If spoilers make you want to nope on out of here…
That’s fine. You should see Nope before you read this.
We need to talk about what happens in the story to take a closer look at how it works, and how it might give you some ideas for stories that you’re working on.
How Nope forces its characters to Fight the Giant
The engine driving Nope is powered by people trying to exploit an unexplained organism flying over Agua Dulce. The Haywood siblings (OJ and Emerald) have a horse ranch directly under the creature’s hunting grounds and want to capture the “Oprah Shot” to cash in on proving its existence. Their neighbor Ricky “Jupe” Park wants to entice the creature to “perform” at his theme park, Jupiter’s Claim.
When writing a story with a massive, awe-inspiring antagonist like Jean Jacket (the name OJ gives the creature), it can tempt the writer to hold back. Save the big fight for the ending.
But Nope tactically deploys confrontations between humans and Jean Jacket throughout the film to raise the stakes for the protagonists.
Each time we see the creature on screen, it’s used not only to put characters in life or death peril, but to focus the protagonists on their goal.
Nope provides plenty of moments that tie into the tips on the Writer Emergency Pack card “Fight The Giant.”
Let’s take a closer look…
Early battles create complications
The Fight the Giant card reminds you that while we think of showdowns coming at the end of the story, early battles allow for new complications for your heroes.
Jean Jacket’s first action minutes into the film barely counts as an appearance, but it makes a big impact.
A hail of debris from the sky kills Otis Haywood Sr. We later learn that this debris was non-digestible material ejected from Jean Jacket after feeding on some missing hikers.
That knowledge changes things for Emerald and OJ. This isn’t just a chance for them to get their Oprah Shot of an impossible creature. It adds a new wrinkle to their motivation.
The creature took their father from them, so there’s a personal connection between the protagonists and the antagonistic beast, strengthening the desire to tame (or at least cash in on) this animal.
Make the enemy come to them
The Fight the Giant card also suggests listing out ways the enemy could bring the fight to the hero at that exact moment.
One way Nope does that? When Emerald and Angel (the Fry’s Electronics installer) get stuck inside the house as Jean Jacket delivers a fresh scare in the form of undigested blood and debris ejected onto the house.
It’s what’s left of the crowd from Jupiter’s Claim after Jupe’s attempt to lure the creature in to perform ended in it eating the entire audience.
The rain of blood fits with the logic behind the creature’s biology, and it makes sense for the creature to come home to its territory after a big meal. It also keeps up the tension by making sure the creature doesn’t only show up when the characters expect it to or feel prepared.
That’s part of the reason behind the card’s suggestion: your antagonist could appear at any moment, and coming up with multiple options can help you pick and choose when and where they should make their presence felt.
Rushing the plan
Another suggestion from the Writer Emergency Pack: If your hero has a plan, how can they be forced to accelerate it?
Jean Jacket eating Jupe and his audience adds further fuel to the dramatic fire: it brings unwanted attention from the outside world.
Before there were only vague hints that something weird was happening in Agua Dulce. News reports of dozens of missing people create the potential for competition.
Either they get the Oprah Shot first, or they get nothing. Those have always been the stakes, but the creature becoming more active and hungry forces the characters to accelerate their plan.
Now OJ chooses to take a bigger risk, riding a horse as bait for Jean Jacket. Without the potential for this window of opportunity to close, the story wouldn’t have the momentum to bring the final confrontation with the beast.
If you have a writer emergency…
Stuck in your story? Is now a good time for your hero to face their adversary? Or is it a terrible time?
- What are three ways the enemy could bring the fight to the hero right now?
- Does your hero have a plan? What could the enemy do to force them to accelerate it?
- How could an early defeat refocus the hero? Who will keep standing with them if they fail early on?
Find out how to get more tips like these from the Writer Emergency Pack!