consequences and goals

by Suzanne A

You’re right about the consequences not being steep enough. I have a tendency to want to avoid or minimize conflict which is good in real life, bad in fiction. Thanks for clarifying that the consequence is what happens when the goal isn’t met. I hadn’t thought of it that way.

In my head I have a lot of ideas about bad consequences that could fit into a story set in a bar. So maybe I should put the consequence out there in the beginning (like your spinster aunt starving to death example). Maybe this is the event that creates an imbalance, the inciting event. Someone is injured, or killed. Someone the other characters who work at the bar know. And this will set up an examination about drinking and excesses. It will force everyone to consider their own behaviours and maybe their own contribution to the event. The returning sister and father don’t know this person and so they are not under the same influence.

And then the rest of the story can take place under the shadow of this consequence. “This could happen to all of you if you don’t pull it together.” or "Is someone to blame for what happened?" But of course life goes on with all its personal complications. So could that be the story goal or overall uniting factor? That all these excesses eventually have SOME consequence even if not as severe as the initial one? 

And then the protagonist’s goal may be something different but related? Maybe relating to her sister coming back after a long absence and her father who is working at staying sober and having his fun in other ways. There could be a clash when father and returning daughter reunite. And I think maybe the returning sister may have a reason for returning that I haven’t figured out yet, but maybe SHE is the protagonist. Since I am having trouble giving the main character a real goal but can give her an inner conflict it may help to have the protagonist and main character as separate entities.

I am thinking this may take me closer to my original concept where the story involved impulsive behaviour? As always I would love feedback on this is latest version of structure.

On a different topic, my main character is a Change/Start character if that makes a difference. Dramatica’s description of the character with a hole in their heart instantly struck me as true.

So if I do separate Main and protagonist does that mean that main character is impact character? This may get too confusing so may leave this open and see what happens as I write some more.

Response: The main character cannot be the impact character, but the protagonist can be, which I suspect is what you meant. (For main and impact characters to be the same, that would mean the person would be arguing with herself. It doesn't work.)

Just remember that the consequence should be something the characters actually feel threatened by. For example, poverty in Pride and Prejudice is a real possibility for Elizabeth if she doesn't marry well. Dying in a concentration camp is a real possibility for Victor Lazlo in Casablanca. Having her mother permanently become a bear is a real possibility to the heroine of Brave (just to pick a variety of stories).

If someone's death/injury is to be taken as a sign of what might happen to other characters, then it's important your characters see the injured person as just like them in some way, and that they are heading down the same road. It's like how Marley in A Christmas Carol shows Scrooge the consequence that awaits him by pointing out the suffering that ghosts endure and that Scrooge is creating an even worse afterlife for himself. The fact that Scrooge and Marley were friends and partners, in life - the same, in other words - drives the point home.

Comments for consequences and goals

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Dec 20, 2012
if goal were more specific, consequence would be more obvious
by: Wayne

What if in a tough love moment, she tells off her drunk dad? And then later, when she feels bad and goes to apologize, she can't find him. Now she's got a problem. Dad is missing and it looks like her fault. The consequence is her vision of dad's degradation. How does she find him? Maybe in addition to the usual detective stuff, tracing whereabouts, old friends, going to cops, calling drunk tanks, with her sister tagging along ragging her, she is a part-time bartender and brings it up with each patron. This forces her to be less self-centered and maybe her paintings improve. To relax, she paints up the stories the bar patrons tell her. And that subject matter is good for her. Then the father finally shows up. He was off straightening out his life. So her main problem is solved. And her professional life is better too.

At least that's a specific goal. And you know when the story is over.

Dec 20, 2012
Good advice!!
by: Suzanne A

I never thought if having the Dad still an alcoholic when the story starts... A lot more opportunity for conflict and personal consequences if it is a family member is the one with the problem. Good advice and I see how the consequence of him not quitting drinking will become a lot scarier if he is the one to have an accident in the beginning.

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