8 step guide- what if the goal changes?

by Hannah Osborne
(Georgia, U.S.A.)

Question: I've been using your 8 steps to help me flesh out my plot for my book, and it's been really helpful! I am having problems with a couple of the steps however. My issue is this: My character's goal at the beginning of the story is not his goal at the end. His viewpoint changes completely. Therefore, what would be a cost to his original goal is now exactly what he is trying to achieve. He doesn't succeed in the requirements to his original goal, but is swayed by the forewarnings. Because of this, I'm not sure how to create this outline. (Granted, I haven't looked through the later steps to writing a novel yet, so perhaps this particular outline isn't necessary for whatever's next, but I would still like to be able to complete it. I'm a bit of a perfectionist when it comes to doing things in order.)


Answer: I tried to keep things very simple with the 8 steps. Dramatica theory is actually quite complex, so if you are a perfectionist, your challenge will be to not go so deep down the rabbit hole that you never get your story written.

However, let's take the elevator down a flight or two for a moment...

Dramatica postulates that a complete story has four throughlines, representing four perspectives. These are the ...

Overall Story Throughline
Main Character Throughline
Impact Character Throughline
Relationship Throughline

Each throughline will have it's own Concern. The Story Goal is also known as the Overall Story Concern. It is the key organizing element of the plot.

If we go down another level (where things get a little more theme-ish) each throughline will also have 4 other elements...

Problem: the imbalance or irritant that drives the story, the source of its difficulties
Solution: what will truly satisfy or end the problem
Symptom: where the problem appears to be
Response: what the characters do to address the symptom

In other words, often a main character will start off by perceiving the symptom. He will then mount a response to address it. However, during the course of the story he may discover the real problem, and if he's lucky the real solution. Or he might hit upon the real solution and then realize what the real problem was all along.

For instance you may have a story where a man's wife has stopped loving him and he thinks it's because he doesn't earn enough money. So in the course of the story he works to get a promotion or win a contest to get more money, only to discover at the end that the real solution is for his wife to help him in this endeavour, because it turns out the real problem in the relationship was that they didn't do things together anymore.

The Story Goal or Overall Concern in that example would be to regain his wife's love. His Response is to try to get more money. The specific Requirement is for him to pursue the promotion/contest.

Hope that helps.

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