Story Goal: Key To Creating Solid Plot Problem

by Krishna~
(U.S.)

Question: I'm having a few problems with plot outlines and such. I was reading about story goals to help solve this problem and am confused about something in the article.


'Are the people in the protagonist's world all struggling with the same kind of issue, for which they must either find or fail to find their own solution? Or are their hopes pinned on the success or failure of the protagonist?'

How is this meant? I understand the first half of the first line but am confused on the rest. I'm focusing on writing a classical tragedy, similar to the case of Macbeth, where everyone suffers because of an immoral king. Wouldn't anyone in a classical tragedy be dependent on the outcome of the hero? How would they find their own solution to the problem then? By supporting the new leader as the latter suggests?

Answer: You're quite correct, in a classic tragedy, the success of the king is often tied to the health and happiness of the people. Everyone is affected by the king's success or failure, and often the goal is for a good king to be on the throne because that will benefit everyone in the kingdom.

In some stories, everything hinges on the protagonist's successful completion of some task. For instance, in The Lord of the Rings, the fate of the world depends on Frodo destroying the ring.

However, there are other stories in which the problem in the story world is not so tightly focused on one event or person in particular. For instance, in Pride and Prejudice the goal is a good, financially advantageous marriage, which Elizabeth eventually makes with Mr. Darcy. However, it's not that everyone in the story world wants to marry Mr. Darcy or needs Elizabeth to do so. Everyone wants to a good marriage for themselves (or in some cases their children). However, when the problem is resolved it leads to a good marriage for Jane and Lydia as well as Elizabeth.

Same is true for many Shakespearean comedies in which many characters get married at the end, not just the main character. The multiple marriages show that the problem in the story world has been corrected and the barriers to everyone's happiness have been removed.

For instance, in Much Ado About Nothing the problem is petty pride (which is the "nothing" in the title). Claudio's pride leads him to reject Hero. Beatrice and Benedick's pride keeps them apart. Don John's pride causes him to wreck mischief on the kingdom. When Claudio surrenders his pride and marries the girl chosen for him, everyone else follows suit and happiness results.

You could also have a story in which the same kind of issue is at work in different subplots, but not all of them work out satisfactorily, thus illustrating a variety of outcomes regarding the issue.

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