Trouble with story goal

by Brittnee

Question: I am having a lot of trouble with finding my story goal. There seem to be several!

1) The story takes place in both the real world and a "dream world" that a pair of friends discover they can go to together in their sleep. They discover that the dream world is causing issues in the real world, and must figure out a way to stop it or they can never go back.

2) in the end, the main characters friend ends up trapped there, and she and a love interest must try to free her.

3) It is a "coming of age" tale about college students trying to decipher what they want out of life and how to get it, the dream world where they can have anything or do anything being a contrast to reality, where they feel lost and aren't sure what to do.

From this, I see four possible story goals:

1) stop the affects of the dream world on reality so they can continue going to dream world
2) free the friend
3) figure out what they want out of life
4) realize that they don't need the dream world because it isn't "real" and re-focus on their real lives

Everything that happens seems to be a result of them trying to figure out what they want out of life, or an effort toward trying to avoid doing so. So, that's the goal I tend toward, but I'm not really sure that it's a
goal that makes sense.

Help please!

Answer: First a couple of points.

1) A general bit of advice is to look at the Consequence. What would an unhappy ending to this story involve? What happens if they fail? The goal will be the opposite.

2) You didn't specify how the dream world is affecting the real world. What Consequence is it threatening to create? If you know, see #1.

Of your four suggestions, the first is problematic because if their involvement in the dream world persists then what have they learned? It's no longer a coming-of-age story. Staying in Narnia sounds great to a child, but there's a real adult life waiting.

A combination of 3 and 4 sounds more promising. If the dream world is distracting them from something important they must do in the real world by giving them an easy excuse to avoid it, then the dream world functions like a Contagonist character (delaying their pursuit of a long-term, big picture goal by tempting them with short-term pleasure).

So it's sounding to me like the goal is for the main character to help her friend realize that she needs to face the real world, because there is something even better in it for her (love perhaps?). In the course of pursuing this goal, the MC may find it too.

Please bear in mind this is just a suggestion. Only you can discover the right answer for your story. I'm just exploring ways to think about it.

Hope that helps.

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