29 January 2010

Long-term vs Short-term Protagonist Goals

One of the more difficult aspects of creating a compelling Dramatic Action plot for highly creative, so-called right-brained writers is to come up with concrete goals for the protagonist.

I have written an article for March issue of The Writer magazine that will be out in bookstores mid-February and will not go into all the details about the importance of goals, examples of goals in literature, and how to create them -- you can read the article for more.

What I do want to cover here is the difference between the long-term protagonist goal(s) and the short-term scene goals.

The 1st element on the Character Emotional Development Plot Profile is to determine your protagonist's long-term goal. This often changes or shifts after the major turning points in your story.

This goal is different than the Goal column on the Scene Tracker template. The Scene Tracker Kit is designed to help writers create plot at the scene level. An essential element of scene is the protagonist's part in the scene which revolves around her goal. The scene goals are the steps she takes in hopes of reaching her long-term goal.

Both Goal elements demand a clear vision of what the protagonist desires on a concrete, attainable level. These goals much be within the protagonist's capabilities of achieving (of course you will develop all sorts of antagonists, both internal and external, to interfere with her success). However, the more well-defined the protagonist's goal at the overall story level and scene-by-scene the more grounded the reader in the story as they know what is at stake and when the protagonist is getting closer to her goal or is sent further away from her goals.

For more on Goal setting: