Inter-Relationship between Story Goal, Protagonist and Antagonist

by Faye
(Jackson, Wyoming)

Glen, first off, I would like to tell you that your help is invaluable for all of us struggling with story theory and Dramatica. I am struggling with the inter-relationship between Story Goal, Protagonist and Antagonist.

It is to the best of my understanding so far, that the Overall Story Goal is about what everyone is trying to achieve to obtain or reach a conclusion, etc. It seems that the Protagonist is the person trying to attain the story goal and this is the person we root for and hope for its success (Dramatic pp. 39)? The Antagonist is trying to stop the person from achieving that goal. Also, the Protagonist is the person that moves the story forward. I hope I am correct about these assumptions.

So here is my question if the above is true. As I see it, there are two sides to every story goal and, based on which way you want the goal to be, your Protagonist and Antagonist can be switched?

For example, if my story focuses on a wife trying to kill her husband and the husband trying to restore his marriage and change her mindset about him, wouldn’t the story goal be about preservation of some sort on one side of the coin (husband) and obtaining (killing) on the flip side (wife)? If both of these are true wouldn’t the Protagonist and Antagonist be as follows?

Story Goal Protagonist Antagonist
Preservation Husband Wife
Obtaining Wife Husband

Obviously I am seriously confused somewhere, because in the second scenario we would be rooting for the husband and not the wife, unless we really think he should be killed? In this particular case though, the husband is a nice guy.

Also, if it is the wife that is doing all the evil in an attempt to kill her husband, isn’t she the one who is moving the story along and would be the Protagonist in both cases?
I hope this isn’t too confusing.


Answer: I think you're starting to overthink this. Here's how it sounds to me...

First, if you are using the Dramatica software, you may note that there is a relationship between goal and consequence. If you select a goal of Obtaining, the consequence is automatically Changing One's Nature or Becoming, and vice versa. In dramatica, one "changes one's nature" or "becomes" something by giving up whatever parts of oneself are inconsistent with the new identity.

Let's say the imbalance in the story world is essentially the marital difficulties of this couple. If the wife is the protagonist, and she wants to no longer have her husband, that would be a goal of obtaining. The consequence may be that, if she fails, she will be forced to become something she does not want to be--perhaps a metaphorical or actual prisoner.

On the other hand, if the husband is the protagonist, then his goal to manipulate his wife into becoming the wife he wants would be a goal of Becoming. The consequence, if he fails, would be that he would lose his life--a consequence of obtaining.

If the husband is a nice guy, and the main character, then I see two scenarios...

1. The husband is also the protagonist, and the story is about him getting his wife to become different.

2. The husband is the antagonist trying to stop his wife's plan to murder him.

It all depends on who seems to initiate and pursue their plan.

If the husband is a nice guy and the impact character (with the wife as main character) then I see the story as either...

1. A tragi-comedy, in which the wife, as protagonist, fails in her effort to murder her husband, but it turns out all right because she realizes in the end that she misjudged him.

2. A tragedy, in which the wife, as antagonist, thwarts her husband's sincere effort to fix their marriage by killing him and ruining her own life as well.

Hope that helps. And remember this is just my opinion.

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