorney).

Relationship Story Counterpoint

Relationship Story Thematic Conflict
Commitment vs.Responsibility

Relationship Story Problem

Issues of conscience create great strains on their relationship. Is it right to sleep with a married woman? Is it right to kill her husband to get him out of the way and take his money? Is it right to jump into bed with a “grieving widow” so quickly? The constant threat that their true relationship will be found out keeps them apart far more often than they (particularly Ned) like. While Ned would like to succumb to the temptations of not caring what anyone thinks about their relationship, Mattie keeps their relationship in check ostensibly for fear of possible consequences.

Relationship Story Solution

After the invalidation of the will, Ned openly gives in to the temptation of visiting the rich new widow. For a short time that removes the conflicts in the relationship. A relationship, however, takes two to tango and Mattie has no intention of letting herself succumb to the temptations that Ned offers—she has her sights set much higher.

Relationship Story Symptom

It’s hot, he’s single, she’s married, they want each other, but when they’re in public they MUST behave themselves. In a larger sense, Mattie is constantly focused on how she can control Ned and the relationship—something she is quite adept at doing.

Relationship Story Response

When alone, Ned and Mattie abandon themselves to their desires. Mattie manipulates the relationship so that it conveniently goes out of control at a time when it is most beneficial to her objective story plans.

Relationship Story Catalyst

Ned determines that it is his responsibility to “save” Mattie from her miserable marriage to Edmond and suggests accomplishing this by killing Edmond. Ned’s acceptance of responsibility for the forged will gives a big boost to their relationship (he can now publicly be known to be sleeping with her). Ultimately, his implied responsibility for the murder is what forces the big break-up.

Relationship Story Inhibitor

When either Ned or Mattie’s personal interests appear (to the other partner) to be of greater importance than the relationship, the relationship becomes strained and they end up taking a little time apart from each other.

Relationship Story Benchmark
Additional Relationship Story Information →
Relationship Story Throughline Synopsis

Mattie manipulates Ned into thinking she is in love with him and would be anything for him—if only her husband wasn’t around. The reality is that she is just using their “hot” relationship for her own purposes—to get her husband’s money for her and her alone.

Additional Story Points

Key Structural Appreciations

Overall Story Goal

Mattie wants to inherit her husband’s wealth and get away with it.

Overall Story Consequence

Ned has become a prisoner.

Overall Story Cost

Mattie has to use her sexual wiles (and perform sexual acts) on Ned and Edmond—neither of which seem to be her “type” based on the guy with her on the beach at the end of the story.

Overall Story Dividend

The arsonist is able to cut a deal which will improve his future conditions; the world is a better place with Edmond Walker dead; etc.

Overall Story Requirements

Edmond Walker must be killed, Ned must be framed, and Mattie’s look-a-like friend must be killed and her body made to be mistaken for Mattie in order for Mattie to get all the money and disappear successfully.

Overall Story Prerequisites

Mattie must pretend to be her look-a-like friend; Mattie must pretend that she is a loving wife to Edmond, Edmond’s unhappy wife to Ned, a caring lover to Ned, etc.; Ned must pretend to be a business acquaintance of Mattie’s; etc.

Overall Story Preconditions

Mattie must appeal to Ned’s (and Edmond’s) sexual impulses. If they are allowed to think about it too much, she might be found out.

Overall Story Forewarnings

Mattie is getting closer and closer to getting the inheritance, but Ned sees that her progress is less and less dependent on his relationship with her. In fact, the closer she gets to receiving the money, the closer he is getting to being framed for the con.

Plot Progression

Dynamic Act Appreciations

Overall Story

Overall Story Signpost 1
Overall Story Signpost 2
Overall Story Signpost 3
Overall Story Signpost 4

Main Character

Main Character Signpost 1
Main Character Signpost 2
Main Character Signpost 3
Main Character Signpost 4

Influence Character

Influence Character Signpost 1
Influence Character Signpost 2
Influence Character Signpost 3
Influence Character Signpost 4

Relationship Story

Relationship Story Signpost 1
Relationship Story Signpost 2
Relationship Story Signpost 3
Relationship Story Signpost 4

Plot Progression Visualizations

Dynamic Act Schematics


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