Saturday, November 19, 2011

Moving the goal posts

Few events in story take place at a distance from the goal.  You could say--and sometimes do--that goal is the heartbeat of story.  Are "they," the characters, nearing the goal?  Will it have been worth the effort?  Has, in fact, enough effort been expended to make the goal seem worthwhile?  Was the goal worthwhile in the first place.

Depending on the story, you sometimes substitute your own goal for the one articulated in the narrative you are reading, and even though you have contrived a considerable goal for a story you have in progress, you often find yourself using the actor's trick of substituting one of your real life goals for the goal of the characters.

Goals may be achieved or not; they may, once reached, offer immense satisfaction or turn out to become an object of scorn.   On rare occasion, goals are exactly what the seeker anticipates.  Goals achieved seem more or less worthwhile but almost never are they on a par.

This alone is cause for the atmosphere of anticipation so necessary within a story.  The reader wants to know if the effort, planning, potential suffering, and potential collateral loss were worth it.

At such moments of reckoning, irony may be tossed in from the writer through one or more characters, leading that individual to internal or external wondering about the cost for achieving the goal.
Thus anticipation:  We anticipate some dramatic decision, some settling of the cosmic accounts.  We also anticipate a reckoning in the assessment of worth.  Was "it" worth the risk, worth the effort?

Was it worthwhile for the reader?

Was the risk and subsequent reward worthwhile for the writer?

One milestone you need to pass whether as a reader or attempted writer is the milestone of anticipation?  Did your spine begin to tingle?  Did you find yourself laughing out loud at the rampant mischief?

Quite often, you embark from home port without a destination, which is also to say a primary focus of your writing activities is the discovery of a goal.  Your potential for finishing any given piece of work is predicated on the discovery of the goal.  If, at length, the goal seems lackluster, you have the potential for changing it, tweaking your anticipation, making the entire process once again one of discovery.

Sometimes you are overcome with mischievousness, in which case the discovery turns on the seekers--information or tangible results they did not expect nor want.

Your characters embarked on a story, and all you got was this lousy goal.

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