Story Goal and Ending
by S T
Hi. Your website has been very helpful so far, though I've struggled with some aspects of plot development. My main character, a fourteen year old, lives in Britain in the sixth century. His father desires for him to become a warrior, but he has no interest in this-- he'd rather be a man of learning. By the climax, the main character has assumed the role of a warrior and has gone off to a battle in which he'll fall. Is it possible for this fall to not involve his death or him leading an angsty life after the battle? Also, he doesn't seem motivated by the current plot goal of having to go off to battle, but this fight is necessary to the story. Does the goal need to change? Any advice you have on the matter is appreciated. Thank you. Answer:
Of course, I can't write your story for you, so the below is just to illustrate how you might come to your own decision about this.
It sounds like what you're wrestling with here is not the story goal but the main character's inner conflict -- who he is to become.
To recap (to make sure I understand this), the battle is the climax of the overall plot, and it's important that the main character's side loses, but you want him to survive and have no regrets?
That implies he will make the right choice at the climax, so although outcome will be failure (losing the battle) the judgment will be good (MC is left better off at the end for his choice). In other words, this is a tragi-comedy or personal triumph story.
For this to work, it suggests that the story world will actually be better off if the MC's side loses.
I see two possibilities here.
1. The MC negotiates a surrender that spares the lives of his friends and leaves the world in a better place, whereas his father would have had them all fight to the death. In other words, the father is dangerously wrong in his approach.
2. The MC realizes his friends are morally despicable, so that their winning would bring about a tragedy for the world. The MC realizes this and makes certain his side loses for the greater good.
Either way would let the MC retire to a life of learning with no guilt over letting his side down.