Writing On Spec

An award caliber procrastinator discovers a new and dangerous pursuit to keep him from actually writing another script. Why another Blog? I love to talk screenwriting. I love to talk story. I live in Richmond, VA. It's almost easier to get produced than find another screenwriter here. We are the anti-LA.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Creating An Opponent

This is information I picked up from the Tennessee Screenwriting Association Newsletter years ago. I thought the info was good, so thought I'd share.

While the forces of Conflict (or Antagonism) may be presented in any one or combination of four ways:

1. Conflict with self

2. Conflict with others,

3. Conflict with the environment,

4. Conflict with the supernatural.

The most common is conflict with another who is a strong opponent. The reasons why...
The role of the Protagonist is only as interesting as his Antagonist is strong. The Antagonist must be as complex and valuable to the story as the Protagonist. The Antagonist must have great power or status.

Only by competing for the same goal in the story do the Protagonist and Antagonist drive each other to great heights.

The Antagonist is necessary to the Hero's story because he is the one person in the world best able to attack the Hero's weakness (which must be established in the hero's persona).

The purpose driving the Antagonist's actions must be strong enough to create a unity of opposites (believable reasons why both hero and opponent must get to the same place at the same time).
Only because of the Antagonist's actions is the Protagonist forced to learn (or arc) by examining his own actions.

The Antagonist should not be an exact opposite of the hero; he should have similarities as well as distinct differences.

The Antagonist's rationale toward his actions should make sense to an audience as to why he's doing what he's doing.

The conflict between the Antagonist and Protagonist should establish the Moral Argument of the Story (the difference between what each character does to reach their goal and ending with the Hero's actions forcing him to make a self-realization that the Antagonist is usually unwilling or unable to make).

To create a strong opponent, here are some good basic rules to follow:

1. You must set up the opposition early. Make sure you know the Opponent's set of values vs. the Hero's set of values.
2. If the opponent is some type of system, choose a character to personify the system.
3. If the protagonist must face a series of opponents, create a Hierarchy of opponents that clearly show which opponent is the strongest.

Jonathan Hensleigh created a pair of great opponents in "The Rock." Although Hummel's reasons for fighting are good, his choice of getting his message out is flawed. This makes for a complex character with whom the audience can sympathize. Although you want (and rightfully so) the hero to succeed, there is still the nagging feeling that you want Hummel to succeed as well. This is because he has a just cause. This mixture of emotions you feel when watching The Rock is because of the character development of Hummel.

Another good example os The Joker from the first Batman movie, by Sam Hamm & Warren Skaaren. Although he is a bad guy, you feel for the position he has been put in by Batman. Batman is, after all, the reason for his disfigurement. The sense of humor that was injected into the character only added to the part. Although we don't feel sorry for the Joker when Batman triumphs, there is still a twinge of regret that the whole episode happened to him.

Top Gun, written by Chip Proser, created a good match of opponents in Maverick (Tom Cruise) and Iceman (Val Kilmer). The Iceman character is the type of character you love to hate because he is so good. Maverick is the perfect underdog because he wants so much, like most of us, and yet he runs into somebody that has more skill than he does - Iceman. We can all associate with Maverick's plight, and, therefore, we are all thrust into the film by being able to relate to Maverick's situation.

A more recent example of great character development for the hero and opponent is Face Off with Nick Cage and John Travolta. Nick Cage's character is as bad as they come, but he has a real soft spot when it comes to his brother. He really does care about what happens to him (just like a big brother should). John Travolta's character appears to have everything, but is in the process of tossing it all away because of his obsession with Nick Cage. If you want to create a great set of opposing characters, check out this film written by Mike Werb & Michael Colleary.

Next time you watch a movie, check out the antagonist and see if they are really a good opponent, or if they are just a bad guy.



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