Saturday, July 26, 2008

Goal Tending

Antigone's goal is to bury her brother.

Her uncle (King Creon) has as his goal the very opposite; the body of Antigone's brother shall remain unburied as a payment for the young lad's disloyalty, a crude but effective reminder that nobody messes with Creon.

But as you have every reason to suspect because the story is named after her, the eponymous heroine's goal is the key to the story and its outcome.

Even though it may seem patently apparent to you from the outset, do not hesitate to ask yourself what is the goal, the prize, the payoff that awaits the person whose story it is. Even so extreme an ending as Jack London's short story, A Loss of Face, pays off with the events the protagonist set in motion, events that begin with the protagonist's death, then increase in intensity to the full, uproarious hoot of triumphant laughter.

All right then; it goes without saying that the first thing you have to know is Whose story is being told? Everyone is running about in the early drafts, wanting the rights to the story, and yes, you might have actually begun thinking it belonged to one or more of the combatants. But you you know better. You know who is the driving force, the one whose behavior (or conspicuous lack thereof) drives the payoff. You know what that person had to do to set the ending in motion. (Hint: Antigone tried to bury her brother again.)

You may be helped enormously in your deliberations, machinations, and dramatic deviousness by knowing what that individual wants, why that individual caused the events of the story in the first place. Dorothy Gale wanted to get home. That was her prize. Paris wanted the most beautiful woman in the world. Forget the fact that she was already married. Paris wanted his prize. the rest was, as they say, The Iliad. What does your character want that he or she should go through the intricacies and potential risks set in the way?


A tangible prize?





All these have the potential for being effective prizes the protagonist seeks.

Of course there is no guarantee that having completed The Trials of Hercules or the trials of Perry Mason or any other trials, that the protagonist will continue to feel like a prize winner.

But that is another story, perhaps even the very next one.

Hint: Once you have a clear picture of the prize the protagonist seeks, you have the equivalent of a ten megapixel photo of that character, worth more to you than, say, The Picture of Dorian Gray.

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