Consequence Element

by Dena

Queston: Consequence Element: Avoiding the consequence justifies the effort required in pursuing the story goal both to the characters in your novel and the reader. Can someone explain what that means?

Answer: Sure.

Let's suppose the goal of the story is to stop an evil madman from blowing up the world. The consequence (what happens if the goal is not achieved) is that the world will be destroyed. So, for the main character, the extreme effort required to stop the madman is justified because he doesn't want the consequence to occur.

Also, the reader will see the consequence as a bad thing too, and will appreciate the importance of achieving the story goal.

To take a less extreme example, consider the film The Pursuit of Happiness. In that film, Will Smith plays a man who is pursuing the goal of becoming a Wall Street trader. He must undergo a lot of hardship and struggle to achieve this dream, including working without pay while being homeless. But the effort is justified by the fact that he has custody of his young son. So the implied consequence of not achieving the goal would be that the son might not survive.

Again, the main character's desire to avoid the consequence justifies his effort to achieve the goal. And the audience can easily empathize with the character's plight. They can see that protecting the son makes the effort to achieve the goal worthwhile.

The consequence element is important because if there is no downside to not achieving the story goal, the goal seems unimportant and the story becomes emotionally flat.

Imagine a story where a millionaire bets $100 on a horse race. So what if he loses? It's no big deal.

On the other hand, imagine if a penniless man bets his last $100 on a race in order to win the money to pay for the medicine that will save his wife's life. By making the stakes higher, you heighten the emotion and make your reader care about the story.

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