Story Goal / Theme

by Razia
(Gainesville, Florida)

Hi, I've read the pieces on Story Goal and Theme and I am still not clear on the practical differences between them and how I would use one versus the other. Any Advice? Thank you!

Response: Story Goal is the focus of the characters' efforts, particularly the protagonist's. It is what they are trying to accomplish or achieve.

There are different types of theme, but the most common type is a value judgement, a way of measuring or considering how a problem should be solved or a goal attained.

You can think of a story's message as...

"When trying to achieve X (Story Goal), a particular approach or method (Y) is better than the opposite approach or method (Z)."

The evaluation of Y versus Z is the thematic argument. Examples of each will appear in the story so that the reader can weigh up the evidence for and against each. (As the writer, you provide the evidence to lead them to the conclusion you desire.)

Of course, there are many different thematic arguments you can make. The simplest in popular stories is where Y is good and Z is evil (or perhaps the common good versus self-interest).

For instance, in The Lord of the Rings the goal is to prevent anyone of power from being able to possess the One Ring, which will expand their power such that power will be excessively concentrated and ultimately corrupting. As for Y and Z, it's pretty clear the differences between the good side and the evil side. The good guys care about each other and the good of the world, the bad guys are destructive towards everything, including themselves. The good guys are selfless, the bad guys are selfish. The good guys respect everyone, the bad guys only respect power, etc.

So you can say that the thematic message is that, when the goal is the proper distribution of power, caring about the common good, respecting everyone, etc. - all the values the good guys possess - are ultimately better than the values the evil side embodies.

Or, more simply, good is better than evil.

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 Plot Invite.

search this site the web
search engine by freefind

Celebrating our 2nd year as one of the...

 Step-by-Step Novel Planning Workbook

NEW! Make Money Writing Nonfiction Articles

"I've read more than fifty books on writing, writing novels, etc., but your website has the most useful and practical guidance. Now that I understand how a novel is structured, I will rewrite mine, confident that it will be a more interesting novel." - Lloyd Edwards

"Thanks to your "Create a Plot Outline in 8 Easy Steps," I was able to take a story that I simply just fooled around with and went willy nilly all over, into a clearly defined, intriguing battle where two characters fight to keep their relationship intact, and try to find a balance in control of themselves and their lives. Thanks to you, I'm not ashamed of the poor organization of my writing." - Nommanic Ragus

"I am so glad I found your site. It has helped me in so many ways, and has given me more confidence about myself and my work. Thank you for making this valuable resource, for me and my fellow writers. Perhaps you'll hear about me someday...I'll owe it to you." - Ruth, Milton, U.S.A.

"I never knew what to do with all the characters in my head, but since discovering Dramatica I am writing again in my spare time. Thank you for making this available. Yes, it is a bit complex, and it does take time, but I love it because it works." - Colin Shoeman

"I came across your website by chance. It is a plethora of knowledge, written in a simplistic way to help aspiring writers. I truly appreciate all of the information you have provided to help me successfully (relative term) write my novel. Thank you very much!" - Leo T. Rollins

"I can honestly say that this is the first website that is really helpful. You manage to answer complex questions in relatively short articles and with really intelligent answers. Thank you for taking the time to write these articles and sharing them so generously." - Chrystelle Nash

"...had no idea that a simple click would give me such a wealth of valuable information. The site not only offered extremely clear and helpful instructions but was a very enjoyable read as well. The education from your wonderful site has made me a better writer and your words have inspired me to get back to work on my novel. I wish to give you a heartfelt thanks for How to Write a Book Now, sir." -- Mike Chiero