Story goal

Question: In my story a character is given an antique mirror from her father. On the night of her birthday when she is asleep, she hears a voice telling to her wake up. No one is there but, the voice keeps telling her to walk to the mirror that everything she wants is on the other side. She touches it and is transported to an alternate reality. She feels lost and unhappy in her life believing she can’t do anything about it. What could the story goal be for this character? This does affect other characters because in her normal reality everyone assumes she’s missing. Not sure how it could affect the characters in the different reality.

Also another question, I am a young writer and it seems that often I have many ideas, but I always have trouble actually getting it on paper. I get bogged down by planning but when I don’t plan my idea it makes no sense and I become directionless. Do you have advice for this?

Answer: What you have at this point sounds like the typical start of a monomyth fantasy story. The main character is called to go beyond the boundary of her everyday world and have an adventure in some unknown land.

The one question you may have to answer, because it may be key to everything, is ... Does the father know the mirror is magic, and if so why did he give it to her?

As for what could the story goal be, obviously only you can decide. But typical goals in this type of story include ...

1. Obtaining something. For example, finding a treasure or rescuing someone who is trapped in the other world (perhaps her father). Sometimes (e.g. Lord of the Rings) it can be preventing a villain from obtaining something.

2. Doing something. For example, defeating a villain or some other threat that may ultimately endanger the real world.

Learning the truth. Sometimes there is a mystery in the main character's life. In the course of the journey, she may discover the secret behind the mystery that will make sense of her life. (Maybe that's why her father gave her the mirror.)

4. Understanding. There are also stories where a character goes to a strange new world which seems delightful at first. Gradually, the main character comes to understand that this world or someone in it is actually quite sinister. The last part of the book is often about the character's escape back to the real world once she realizes the truth (e.g. Coraline). There may be another lesson the main character learns on the adventure, which not only helps her escape but in the end helps her in the real world.

I would suggest you look at this article...

... which tell you the basic parts of a monomyth story. It may help you outline your story.

Also this article...

... discusses some of the basic types of plots. Pay particular attention to these three:

Overcoming the Monster
The Quest
Voyage and Return

As for your second question... I'm a big believer in planning, but not to the point that it becomes an end in itself. The point of an outline is to help you not get stuck.

What I recommend is that you alternate between planning and writing. When you first get an idea that inspires you, write until you get stuck. Then plan until the story becomes clear and you get excited about it again. Then go back to writing.

Also, if you are getting bogged down in planning, switch to doing some writing. In the course of writing, sometimes the answer to your planning problem will appear all on its own.

Just keep switching back and forth as needed, according to whatever helps you stay interested in the story. Don't spend too much time in a stuck place.

Best of luck.

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