To build sympathy, the opportunity should be obviously intimidating. This shouldn’t be a no-brainer decision, but to avoid losing empathy, the full size of the potential conflict should not be immediately apparent, as we’ll see in the next three steps.
- Many intimidating opportunities, such as the shark in Jaws and the runaway train in Unstoppable, are disasters for everyone except the heroes, each of whom needs a chance to prove his continued usefulness. A classic positive intimidating opportunity can be found in Superbad: While the characters get to go to a real party and become heroes to their crushes by providing the beer, it’s illegal and they’ve never tried it before. It’s clearly intimidating, but they don’t yet know how bad it’ll be because they don’t imagine they’ll get mugged.
- Some intimidating opportunities exist only in the hero’s mixed-up mind. In both positive and tragic ways, the hero’s volatile chemistry gets unexpectedly set off by the sight of his daughter’s cheerleader friend in American Beauty.
- Others are only intimidating because of the hero’s flaw, as with Andy’s terror in The 40-Year-Old Virgin when his co-workers offer to help him get laid.
The 40 Year Old Virgin
YES. They offer to help him get laid.
YES, when things start going wrong, her status improves.
YES. She gets hit on by a rich guy who can make Elgar jokes.
NO. she knows she must do something, but sees no opportunity to do anything. In retrospect, the book is the (very roundabout) opportunity to fix her problem, but she can’t see it that way, understandably enough (not can we, until the very end.)
YES. He’s appointed sheriff due to a land grab scheme.
YES. In his own twisted way: he finds an ear, which represents a chance to find the hidden truth about his town.
The Bourne Identity
YES. the Swiss bank account embedded in his hip.
YES. Gets offered the job of maid of honor, a chance to secure her friendship.
YES. he gets the letters of transit, but will he use them to escape alone, to help them escape, or to steal her and escape together?
YES. He decides to follow up.
YES. Lefty now feels bonded to him.
Do the Right Thing
NO. He thinks the only solution to his sister and Tina’s nagging (and Smiley’s for that matter) is just to keep at his job and get paid. He does not realize until the end that this solution is untenable. The closest thing he gets to an intimidating opportunity is when Da Mayor says “Always to the right thing.” But Mookie doesn’t know what that means, so he feels that he gets no opportunities to rise above his situation.
YES. She finds out that she can to visit China and her grandma, but only on the condition that her hide her grandma’s cancer.
YES. He meets Charlene.
YES. She then hits it off with him and decides to marry him right away. The intimidating part is that her sister refuses her blessing.
YES. his bus wrecks and he has a chance to escape.
YES. It seems so: Rose defends him from the cop, implying that his relationship with her will give him access to her privilege.
YES. He ends up stuck in a loop, though he doesn’t see it as an opportunity for a long time.
How to Train Your Dragon
YES. He finds that he’s downed a night dragon, but doesn’t know what to do with him. (This is where he has his spiritual crisis as well, very early!)
In a Lonely Place
YES. In a roundabout way: a girl’s death brings his old cop friend and a new girlfriend into his life, both of whom will offer him compassion while challenging him on his anger issues.
YES. He builds the armor.
YES. Sort of. She pusues the real solution (applying for an east coast school) slowly in the background for most of the movie, but in the foreground she pursues other ways to be sophisticated and happy: Theater and boys she perceives as smarter than her.
YES. They hear about the Arizona quintuplets.
YES. The opportunity is obvious: study, but he refuses to consider it until very late in the movie. Instead he pursues an imaginary opporunity for romance.
YES. He realizes that the sheriff in Selma is the villain he needs.
YES. Jack: Yes, offered a job that will allow him to dry out in a liquor-free hotel. Danny: yes, meets Halloran.
YES. His friend promises to get him laid.
The Silence of the Lambs
YES. Thinks Lecter knows more than he lets on.
YES. His new robot has a message for the rebellion, and leads him to a friend of his father who proposes a “damn fool crusade”
YES. he finds an aging actress who needs a screenwriter.