If you’ve ever read a screenwriting technique book or listened to any one of the many wonderful screenplay coaches found throughout the United States, then you’ve likely been exposed to the importance of opposition. While one of the many benefits of this screenwriting technique is creating character relationship dynamics, it may also be used to foster screenplay suspense, and most importantly, unpredictable elements and character choices.
To create a script that’s intriguing and marketable you must ensure opposition through scenarios and relationships are injected throughout the core of any screenplay.
Opposition and Its Various Elements
True screenplay opposition doesn’t necessarily have to come in the form of dialogue or even between two characters. Opposition may be delivered by the hands of practically anything. For example, your characters may face opposition from another character or from elements such as the weather, animals or even terrain (landslides, earthquakes, etc).
Just as not every writing genre is effective at telling your unique story, not every element of opposition is appropriate for your particular story. The following are the primary elements a screenwriter may utilize to form and foster opposition. Mind you, this is not a full list as the ability of opposition to rear its ugly head in a multitude of elements is very real.
Character-on-Character Opposition – Think about scenarios where another character poses a direct opposition to your primary character. This may be applied to very serious scripts (those with a violent antagonist) or in lighthearted scenes found in comedies (a rude customer in line at the post office).
Environmental Opposition – Our surroundings can often attack our daily routines or even our liveliness. Environmental opposition sources may come from natural disasters such as tornadoes or earthquakes or through more lighthearted elements; the main character trips over a vine and chips his tooth right before senior pictures.
Internal Opposition – Sometimes the strong opposing force in our lives is oneself. Many times this element can be used to showcase the various internal hindrances the primary characters face throughout the journey of the screenplay. If you’re working with a script that relies more on subtext than dialogue, then this screenwriting element will effectively accomplish the goal of establishing suspense (as humans are the most unpredictable of all creatures) while simultaneously deepening the internal emotional landscape of said character.
While the use of opposition is among the most interesting and vibrant out of many screenwriting techniques, it must be used in a manner to prevent predictability and stereotypical responses. If you find that your screenplay is lacking suspense or if its suspense is generic in tone, consider enhancing the level or involvement of opposing forces. More than likely, this screenwriting technique will boost character interest and audiences’ emotional participation.