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Old 10-23-2018, 12:02 AM   #11
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 853
Default Re: The Opening - Problem vs. Opportunity

Originally Posted by socalwriter1 View Post
I've been reading this since forever:
In the opening, show the protag’s everyday life and then throw a problem at them that changes everything.

Instead of a "problem," can we present an "opportunity" instead?
First of all, whoever said that you need to start off showing the protag's every day is simply wrong. There are any number of stories that start off with the hero or heroes already in the midst of action without and it may not be until later in the story that we get some sense of what they were like before the story got underway. Flight of the Phoenix is a good example of that.

It starts, literally, with the plane crashing in the desert. What we learn about all of the various characters emerges through action in the midst of that story.

All stories are about tension -- about internal and external disequilibrium.

Somebody needs something. All of us have lots of opportunities to do things all the time -- and yet most of us just sit around and don't take advantage of them.

So an opportunity, as such, doesn't mean anything, dramatically. Drama emerges when there is both need that one has a motive to actively pursue - say, getting out of the desert when your plane has crashed.

But even that isn't enough. Because there also has to be serious obstacles to your achieving your need.

But even that isn't enough -- because those obstacles can't be purely external -- like the technical requirements of rebuilding your crashed airplane into a smaller airplane and then flying it out of the desert.

No, the obstacles also have to be internal - because those internal obstacles embody the tension that also represents the theme of your story -- so the pilot that screwed up and crashed the plane and is ultimately responsible (or should be) for saving the crew, is an "old school" guy -- but that way of flying is giving way to this new guy, this little annoying German engineer -- and so that tension -- both external and internal - the protagonist having to come to terms with him being wrong and that guy being right and him having to share the world with guys like these -- that's also part of what that story is about.

So -- all that stuff has to be in there. The need, the tension, the obstacle, the internal/external aspect.

When you talk about a problem, opportunity of one kind or another is generally a part of it, because the potential to solve the problem is inherent in the story.

In the same token, if you talk about an "opportunity" if it's really any kind of story, a problem has to be inherent in the opportunity.

So if it's about losing all your money, it's about how you get your money back or maybe how you learn to live without your money or -- whatever.

Or if it's about winning the lottery (and there have been lots of stories about that) -- then it's about all the problems that follow winning a lot of money and how you then deal with those problems.

You really can't escape the "problem" aspect of telling a story. Until you get to the problem, in a sense, the story hasn't really started.

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Old 10-24-2018, 05:08 PM   #12
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 380
Default Re: The Opening - Problem vs. Opportunity

Thanks guys for the insights. Much appreciated.
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Old 11-07-2018, 04:51 PM   #13
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Join Date: Jun 2009
Posts: 2,642
Default Re: The Opening - Problem vs. Opportunity

a few examples of opportunities-- but they must be tied to stakes and a "goal" for the characters

Indecent Proposal: the protags lose all their money to buy the house of their dreams. along comes billionaire Redford willing to give them what they want, all he wants in return is one night with Woody's wife Demi.

In The Proposal Bullock needs to stay in the country but cannot do it, so she presents Reynolds with an opportunity-- marry her and she'll help him get his book published.

American Made: a down and out pilot (Cruise) gets locked up and the Federal Government bails him out, and he wants to do is be a pilot and provide for his family. Along comes the FEDs and ask him to fly arms into third world countries.

Sicario: an idealist FBI agent is recruited into a covert government operation to capture a major drug lord. She wants justice.

point is, many movies present an "opportunity" for the protagonist to exploit. It usually results in a false opportunity where the protagonists themselves become the exploited.
“Learn the rules like a pro, so you can break them like an artist,” Pablo Picasso
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