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Opponents & Obstacles

Opponents should present many obstacles for the Protagonist to overcome, and those obstacles should continue to escalate. In general, each obstacle should be more difficult or “bigger” than the last. They should also build in terms of importance for the Protagonist. As the Protagonist gets further from home, and deeper into the conflict with the Opponent, they have fewer options to turn back, as the stakes are raised.

Here are some of the obstacles presented by the Opponent, famous conductor Terence Fletcher to the Protagonist, first-year jazz student Andrew Neiman in the feature film Whiplash:

  • berates him
  • throws a chair at him
  • slaps him in front of the class
  • recruits another drummer to take Andrew’s place
  • has Andrew participate in an abusive 2 A.M. tryout
  • forces Andrew to devote more and more to drumming

Through the story Terence creates increasingly difficult obstacles for Andrew and at the same time raises the stakes by forcing Andrew to make more and more hard decisions in his life, therefore giving him less and less motivation to turn back.