A bit of a Moral Issue

by Tyler
(De Pere, WI, USA)

Question: My main character is being forced by the Mafia to kill the King of the Land. If he refuses, he'll be killed by the Mafia and they'll find someone else.

So my main character, Landon's, Story Goal is to rid himself of the imposing threat of the Mafia. He decides to do this by giving in to their demands, for defying them would mean certain death.

Unfortunately, the King of the Land is a terrific ruler with a loving family. In addition, the would-be successor is a greedy corrupt man that would run the kingdom into the ground.

In other words, if Landon chooses to do the right thing, he'll be punished for it. Sure he'll be a hero, but he won't be better off for making a positive change in his behavior. And vice versa. If he refuses to change his ways and selfishly (but understandably) goes through with the assassination, he's rewarded and gets to live.

I really like this situation, but I don't like how it fits story-structure wise for reasons explained in the above paragraph. I like the moral dilemma of choosing whether or not to sacrifice your life for the good of the country, but I don't know how to do that without throwing all o the beautiful Dramatica structure out the window and making a story that ends up being very confusing and unsatisfying.

Answer: I can't tell you how to write your story, so just take the following thoughts as possibilities.

1. In your email, you mentioned a character named Drake who tries to intervene and save Landon's life. You might consider making Drake the main character.

2. Remember that the Story Goal is the goal that affects or involves most of the characters. For instance, if Drake is the main character, his personal goal might be to save Landon's life... but the Story Goal might be to make sure the corrupt heir to the throne does not become king.

3. Sometimes the Story Goal may be achieved, but it turns out to be a negative thing for the main character. For instance, Drake could decide at the climax to put the good of the kingdom ahead of his personal feelings. He might save the king but be left mourning the loss of his friend. In that case, the message you might be giving the reader is that the good of the community is less important than standing by one's friends. You have to decide if that's the message you want to send or not.

4. Of course, if you want a happier ending, you could have Drake find a way to save the lives of both the king and his friend - thus thwarting the Mafia's aim.

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