Plot and Character: The Goal

Welcome back to the Plot and Character series! We started by looking at what character arc is, then moved on to how the character’s flaw plays into it. Still, even characters that have something horribly wrong with them, though interesting, cannot just make for a story on their own. There must be things that these characters do. Perhaps even more importantly, there must be something that your character wants to do.

Goals, Kuma

Besides being about as obscure as I am, that little bear pretty much hit the nail on the head for today’s topic. Just as the flaw makes an internal obstacle that goes with the more visible challenges, the goal lives in both realms as well. Quite often, the thing we’re going after isn’t what would really be best for us. Characters never realize this until near the end. This is why, in so many romances, the character spends so much time almost ending up with the wrong person, when the audience knows the other person would be so much better.

In other contexts, this can represent taking the easy way out. Wouldn’t it be so much easier for the hero if he could save the world without confronting the villain? Or if there was a way to win without going through all the training? Characters are stubborn, and they want things their way. The conflict comes in when they ultimately have to choose: have things their way in the end, or actually get the thing that they most desire on the inside?

The things that characters do are all tied to these goals. Whether it’s a tangible goal (get revenge for my loved one’s death) or an internal one (find someone that accepts me), they affect everything the characters do. Protagonists want to get what they want, and, for their own, equally good reasons, antagonists want them to not get what they want.

One other thing I want to point out: external goals might change during the story, as the character learns more about the situation. In fact, they usually will. Early on the character might just want to find out about something, and later he or she will want to do something about it. But on the inside, the goals don’t change. That thing that the character really needs in his or her heart will always be there, right up until the climax. That’s when your hero earns whatever it is, and finally claims that goal in the end. That’s your ending.

Now I’ve talked about both the flaw and the goal. These two things both stem from inside your character, but it seems like they oppose each other, doesn’t it? If you noticed that, then you’re well on your way to understanding internal conflict.

At this point, I’ve covered the major aspects of this idea in the Plot and Character series. It’s not that there isn’t more to say, but I think that it’ll be a while before I have the experience to say it. So, for now, this is the end of this series. I hope you all enjoyed it.

Categories: Fiction Tips.


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