Story goals need to be a catalyst for change. The goal is the thing that everyone in the overall story is, to varying degrees, for or against.
How do story goals come about—through conflict! (See the next two weeks about external and internal character conflict). This is a short article to help set the stage for the character development, conflicts, needs, motivation, lies, and even the villain/antagonist of your fictional characters.
Here is a formula to help you write the structure:
Will _____________ help/destroy/side with the __________thus ___________.
In other words: character + goal + internal conflict = plot. Your character must have a goal, and then you, as the author, write events that run the character into conflicts (internal and external interwoven make for the more powerful plots).
Clarification of Internal Conflicts
Gollum against his split personality
Katniss must kill Peeta. She can’t!
Aragon fighting the blood that runs through his veins
Story Goal Example:
What is the catalyst for conflict in the Hunger Games? The Games! They are designed to pit children again children to fight to the death to keep order in society. Yet, the moral conflicts that arise in Katniss show the reader that this is not as cut and dry as President Snow would have you think.
Katniss volunteered to save her sister. She has some skills, but she is not entering thinking she can actually win. She knows that she must keep her sister. As she says goodbye to everyone, the reality of the games weighs heavy on her, and she snaps, she must survive. She must win. But her word, survive, means she will not engage in killing unless she absolutely has to. She has a moral conflict (internal) with the goal in front of her (external conflict), but she has to do it because her life is on the line.
To be clear, the external conflict is when the character struggles to achieve their goal due to opposition from another character. Character + goal + external opposition = plot.
Here are some other external examples:
Frodo is against Saron’s Army
Harry is against Voldemort
Katniss is against President Snow/the Games
Back to Katniss, the Game Makers’ external conflicts under President Snow’s direction build the tension and anger for the reader. The arena is the place that contains much of the external conflict. It is suddenly breached when Katniss buries Rue. District 12 snaps and can’t take it anymore more. Even though Katniss does not know what happened outside of the arena, the readers do. This helps to build the story to have the trilogy because the arena no longer contains the external conflict. It is now spreading. Thus this is how a rebellion starts.
Back to the point of a Story Goal: the goal is the thing that everyone in the overall story is, to varying degrees, for or against. Authors, with that knowledge of your goal, it will help you set the stage for your plot, your characters, and the complexity that will happen as internal and external conflicts arise. Watch for internal and external conflict for the characters in the next few weeks; Happy writing!