A tricky story, intertwined plots, fascinating characters, powerful scenes… How do you write a story like Pulp Fiction? Let’s analyze it!
Sequence 1. Ringo and Yolanda rob the cafeteria 0:00/6:55
“No, forget it, it is too risky. I’m through doin’ that shit.”
Two young people, a man and a woman, are drinking a coffee in a cafeteria, while arguing gently.
Exposition: we are being presented the place of the action – a banal cafeteria – and its future Heroes.
The man explains he wants to stop – stop what, we do not know yet – and the woman tries to understand precisely what the man wants.
She pretends to accept his resignation, and just rectifies: he will stop “after tonight”. They laugh and the man agrees with her.
Hint of the catalyst: from there, we are informed that they want to take action within the day. We know we have to expect something, but still do not know what. Suspense…
A waitress comes to offer them some more coffee and the woman says on a nearly too soft tone: “Oh yes, thank you!”
Characterization: as a customer, she sounds nice… or perfectly hypocritical?
Just after, the man – Ringo – continues and tells how a man robbed a bank with a cell phone, pretending he had kidnapped a little girl. The woman – Yolanda – thinks the man suggests doing the same, but he replies he does not want to rob banks. He complaints about all those people – the Koreans, the Jews…- who do not let themselves robbed so easily. The man suggests to rob the cafeteria they are in, and then start discussing the project.
Now it became clear those two characters are robbers, and the catalyst sounds imminent: they are going to go on the attack in that place very soon – which leads us to pay attention.
Dramatic data of this plot: Hero: Ringo and Yolanda, goal: rob the cafeteria, Antagonist: according to their discussion, none – neither the clients, nor the boss and employees will have the courage to resist them.
Ringo asks for more coffee a rude way, and the waitress serves him without kindness this time.
This detail helps characterizing: the woman is kind, the man is not.
Ringo evokes the “bars, liquor stores, gas stations…”
Characterization. This discussion continues to inform us about the real identity of those characters: experienced criminals, rather at the end of their careers, involved in pathetic robberies.
So, continues Ringo, robbing coffee-shops and restaurants, robbing the clients, it is surer and makes more money. He reveals that “you (Yolanda) got the idea to take everybody’s wallet“.
Characterization. This contradicts what we just stated about Yolanda’s “kindness” – she does not sound so nice now. There is much irony in hearing this amazing dialog – would the audience of Pulp Fiction, here set in connivance with the criminals, really think that robbing the restaurant customers is a “good idea“?
They conclude with excitement: “Let’s go, right here, right now”, Ringo summarizes “you’re crowd control, I handle the employees”, then they both take out their guns and lay them on the table.
Those lines set up our expectations concerning the action to come. It will help surprising us when we will see, in the end, that they will have a big issue with the unexpected presence of the two killers Jules and Vincent among the cafeteria customers. Here again, there will be much dramatic irony since Ringo and Yolanda just agreed on the idea that robbing this cafeteria is “without risks”…
Just before starting the attack they exchange some sweet words “I love you, Pumpkin”, “I love you, Honey Bunny”.
This little game that consists in mixing ultra-violence and clownish jokes, casual talk, will last during all of the movie. Actually, all Quentin Tarantino and Roger Avary’s work mixes humor and murder, and converts horror into pleasure.
Ringo stands up, gets on the table and shouts: “Everybody be cool this is a robbery!”
Catalyst. It was prepared since long, now it finally takes place.
Even announced, the attack keeps something surprising…
Yolanda gets up too and, pointing her gun at the customers, confirms shouting: “Any of you fuckin’ pricks move and I’ll execute everyone of you motherfuckers! Got that?”
Characterization. Here is a formula that is radically violent, and that is absolutely contradictory with her previous pseudo-kindness. Once in action, this woman shows up a rare ability to violence…
From that point, we think we are going to attend the Act II of this robbery plot, and perhaps to an Act III showing those criminals escaping safely – according to their plan – with the customer’s and register’s money. But no, wrong track, this is not going to happen.
The picture freezes on them while a playful music invades the soundtrack.
The cut effect here allows to maintain the suspense and the tension until the end of the movie, when we will see again the end of this sequence, mixed with the point of view of Vincent and Jules. All this sequence made us wait for the decisive moment of the attack, to finally stop us at the most tense and dramatic moment and keep its energy for later: a brilliant kind of wrong track!
The credits of the movie get launched:
Firstly, the production (with the logo of A band Apart, showing 4 men wearing suits, similar to those of Jules and Vincent, and that are coming from the previous movie of Tarantino Reservoir Dogs – inter-textual wink).
Then the title “Pulp Fiction” in big kitschy letters (that remind the audience about the Pulp tradition), the names of the main actors (some of those actors being linked to given genres: Travolta to the musical, Willis to the action movie), etc.
As the credits are still running, the song in the soundtrack is replaced by another one, and the visuals that were synchronized with the beats drop out until the next sequence, producing a weird effect of distance-taking that contrasts with the previous connivance strategy and announces some other future transgressions of the codes.
Did you enjoy it? Want to know more? Then read the full story analysis of Quentin Tarantino’s Pulp Fiction and improve your scenario writing skills from the study of its script.