Working without a strong character goal

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  • Working without a strong character goal

    I never do this. I have always preached that starting your story with a strong, complete goal for your character (both physically and emotionally, if possible) is essential. And it's that goal that heightens the incident that brings us into Act 2.

    Example: I was watching Coming to America tonight. Akeem wants to find love, to find his own wife from the very start of the movie. Now his quest to America could be interesting on it's own, but it's this need that drives it.

    Then I was watching Dave. And here it doesn't feel as much that the character has a strong goal as he is roped into posing as the president. Other than obligation to his country (which if it doesn't affect him personally, I don't see it as a goal), what is Dave trying to earn? He doesn't fall for the First Lady until the second act. What's driving him to play ball and pose as the man.

    So does anybody have any pointers, advice, tips on starting your story WITHOUT a character goal? Now, you could do a story about a struggling actor who gets involved in a murder plot or something...sure, he wants to be an actor from the start of the story, but after he's dragged into the plot, his goal would be to clear his name. That's the real goal. The goal that keeps him from just walking away from our story.

    It's a new thing for me to attempt to write this way. So how does one start a story with this kind of goal plotting in mind?

    Ele...

  • #2
    Re: Working without a strong character goal

    But Dave does have a goal. What kind of business is he in? What is his slogan, the one that he has all those people in the office say?


    The goal doesn't have to be such that the story will end when THIS happens. I think it's better when the character is already in the midst of pursuing a life-long goal; like Rick just wants to run his gin joint and not get involved or Dave just wants to find people jobs so they can work.

    Your story, or the movie, is about the day they changed. Dave and Rick are still working on their Goals, but now they've changed. They're doing things differently than they were before.

    Don't think of it as goals and not having goals, think of it as you're writing the story on how Person X changed for forever.

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    • #3
      Re: Working without a strong character goal

      Originally posted by whistlelock
      Don't think of it as goals and not having goals, think of it as you're writing the story on how Person X changed for forever.
      Exactly. In a non goal story the character arcs are the hook. We want the protag to be a better person. That is 'our' goal.
      http://wasitsomethingiwrote.blogspot.com/

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      • #4
        Re: Working without a strong character goal

        So you think the protag. should have an external and internal goal? I completely agree, it helps for a stronger story, a more complex story if you will. Like a boy wants the girl of his dreams (concrete or external) and to win her love in the process (abstract or internal), right?

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        • #5
          Re: Working without a strong character goal

          I see where you're going, guys. Maybe you can help me clarify this more. Get it straight in my head.

          Take this situation:

          You have a bumbling, loser of a character who screws up everything in his life. Then he gets a unique job offer, one that could give him the money and stability he needs in his life. (end of act 1) But then he starts messing that job up. What keeps him from just saying "Screw it," and moving on to the next possible job? Why must he stay and try to fix everything he's screwed up in this new job? I believe it would have to be connected to an original goal of the character. Because even if he messed things up for others through this job, it doesn't affect him directly. It wouldn't drive him. So, in a case like this, wouldn't this character need the job for a bigger reason? Maybe he owes money or a favor to somebody and HAS to perform the job or it's his ass. Am I right?

          Ele...

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          • #6
            Re: Working without a strong character goal

            ''One that could give him the money and stability he needs in life''

            I think the answer to your character motivation lies in 'why does he need money and stability?'' That is why he sticks at the job. The reason must be something we care about, which in turn makes us care about the character.
            http://wasitsomethingiwrote.blogspot.com/

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            • #7
              Re: Working without a strong character goal

              If you have a lazy, bumbling character and he doesn't have a strong goal of his own, you probably need to force him into your situation because he's the type who wouldn't try hard unless he either had to be there or he really wanted something.

              Dave is not that kind of character. He's a simple guy, but he's not a bad, lazy, bumbling, unwilling guy. He's energetic. He's a ood guy. He likes the idea of an acting job, showing off how well he imitates the president. That's a fun challenge for him, so he eagerly does the job as best he can. And as Whistle said, he's all about helping people get jobs.

              When he realizes things aren't right in the White House (Where is he now when we REALLY need him?) he finds the strength to stand up to the villains and be the President he knows he should be -- one who cares for the little people and helps them find jobs.

              If someone is put into a position where being there will change him, he either has to want to get into that situation, or he has to be receptive to what he thinks the situation is all about, like Dave was to the impersonation job that later grew into something more, or if he's an unwilling, bumbling character, something or someone has to force him into the situation, and once he's there, he finds a reason of his own to want to stay and meet the challenge.

              Having written a couple reluctant characters who are forced to do something they are too lazy to want to do and they never really wanted to do it -- they'd rather be anywhere else -- you have to be careful about the first half of the second act, where there's a danger they will just seem whiny, and you have a hard time moving the story forward because they're not struggling to do anything until later, when they change for the better. You need to find something to keep your story moving and keep that second act interesting.

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              • #8
                Re: Working without a strong character goal

                FYI the screenplay for Dave was written by Gary Ross who also wrote Seabiscuit, Big, Pleasantville and Mr. Baseball.

                BTN
                "Only he is an emancipated thinker who is not afraid to write foolish things.-
                -Chekhov

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