2 Story Goals?

Question: Can a main character have 2 story goals or should there only be one main goal that takes precedence over all others?


Answer: In a fully developed story, the main character will have two main goals. On the one hand, there is the story goal, the one which most of the characters are involved with or affected by in one way or another.

On the other hand, the main character will be wrestling with a personal dilemma, an inner conflict over what kind of person he should be, how he should deal with his personal problems, etc.

Ideally, what makes him (or her) the main character is that the choice he makes that resolves his personal dilemma also determines whether the overall story goal is achieved.

To take some examples everyone knows, when Luke Skywalker decides to trust his feelings rather than his targeting computer, he is able to destroy the Death Star. When Richard Blaine puts his personal feelings aside and starts sticking his neck out for the greater good, he is able to help Victor Laslow escape Casablanca and defeat the Nazis. When Romeo and Juliet decide to kill themselves rather than live without each other, it causes a reconciliation between their two feuding families.

Of course, there are stories where the main character lacks inner conflict (for instance, old pulp novels and comics books), but they tend to be emotionally flat. Similarly, a story without an overall goal may paint an emotional picture of a character, but seem pointless (and often plotless).

In a longer work, you could also give a main character additional goals, perhaps within subplots. But you should make sure they make a meaningful contribution to the overall theme of the story.

It is also possible to have two or more stories contained within a single novel, each with their own story goal, and possibly their own main character. The danger is that you may not have the space to fully develop each story. Often it's better to write a series of books, in which all the stories are connected somehow.

Comments for 2 Story Goals?

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Apr 25, 2012
Came across this response
by: Anonymous

I am working through this site, because I'd been strugging with a novel idea for some time and what I have written thus far, in places, seems to ramble aimlessly. The problem I have is that I have two primary characters that are the focus of the story. From what I gather, the story goal itself is separate from the goals of the individual characters. But what if the two main characters each has their own goal? My writers block basically is hung up on which of my two primary characters the book is "really" about. From what I have gathered on this site, the main character is the one through whose eyes the book is seen by the reader, so logically, I suppose that indicates that the Main Character's agenda should be the Story Goal. Is this correct?

May 23, 2012
Response to Comment
by: Glen

The protagonist's goal will be the Story Goal, but he/she may not necessarily be the Main Character. Sometimes the story is told through the eyes of someone other than the protagonist. But the main character will be someone whose inner conflict the reader is privy to.

One way to tell the difference between the Main and Impact characters is to to ask yourself whose decision at the climax determines the outcome of the story? Generally, the Main character is the one who must resolve his inner dilemma by changing or not changing, and that decision determines the outcome. The Impact Character is there to give an example of a different way of being so the Main Character has a choice.

This can get confusing if you have more than one point-of-view character, in which case you may have multiple stories within one novel.

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