Monday, April 15, 2013

Character Building: Part 4

Today we shall be talking about goals.

Now, I'm not referring to the story goal necessarily.  I'm talking about more personal goals, the reasons behind the story goal.

I think I'm starting to sound like Jack Sparrow.  Okay, let me try again....

The Story Goal is the reason for the story,  Whether it be vanquishing the villain, dropping a Ring into Mount Doom, finding the Fountain of Youth, if it is the reason the characters are on their quest, it is the story goal.

Personal goals are a bit more vague.  It's like what the character is really trying to do.  For example, the story goal of Lord of the Rings is for Frodo (or anybody else, for that mater) to take the Ring and drop it in the fires of Mount Doom to destroy it.  Typically, if you ask 'Why?' enough, you should come to the personal goal.  This is the 'whys' for Frodo.

Why drop the Ring into Mount Doom?  It will destroy Sauron.
Why destroy Sauron?  Because he wants to pillage and destroy Middle-Earth, killing many (if not all) good life forms and ravaging the world with Orcs.
Why is this bad?  Because it will destroy the Shire!

And there it is!  Frodo chooses to go on the quest because he wants the Shire to be saved.  Later, he realizes the world is much bigger, and of course, he doesn't want anyone else to die.  But he ultimately travels to Mordor to save the Shire.  That is his personal goal.

The personal goal would be different if I asked the 'whys' for different characters.  If I asked it for Aragorn, the answer might be because he doesn't want Gondor destroyed, or going further that he wants to marry Arwen.

Conflict is what makes a story.  So sometimes, your characters personal goals will clash when ultimately they  want the same thing.  For example, in 'Star Wars: A New Hope' Han Solo and Luke Skywalker both want to see the Empire destroyed.  Han hates the Death Star too.  He hates the Empire.  But he and Luke clash because Han's personal goal, saving his own skin, goes against Luke's personal goal, follow his father and learn the ways of the Force.  Be a Jedi.  Han leaves right before the battle with the Death Star because of his personal goal.  Luke goes to fight the Death Star because of his personal goal.  Later, the story goal becomes too large for Han to ignore, so he forsakes his personal goal and returns to help.

Of course, all the characters can't agree on the same story goal.  Then all we would have are trite disagreements and momentary conflicts.  Villains needs to have polar opposite goals of the hero.  If the hero wants to destroy the villain's most powerful asset and stop his plans to ravage the earth, the villain needs to try to reclaim his most powerful asset and work harder on ravaging the earth.

You see where I'm going with this?  I've read far too many modern stories where the hero is thrust into the quest and I never figure out why he is doing it.  I think this is becoming a serious issue for writers and we need to pay closer attention to it, much like the identities problem I mentioned earlier.

(BTW, Jack Sparrow, Aragorn, AND Han Solo all in one post???  My poor fangirling brain is going into overload!!!!)

(Now all we need is Loki....)


  1. I need to do a post about Han Solo... ooh, that's coming up later this week, when I talk about PIRATES!!!!!!!

    I love pirates. :)

  2. Me likey pirates too...a lot! I'm looking forward to reading that post of yours! Will a certain Jack Sparrow be making an appearance too? :P