Can my story have two goals?

Question: I have thought of a story which my protagonist goes on a journey to find his long-lost brother and reunite the family. His cousin comes along to help and she falls in love with an officer who also helps them look for the long-lost brother. By the time they found the long-lost brother, he refused to make up with their father who was still mad at him for marrying a girl outside of his cultural background. My protagonist seems to be stuck in two different problems:


1) Should he tell his cousin to not date the cop because he's not the perfect son-in-law that her parents had hoped for or let his cousin be with the cop?

2) Get his brother and father to make-up and be family again.

Is it all right for my protagonist to have two goals?

Answer: According to Dramatica theory, a story has one goal that affects or involves the majority of characters. Two story goals would mean two stories within one work.

That said...

1. Individual characters can have personal goals, in addition to being affected by the story goal.

2. Sometimes characters do not realize what the real goal is for some time and will pursue a false goal or "response" before realizing what the real goal is. (The story goal may only be realized by the reader in hindsight.)

In your example, the story problem seems to be that the family is struggling to cope with members who are marrying or forming relationships outside traditional rules.

A story problem is made up of the combination of goal and consequence. To find out which is which, ask yourself...

1. What would a bad outcome look like? (For instance, what would be worse, a) the family reconciling and becoming more diverse or b) people being forced to give up either their family or the person they love?)

2. What would a good outcome look like? (E.g. the rift in the family being healed and people marrying the ones they love, or the traditions surviving for the next generation?)

The good outcome will be the goal. The protagonist will be the character who pursues that goal.

The bad outcome will be the consequence. You get to decide what comes to pass in the end -- goal or consequence. Achieving the goal makes for a happy ending. If the consequence happens instead, the story becomes tragic.

Of course, you also have the option here of letting one non-traditional relationship work out and the other not working out. You might do this to create more of a tragi-comic ending. (For instance, if you make the cousin the protagonist and things work out well for the brother's relationship but not hers.)

You might do this sort of mixed ending to raise a thematic issue. For example, why are the traditional rules less strict for men than for women?

One final note: you might consider giving your main character an inner conflict. For instance, might he wrestle with the role he plays in the family and whether to approve or disapprove of members marrying for love rather than tradition? What might this issue mean to him and his choice of partner?

Best of luck.

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Plot Invite.


Proud to be one of the...


 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook


NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles


"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards



"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero