So we’ve broken up the idea of an “inciting incident” into three parts: an old problem, a scary opportunity, and an unforeseen conflict. But what does this do to the climax of the story? Do all three of these elements resolve at the same time? Not usually. The problem that became acute in the first scene is almost always resolved in the very last scene, but the other two elements don't always resolve themselves in the same order...
Sometimes the opportunity ends early, but the conflict continues, which looks like this:You’ll recall that Gulino preferred a structure in which the original dramatic question was taken off the table at the ¾ mark, forcing heroes to reverse course and spend the rest of the movie undoing the damage they’ve done, now that the consequences are raging out of control. Obviously, this structure tends to imply that the opportunity was ultimately too costly:But it doesn’t always work that way. Sometimes the hero doesn’t reverse course. In these movies, it’s actually the conflict amongst the main characters that resolves itself early, so that the third act becomes a unified struggle to pay off the opportunity. These movies look like this:The result is movies that are more uplifting...Superbad is an interesting case, because it splits the difference. There are two co-equal plotlines: our heroes say they want to split up and get girlfriends, but what they really need is to admit that they love each other as friends and will miss each other at different colleges. Thus we get a split: in one plotline, the conflict is resolved early, allowing the opportunity to pay off later. In the other plotline, the opportunity fails early, bringing on the conflict later.So much for Problem, Opportunity and Conflict. Now we’ll bring it all together for a week on How to Structure a Movie, but first tomorrow we’ll have a very special 100th installment of Storyteller’s Rulebook where I add one last key concept into the mix...
I'll echo what James said under part 2 and once again marvel at the lucidity and usefulness of your prolific posts. Thanks for existing!
Echoes of thanks from me also - this post is inspired.
I have to say, I love the fact that you started here with an ongoing problem (inciting incidents) and found a daring opportunity to solve them... The only thing missing is the conflict, since everyone seems so enamoured by it!
But the concept of "which ends first: the conflict or the opportunity?" is just mind blowing - it's already helping me shape the 'feel' of my script in previously unachievable ways.
A blog in a million - thank you so much!
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