Goals: Big and Small
For every scene you write, your ancestor must be in pursuit of a goal. A goal at its most basic is a course of action your protagonist takes and sometimes needs to take in the scene and then consequences may ensue. The goal will either be achieved or not achieved by the end of the scene and may be met with opposition along the way. These are scene-based goals. Sounds a lot like your story goal, right? However, these scene-based goals are related solely to a particular scene and shouldn’t be confused with your overall story goal.
Let’s examine scene and story goals further.
Scene Goal vs. Story Goal
A plot goal gives your protagonist ancestor a purpose on a large scale while scene-based goals give your ancestor a purpose on the current level. And yes, as we have previously discussed, those small scene-based goals directly affected each other all leading to your bigger story goal.
Why not just one goal?
Without scene-based goals, your scenes become vignettes, free-floating and do not provide that cause and effect chain we so desperately want in order to provide a page-turning story. They keep your ancestor from wandering from one event to the next with no purpose. The scene goal is born directly from your plot goal and your protagonist’s personal history.
Your scene goals serve your ancestor’s purpose in the scene while that purpose also serves the larger story goal.
Adam’s story goal is to immigrate to the New World. A scene-based goal may be a scene in which he makes his way to the ship.
Scene Goals Build Drama and Conflict
In every scene these goals will drive the action and the consequences, they will help you make each scene relevant to your plot and character development. Goals are an important way to build drama and conflict into your narrative. As your ancestor pursues his goal, he may be confronted with opposition, something or someone may hold him back. In the end, his goal may be stopped, increasing the tension, or his goal may be granted to him giving him some satisfaction. Scene based goals help to structure your plot and direct your narrative.
Back to our example,
Adam’s scene goal is to reach the ship. However, within the scene, Adam may struggle to reach that goal. There may be obstacles, perhaps he gets lost, having never left his small village before. This obstacle increases the tension because he may miss the boat…literally! Perhaps someone comes along and helps him, and he makes it to the ship in the nick of time. He’s one step closer to his story goal, but not without some obstacles.
Define what your ancestor’s goal is at the beginning of each scene so that you can reveal the goal, follow it and build upon it throughout the scene.
Every time you begin a scene you want to ask yourself the following questions.
Defining Your Scene Goal
What does my protagonist want, need and intend to do?
What is the most immediate desire of my ancestor?
When does my ancestor achieve this goal?
Or does he encounter some opposition?
Does the scene goal make sense to the overall plot? Does it help move the story forward?
Who in this scene will help my ancestor achieve the goal?