The Opening - Problem vs. Opportunity

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  • The Opening - Problem vs. Opportunity

    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?

  • #2
    Re: The Opening - Problem vs. Opportunity

    As long as there are stakes with your story's potatoes. Trading Places has that “opportunity” type of premise, so if your screenplay is a comedy, it ought to work if it has a well-executed plot.

    Stakes = something to lose, the “or else” from the DDPro thread “How To Write A Logline,” where a logline is the distilled essence of the story throughline of your screenplay.

    (title) is a (genre) about (protagonist--one guy, no proper names) who must (goal) or else (disaster that will happen if he doesn't succeed).
    Last edited by TigerFang; 12-22-2018, 07:08 PM.
    "Go to the edge of the cliff and jump off. Build your wings on the way down.- - Ray Bradbury

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    • #3
      Re: The Opening - Problem vs. Opportunity

      Originally posted by socalwriter1 View Post
      Instead of a "problem," can we present an "opportunity" instead?
      Usually there won't be as much drama in an opportunity as there will be in problem (as in a "life changing" problem).
      STANDARD DISCLAIMER: I'm a wannabe, take whatever I write with a huge grain of salt.

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      • #4
        Re: The Opening - Problem vs. Opportunity

        An opportunity in itself can create problems. There are movies that start with the protag seizing an opportunity that leads to challenges and obstacles.

        It's the old adage: get your protag up a tree then throw rocks at him/her. You can get your protag up a tree with an opportunity.
        The Firm comes immediately to mind.
        Advice from writer, Kelly Sue DeConnick. "Try this: if you can replace your female character with a sexy lamp and the story still basically works, maybe you need another draft.-

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        • #5
          Re: The Opening - Problem vs. Opportunity

          Originally posted by socalwriter1 View Post
          Instead of a "problem," can we present an "opportunity" instead?

          A lot of movies open with opportunities that create problems.


          If it works, it works.
          "I just couldn't live in a world without me."

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          • #6
            Re: The Opening - Problem vs. Opportunity

            Yes, if it appears to be a good opportunity but ends up creating havoc, it can become what's called a "Be careful what you wish for" story.

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            • #7
              Re: The Opening - Problem vs. Opportunity

              It's a movie, so we'll all know that the 'opportunity' is really problems pending.

              Don't a lot of horrors begin with 'opportunities'?

              Oh, aren't we the lucky ones - we've found out how to get to 'The Beach'.

              And Alex Garland's 'Ex Machina' also begins with a lucky break for the protagonist.
              Last edited by Crayon; 10-01-2018, 09:57 AM.
              Know this: I'm a lazy amateur, so trust not a word what I write.
              "The ugly can be beautiful. The pretty, never." ~ Oscar Wilde

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              • #8
                Re: The Opening - Problem vs. Opportunity

                Thanks everyone. This is what I needed to get my brain thinking.

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                • #9
                  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?
                  Maybe a better description instead of "problem" would be "inciting event" and it could be a simple thing like the protagonist making a decision or being acted upon in some way, even if in a positive manner.
                  You know Jill you remind me of my mother. She was the biggest whore in Alameda and the finest woman that ever lived. Whoever my father was, for an hour or for a month, he must have been a happy man.

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                  • #10
                    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?

                    The problem sets the character on a journey/quest out of the everyday life. An opportunity does the same thing. There are lots of ways to do it.
                    Story Structure 1
                    Story Structure 2
                    Story Structure 3

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                    • #11
                      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.

                      NMS

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                      • #12
                        Re: The Opening - Problem vs. Opportunity

                        Thanks guys for the insights. Much appreciated.

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                        • #13
                          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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