Opponent’s Plan and Drive, John Truby, p. 289–293
Just as the hero has a plan and takes steps to win, so does the opponent. The opponent comes up with a strategy to get the goal and begins to execute a line of attack against the hero. I cannot empashize enough how important this step is, and yet most writers are largely unaware of it.
As I’ve already mentioned, plot comes largely from reveals. To get reveals, you have to hide the ways the opponent attacks the hero. So you want to devise a detailed plan for the opponent with as many hidden attacks as possible. Each of these hidden attacks, when sprung on the hero, is another reveal.
KEY POINT: The more intricate the opponent’s plan, and the better you hide it, the better your plot will be.
The drive is the series of actions the hero performs to defeat the opponent and win. Comprising what is usually the biggest section of the plot, these actions begin with the hero’s plan (Step 10) and continue all the way to his apparent defeat (Step 14).
During the drive, the opponent is usually too strong, so the hero is losing. As a result, he becomes desperate and often starts taking immoral steps to win. (These immoral actions are part of the moral argument of the story; see Chapter 5.)
KEY POINT: During the drive, you want plot development, not repetition. In other words, change the hero’s action in a fundamental way. Don’t keep hitting the same plot beat (action or event).
For example, in a love story, two characters falling in love may go to the beach, then to the movies, then to the park, and then out to dinner. These may be four different actions, but they are the same plot beat. That’s repetition, not development.
For the plot to develop, you must make your hero react to new information about the opponent (revelations again) and adjust his strategy and course of action accordingly.
The unique feature of Rick’s drive is that it is postponed. This is not a sign of bad writing. It comes from Rick’s character, his weakness and desire. Rick is paralyzed by bitterness and the belief that nothing in the world has value anymore. He wants Ilsa, but she is his opponent and is with another man. So in the early and middle parts of the story, Rick speaks with Ilsa but doesn’t actively try to get her. Indeed, he begins by driving her away.
This postponement of the desire, though required by Rick’s character, has a cost. It results in lulls where audience interest flags. Laszlo seeking exit visas from Ferrari, Laszlo at the police station, Lazslo seeking exit visas from Rick, Laszlo with Ilsa, Laszlo escaping from the underground meeting — all are deflections from the hero’s driving line.
But postponing the drive also has two big benefits. First, the writers use Laszlo’s actions to build the epic, political side of the story. Even though these actions have nothing to do with the hero’s drive, they are necessary in this particular story because they give Rick’s final reveal and decision worldwide importance.
Second, by wating so long to show Rick beginning his quest, the film gains the advantage of having the climaxes and revelations fall quickly one after the other.
When Ilsa comes to Rick’s room and declares her love, Rick finally acts, and the story catches fire. Of course, the great irony of Rick’s sudden burst of action is that he is really taking steps to make sure that he doesn’t get Ilsa. The change in the main character’s motive and goal — from wanting Ilsa to helping her and Laszlo fly away together — happens just after Rick begins his quest for Ilsa. Indeed, much of the excitement of this final quarter of the film is the result of uncertainty as to which of the two goals Rick is really seeking.
KEY POINT: This uncertainty between the two goals works only because it exists for a short time and is part of the big reveal in the final battle.
Rick recalls his time in Paris with Ilsa.
Rick accuses Ilsa of being a whore when she returns to the café.
Rick attempts to make up with Ilsa in the marketplace, but she rejects him.
Rick refuses to turn the letters of transit over to Renault.
After seeing Ilsa, Rick helps the Bulgarian couple win enough money to pay off Renault.
Rick turns down Laszlo’s offers for the letters. He tells him to ask Ilsa why.
Rick turns down Ilsa’s request for the letters, and she confesses she still loves him.
Rick tells Ilsa he will help Laszlo escape — alone.
Rick has Carl senak Ilsa out of the club while he talks to Laszo, who is then arrested.
Michael buys women’s clothes and tells Jeff how tough it is to be a woman.
He lies to Sandy about his newfound source money.
He arranges to do his own makeup and hair.
He improvises to avoid kissing a man.
He is friendly to Julie.
He lies to Sandy about being sick.
He makes another date with Sandy.
He helps April rehearse.
He heps Julie with her lines and asks her why she puts up with Ron.
He lies to Sandy when he’s late for their date.
He improvises new line to make Dorothy a tougher woman.
He improves lines with Julie.
He asks George to help him get deeper roles, now that he’s learned so much as a woman.
Michael, as a man, comes on to Julie, but she rejects him.
As Dorothy, he tells Ron not to call him “Tootsie.”
He lies to avoid Sandy so he can go to the country with Julie.
He falls in love with Julie out on the farm.
The producer tells Michael they want to renew Dorothy’s contract.