Working Girl

by KE Monahan Huntley

Main character Tess McGill is the titular Working Girl in director Mike Nichols and writer Kevin Wade's study of a baby doll Brooklyn secretary (mc domain-universe) with big hair and even bigger ideas (objective story concern-conceiving). Set in Manhattan's business arena of mergers and acquisitions (objective story prerequisite-obtaining), competition (os domain-psychology) for a power position in high finance is fierce. Undeterred, Tess attempts (mc unique ability) to climb the corporate ladder:


The straight shot, Tess, is they turned you down for the entrée (mc problem-potentiality) program again.




. . . You have to remember you're up against Harvard and Wharton graduates. Whaddya got . . . some night school, some secretarial time on your sheet?


Christians and lions, Tess.

Tess quits (mc approach-do-er) the obvious dead end and takes on a new post with a true lioness--Katharine Parker--whose signature line is: "I am, after all, me." Under the false impression Katharine will guide her career: "Tess, you know you don't get anywhere in this world by waiting for what you want to come to you (os problem-reaction). You make it happen (os solution-proaction). Watch me Tess. Learn from me"-she approaches her boss with a brainstorm for a plum account-Trask Industries. Katharine promises to take a "looksee."


I've been trying (mc thematic counterpoint-attempt) to get into the entrée program, and this would be a big push, I mean if anything . . . happens.


Absolutely, Tess. Two way street.

Katharine, of course, has her own agenda, one that does not include anyone else taking the credit for ideas-whether or not they are hers.

Tessa's lucky break (literally!) comes about when Katharine breaks her leg on a ski trip and is hospitalized for several weeks:


I need (os thematic issue) you to take over.

In her absence, Tess reads Katharine's confidential memo to Jack Trainer:


There's a lightbulb over my head. I know Trask and you know media. And that adds up to us finally doing a deal together. Let's run with it.

Betrayed by Katharine, Tess is also betrayed by her boyfriend ("You snake!"), whom she discovers naked with Doreen.

What's a girl with "a head for business and a bod for sin" to do? Pass herself off as her boss's fictitious assistant, meet with influence character Jack Trainer (who also happens to be Katharine's boyfriend), and attempt (mc unique ability) to put the Trask deal together:


In each of the last three quarters, Trask Industries has announced plans to acquire a major market television station, each time unsuccessfully. At the same time they've expended time and money fighting off a hostile takeover attempt by one of their Japanese competitors. Buying into radio would in one fell swoop accomplish two important tasks. It would give Trask a solid base in broadcasting, and because of FCC regulations forbidding foreign ownership of radio stations, it would wipe out the threat of a Japanese takeover.


Interesting idea (os goal-conceiving).

Tess and Jack form a professional relationship--Tess all the while keeping her secretary identity a secret. Jack unwittingly serves as her mentor (relationship story concern-learning). Though lacking in analytical (mc critical flaw) skills, Tess uses unorthodox methods to make the deal happen-and surprise!--Jack realizes he has a lot to learn from her bravado.

"Isn't it romantic?" Tess and Jack fall in love as the deal is set up:


By letting some of the air out of our strategy (rs thematic issue) to expand into broadcasting, Miss McGill and Mr. Trainer have effectively shown all of us here at Trask, the light at the end of our tunnel.

Unfortunately, Katharine walks in before contracts are signed. Dramatically pointing a crutch, she exposes Tess's charade. Jack blanches (ic problem-reaction) and Tess, humiliated, excuses herself.

Success (outcome) is inevitable when, in one short scene, Jack makes a leap of faith (ic resolve-change), and Tess puts it all together (female mental sex) for Trask:


This is Forbes. . . . It's just your basic article about how you were looking to expand into broadcasting. Now the same day . . . I'm reading page six of the Post, and there's this item on Bobby Stein the radio talk show guy. . . . He's hosting this charity auction that night--real blue bloods. Now I turn the page to Suzy who does the society stuff and there's this picture of your daughter . . . and she's helping to organize the charity ball. So I started to think, Trask, radio. Trask, radio. And then I hooked up with Jack, and he came on board with Metro. And so now, here we are.

Impressed, Trask fires Katharine and hires Tess into his entry-level program (mc solution-certainty). An office and assistant of her own-the working class girl (mc resolve-steadfast) has been promoted to the big leagues (judgment-good).

About the Author

KE Monahan Huntley is an editor and publisher based in Southern California. As one of the original contributors to Dramatica, she helped edit and analyze many of the examples. In addition, her numerous articles provided an insightful "conversational" approach to the theory. Today she can be found at Write Between the Lines or follow her on Twitter @kemhuntley.

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