While the structural nature of a story’s goal is crucial to developing a plot that makes sense, the storytelling manner in which the goal is revealed can determine whether a plot seems clever or pedestrian. In this tip, we’ll explore the impact of some of the key methods of revealing your goal.
Sometimes the goal is spelled out right at the beginning, such as a meeting in which a General tells a special strike unit that a senator’s daughter has been kidnapped by terrorists and they must rescue her.
Other times, the goal is hidden behind an apparent goal. So, if your story had used the scene described above, it might turn out that was really just a cover story and in fact, the supposed “daughter” was actually an agent who was assigned to identify and kill a double agent working in the strike team.
Goals may also be revealed slowly, such as in “The Godfather,” where it takes the entire film to realize the goal is to keep the family alive by replacing the aging Don with a younger member of the family.
Further, in “The Godfather,” as in many Alfred Hitchcock films, the goal is not nearly as important as the chase or the inside information or the thematic atmosphere. So don’t feel obligated to elevate every story point to the same level.
As long as each key story point is there in some way, to some degree of importance, there will be no story hole. You may still have a lot of interest in that story point, however. A character’s personal goal, for example, may touch on an issue that you want to explore in greater detail.
When this is the case, let your imagination run wild. Jot down as many instances as come to mind in which the particular plot point comes into play. Such events, moments, or scenarios enrich a story and add passion to a perfunctory telling of the tale.
One of the best ways to do this is to consider how each plot point might affect other plot points, and other story points pertaining to characters, theme, and genre.
For example, each character sees the overall goal as a step in helping them accomplish their personal goals. So, why not create a scenario where a character wistfully describes his personal goal to another character while sitting around a campfire? He can explain how achievement of the overall story goal will help him get what he personally wants.
An example of this is in the John Wayne classic movie, “The Searchers.” John Wayne’s character asks an old, mentally slow friend to help search for the missing girl. Finding the girl is the overall goal. The friend has a personal goal – he tells Wayne that he just wants a roof over his head and a rocking chair by the fire. This character sees his participation in the effort to achieve the goal as the means of obtaining something he has personally longed for.
And how does your story goal exemplify or affect the moral message of your story as part of the theme? When you see the story goal mentioned in your story synopsis, see if you can incorporate aspects of theme, and when you see theme, try to add a reference to the goal.
In Huckleberry Finn, Mark Twain has the boy cooking up some food for Tom Sawyer. He puts all the vegetables and meat in the same pan and explain that his pop taught him that food is better when the flavors all “swap around” a bit. The same is true for stories. Don’t just speak about goal, speak about goal in reference to as many other story points as you can.