Story Goal/Goals in Plot???

by Krishna

Question: If I understand correctly, the plot of a story has one story goal. Goal, consequence, etc. Something the main character needs to achieve. I'm just confused on whether or not there can be more than one, and if so, how?

For example, in the Hunger Games, Katniss's main goal is to keep her family safe (I think). After a few specific events in the story, she is entered into the games and her new goal is to survive. Therefore, do overall story goals change as the story goes on depending on what has happened? Do they change given certain events or is it more like requirements throughout a story?

Frankly, I'm confused. Also, somewhat off-topic, what are the most used/most popular goals in novels and how are they realized in the story. Simply to say, what events set these off? From the beginning of your first sentence onwards, what makes the story shift and twist to the story goal later on in the book when it must be overcome to succeed in whatever the character is doing? I hope this makes sense, I honestly have no idea as to whether or not I'm repeating myself or if I myself have no idea if this is the specific question I wanted to ask. Thanks for reading!

Answer: It is true that each character may have personal goals. However, the story goal is the goal or the concern that most of the characters are involved with or affected by, which makes the story goal an element that unifies the story. The character who most clearly pursues the story goal is called the protagonist.

In the case of The Hunger Games, survival is certainly the goal. Katniss, as the protagonist, pursues the survival of herself and her sister, Prim. However, most of the other characters are also concerned with survival, including all those eeking out a living in District 12, the tributes, and everyone else who fears what will happen if they earn the Capitol's displeasure. In fact, the Capitol itself is worried about it's own survival. It's fear of another rebellion is the reason it keeps everyone oppressed.

The story goal does not change throughout the story, but sometimes it is only after you have read/seen the story and can consider its entirety that you can recognize what the real goal is.

For instance, in the first act of The Hunger Games, Katniss learns to hunt and takes food from the Capitol so her family can survive. She volunteers for the games because she knows she has a better chance of surviving than Prim. Throughout the rest of the story, she tries to win the games because she believes her family's survival depends on it.

Her suicide pact with Peeta results from his influence on her (as impact character) which causes her to abandon her focus at the climax and refuse to let the games turn her into a killer like Cato (when the more sure path to survival would have been to kill Peeta). Though she wins the games, her "mistake" results in her incurring the Capitol's displeasure, with the effect that her life will be less free from then on.

There can be a number of requirements, but they are all stepping stones towards the goal, such as learning to hunt, winning sponsors, eluding the career tributes, etc.

The most popular story goal is what Dramatica calls Obtaining. The term has a number of meanings including...

* getting the prize
* winning
* escaping (winning freedom)
* un-obtainng or destroying (e.g. The Lord of the Rings, Star Wars)
* finding what's lost or hidden
* recovering something that was stolen

Usually, the inciting incident of a story creates an imbalance, wound, disharmony etc. and the resolution of the story brings a new harmony, balance, peace etc.

For instance, when Harry Potter's mother sacrifices herself to protect Harry from Voldemort, it leaves both Harry and Voldemort wounded/scarred, and that wound can only be resolved by Harry sacrificing himself to protect everyone else. When Isildur does not destroy the ring in The Lord of the Rings it leaves an open wound that can only be healed when the ring is finally destroyed unintentionally by Gollum. The survival of District 13 in The Hunger Games creates a paranoia in both regimes which can only be resolved when the leaders of both are deposed. Darth Vader's fall to the dark side of the Force can only be resolved by Luke's steadfast refusal to abandon his Jedi training.

Comments for Story Goal/Goals in Plot???

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Nov 21, 2014
Story Goal
by: Vijay

Hi, Krishna,

It's interesting to know that the goal in a story affects everyone including sub-characters.
Can Impact character have his own goal which opposes the main character goals and which in turn forces main character to have her own goal? Can they both be successful in achieving their goals after the climax?

Thank You,


Nov 21, 2014
To Vijay
by: Glen

Usually, the main and impact characters differ in the way they approach trying to achieve the story goal. For instance, Katniss tries to survive by adapting, while Peeta tries to survive by not letting himself get changed.

Usually, if the main character changes, the impact character will remain steadfast (since he/she was right). For instance, when Luke Skywalker decides to trust the Force, Obi wan's faith in the Force does not change. On the other hand, if the main character remains steadfast, usually the impact character will be forced to change (since the main character was right).

The question of whether one or both of these characters is better off or happier at the end of the story depends on the story and other factors. Many variations are possible.

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