Can my story have two goals?

Question: I have thought of a story which my protagonist goes on a journey to find his long-lost brother and reunite the family. His cousin comes along to help and she falls in love with an officer who also helps them look for the long-lost brother. By the time they found the long-lost brother, he refused to make up with their father who was still mad at him for marrying a girl outside of his cultural background. My protagonist seems to be stuck in two different problems:

1) Should he tell his cousin to not date the cop because he's not the perfect son-in-law that her parents had hoped for or let his cousin be with the cop?

2) Get his brother and father to make-up and be family again.

Is it all right for my protagonist to have two goals?

Answer: According to Dramatica theory, a story has one goal that affects or involves the majority of characters. Two story goals would mean two stories within one work.

That said...

1. Individual characters can have personal goals, in addition to being affected by the story goal.

2. Sometimes characters do not realize what the real goal is for some time and will pursue a false goal or "response" before realizing what the real goal is. (The story goal may only be realized by the reader in hindsight.)

In your example, the story problem seems to be that the family is struggling to cope with members who are marrying or forming relationships outside traditional rules.

A story problem is made up of the combination of goal and
consequence. To find out which is which, ask yourself...

1. What would a bad outcome look like? (For instance, what would be worse, a) the family reconciling and becoming more diverse or b) people being forced to give up either their family or the person they love?)

2. What would a good outcome look like? (E.g. the rift in the family being healed and people marrying the ones they love, or the traditions surviving for the next generation?)

The good outcome will be the goal. The protagonist will be the character who pursues that goal.

The bad outcome will be the consequence. You get to decide what comes to pass in the end -- goal or consequence. Achieving the goal makes for a happy ending. If the consequence happens instead, the story becomes tragic.

Of course, you also have the option here of letting one non-traditional relationship work out and the other not working out. You might do this to create more of a tragi-comic ending. (For instance, if you make the cousin the protagonist and things work out well for the brother's relationship but not hers.)

You might do this sort of mixed ending to raise a thematic issue. For example, why are the traditional rules less strict for men than for women?

One final note: you might consider giving your main character an inner conflict. For instance, might he wrestle with the role he plays in the family and whether to approve or disapprove of members marrying for love rather than tradition? What might this issue mean to him and his choice of partner?

Best of luck.

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