Finding the story goal second follow up

by Suzanne A

So I've looked at the advice you've given me so far and the website and think maybe i have a very rough version of a plot outline. I'm not sure if the goal is specific enough but am hoping it will be enough to work with. I may still be a little fuzzy about the goal but here's what i came up with:

Jane is a young coulda-been painter who works as a bartender to pay her bills. After her sister and mother left when she was in her last year of high school, she become a caretaker for her alcoholic father (forewarning). Fearing she had the potential to behave impulsively, like everyone else in her family, she has worked at trying to control everything/everyone around her(consequence). Her artistic impulses have suffered in the process, her paintings have become pretty but bland (consequence). When her older sister (impact character) returns unexpectedly, she begins the process of trying to loosen up her control and stop living under the shadow of other people’s mistakes (goal) by becoming more spontaneous, letting loose a little at some local clubs (prerequisites) and confessing her feelings to a coworker (requirement) who becomes distant afterwards (cost). Her sister finds some of Jane's old paintings in the basement and her rave reviews spur Jane to start painting in a different way (dividend). Her sister pushes her to “be honest with herself about her childhood.” (precondition). Finally she confesses to her recently sober father her new (true?) feelings about her childhood (requirement) which she had previously downplayed. When she can’t find him the next day, she worries that he has started drinking again and that she is the cause (forewarning). When another bartender suffers a serious accident related to his drinking (forewarning), Jane realizes she can never fully give in to her impulses and forget about the lessons learned from the mistakes of others (Tragedy). Instead of employing "tough love" techniques that aren't natural for her, she decides to try to be supportive and caring, instead of making futile attempts to control others behaviour (doesn't achieve goal but gives up a bad habit and takes on a new good one- Tragi-comedy). Her new paintings are a big hit (Tragi-comedy).

Does this seem complete enough? Is it a reasonable argument for a story?
The funny thing is that I wrote an opening scene that people really liked. The main character was walking to work in a rainstorm and her umbrella gets battered by the wind and finally blows out of her hand. She ends up at work soaking wet. It was something that had happened to me and got me to wearing raincoats instead of carrying umbrellas but in the context of the story I guess it shows her battling against an unbeatable force, the weather, so maybe my answer lay in that opening sequence?

Thanks for all your input and advice so far. I am very intrigued by the whole Dramatica Theory and bit by bit I think i am understanding and appreciating how it can help me.

Response: I think you've done a lot of great development work. I would ask is whether the consequence is steep enough. A tragedy implies that the consequence is what results, rather than the goal. But if her paintings are a hit... what has she failed at? Or is the co-worker's accident something your heroine is responsible for - a result of her giving in to an impulse she later regrets?

It's a stronger story when the heroine's choice has big consequences. In the case of a tragedy, the consequences are negative.

Also... and you may hate me for saying this in light of my earlier suggestions, but... it now seems to me, from your description, that the heroine's choice whether to stay controlled or loosen up is her inner conflict. The choice she makes between the two should determine the outcome ... but what is the goal? To keep her co-worker safe? To keep her father from leaving? To keep the bar solvent?

Tragi-comedy (if that's the ending that feels right to you) implies that she must fail, but that failure inadvertently brings her to a place of inner peace (which could be her artistic success). But the failure should be there.

As always, just take this as a thought, not a dictate.

P.S. Whenever you reach a point in your planning that you feel the urge to start writing, do so. But after you have worked out the 8 plot elements, if you want to go further in your plotting, the next step is the signposts ...

Comments for Finding the story goal second follow up

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Dec 20, 2012
your goal isn't specific enough
by: Wayne

What if in a tough love moment, she tells off her drunk dad? And then later, when she feels bad and goes to apologize, she can't find him. Now she's got a problem. Dad is missing and it looks like her fault. How does she find him? Maybe in addition to the usual detective stuff, tracing whereabouts, old friends, going to cops, calling drunk tanks, with her sister tagging along ragging her, she is a part-time bartender and brings it up with each patron. This forces her to be less self-centered and maybe her paintings improve. To relax, she paints up the stories the bar patrons tell her. And that subject matter is good for her. Then the father finally shows up. He was off straightening out his life. So her main problem is solved. And her professional life is better too.

At least that's a specific goal. And you know when the story is over.

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