Stories with no clear end goals.

by Saul L Cardin
(Doha, Qatar)

Question: My story is set in a world where magic exists and is formally taught at schools. Everyone has mana in them. The story revolves around a commoner who loves challenges and football (soccer). This character gets enrolled in one of the best schools in the world. The schooling system deals with basic maths, language, sciences, and various applications of magic. The story is just him going through the year and complicating the annual field assignment. As the title suggests there isn't a clear end goal. I want to know how I could structure the story. I am thinking of making it more like a series of events that regular students go through. Now that I typed it out, I think it would be like a wimpy kid novel with less of gross stuff and more magical fantasy aspects. I want to know how to structure it out.

Answer: So success at the field assignment isn't a goal?

Kidding aside, while some stories have an external goal or concern that the majority of characters are involved in or affected by it is also possible to focus on an internal goal. For instance, what does your main character learn in that first year? How is he challenged and how is his life changed at the end? Then expand that -- how are all his
friends and others at the school struggling with the same challenge in different ways? That could point you to a story goal.

Think about the first Harry Potter book. There are several goals.

* the external goal of winning the House Cup
* Harry's quest to find his identity and his place at the school

But more importantly, the book is about Voldemort's goal to obtain the philosopher's stone (which Harry thwarts).

You can go with a more internal goal, if you want to write more of a character-based story. But you might also give some thought to an external goal that the whole school can be involved in or affected by. Then make the main character's personal growth the key to achieving that goal. (Much like Harry's choice to remain selfless allowed him to obtain the stone rather than Voldemort.)

If you look at other fantasy novels that revolve around a year at school, you'll see many of them have an external plot that forces the main character to grow. I'm thinking of books like...

Worst Witch
Vampire Academy

Or look at the film St. Trinians.

They all have a year-long goal because it helps keep the reader engaged.

If you don't have a story goal at all, if the story is purely episodic, there is less narrative drive.

Best of luck.

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