Finding the story goal follow up

by Suzanne A

Question: This is a follow up on some advice you gave me yesterday. So maybe the story is about impulsive responses and alcoholism is one of these. Main characters grew up with an alcoholic father and has tried to fix him. Maybe the mother divorces him and the daughter is the only one willing to help. She ends up an enabler. Her younger sister has impulsive responses also and runs away to New York to discover herself. The older sister is afraid of her own inherited impulsiveness and so overcompensates. She holds herself in rigid check. Besides bartending she is an artist and this ends up affecting her creativity. She still paints but the pictures are just pretty wall art, nothing else. Maybe she has painted something more powerful when she was in the middle of some painful situation so has a memory of different times. I had imagined a sort of disturbing painting hidden in the basement.

So the sister returns and maybe it’s because some impulse has put her in a bad situation so she has run home this time. The father is in recovery but it is new and precarious. Maybe the sister pushes the main character to be more daring? To do things instead of overthinking? Maybe she has an unspoken love interest? And there will be people overindulging at the bar and smaller regrets, consequences of these. And maybe one of the other bartenders in an alcoholic. Could the father try to offer advice? The main character get overinvolved in trying to help?

I think my question is can impulsive behaviour be the focus, with various subcategories of how this is expressed? Could the main goal of the story be dealing with a balance between impulsiveness and overcontrol? Are these opposites? If the main character is too controlled her solution will be to take a risk? To let go of her need to control things? To trust her father to take care of his own problem (ie stop checking
up on him)? Maybe go into therapy to understand her feelings about his alcoholism and the loss of her family? Maybe to just finally express her concerns to him and admit how much it has affected her. The consequence would be she could really get hurt/could have to stand by and watch her father start drinking again and feel like she is the cause/may not become a better painter? Does the father need to backslide to make this work? could her just disappear and no one knows for while what he is doing? Could another character mimic his previous journey, ie start to miss work and get into trouble? Is the painting angle too trite or is it more of a closure piece, where she isn’t really working at it but it is an unexpected end result? When she resolves her issues with overcontrol her creativity is freed up?

It’s fun to try and work this out as a puzzle instead of looking for ideas in a more random fashion. I am very new to the whole concept of structure but have always suspected there was something I was missing. It’s great to have someone so versed in the process to steer me along. I so appreciate your input.

Response: Excellent work! You're asking all the right questions. My answer to just about all of them would be "yes," They are all sound possibilities You just have to choose.

What you might consider is the climax.

What choice will she make to resolve her inner conflict - stay with her established approach or switch to her sister's approach. And will that choice result in her achieving the story goal or failing?

It sounds like you may be heading in the direction of a tragi-comedy ending, where she may fail to achieve the goal, but find personal triumph in resolving her inner conflict (painting).

If you haven't checked it out already, you might look at this article on the 8 Plot Elements, as a next step...

Click here to post comments

Join in and submit your own question/topic! It's easy to do. How? Simply click here to return to Questions About Novel Writing.