Should All Protagonists Have An Immediate Goal?

Every month in Writer's Digest's InkWell section, we pose a question related to the writing life. Tell us your thoughts.
jaus tail
 
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Re: Should All Protagonists Have An Immediate Goal?

Postby jaus tail » Sun Nov 04, 2012 8:46 pm

The reason I asked this question was because most novels boast of central characters with humongous goals like saving the world, solving a mystery, which appears larger than life at times. I don't wake up in the morning with any major goal. But I guess that's why no one would be interested in my Biography.

I agree with the engage or enrage the reader point. Why would anyone want to read a novel where deer are grazing grass in every chapter less there's a new herd to challenge their territory.
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Linton Robinson
 
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Re: Should All Protagonists Have An Immediate Goal?

Postby Linton Robinson » Tue Nov 06, 2012 9:03 pm

I'M overthinking and overcomplicating???? Amazing.

It's simpler to use jargon, then, and to feel constricted to writing according to what ever conventions have grown up or been hallucinated around the terminology... rather than just telling a story?

Writers are so funny.

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updog
 
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Re: Should All Protagonists Have An Immediate Goal?

Postby updog » Tue Nov 06, 2012 9:16 pm

Linton Robinson wrote:
Writers are so funny.


*sigh* Well, some of them are. Others are just uptight and lack any sense of humor at all.

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Linton Robinson
 
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Re: Should All Protagonists Have An Immediate Goal?

Postby Linton Robinson » Wed Nov 07, 2012 9:57 am

Yep, that's me, Old Mr. No Sense of Humor.

jaus tail
 
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Re: Should All Protagonists Have An Immediate Goal?

Postby jaus tail » Wed Nov 07, 2012 8:41 pm

I've seen TV sitcoms where goals aren't saving the world. In Desperate Housewives the women just keep on living their lives. Had it been a movie the writer would have to squeeze some plot midway, like someone's dying of cancer and has a bucket list. His friends try to fulfill his last few wishes and eventually realize their own flaws, fears, and mistakes. But when you writes as a sitcom, having a plot isn't so urgent and on your face. The cancer can always come in the next season. In a novel the cancer may come later but its symptoms have to be shown earlier.

The show does have a dynamic story line. But I've saw three seasons in a week's time and now it's appearing too technical like a formula. Not predictable but technical.
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Linton Robinson
 
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Re: Should All Protagonists Have An Immediate Goal?

Postby Linton Robinson » Wed Nov 07, 2012 9:10 pm

Yeah, a series has a totally different approach to story line. The best generally have something going on each week, but with long "arcs" that extend for years.

And you don't see that whole protag/goal stuff all over. Lots of the shows I saw as a kid, like Route 66, Wagon Train, Star Trek, are just people on the road, continually running into new characters and situations.

And the whole "protagonist" schema is useless for most TV. What you have instead is a "constellation" of characters. That's my own term, but every TV writer I mention it to immediately recognizes it.

Kind of funny, since it's orignally a concept from drama but is now hocked to novel writers, when the majority of dramas people actually see aren't anything like that configuration.

jaus tail
 
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Re: Should All Protagonists Have An Immediate Goal?

Postby jaus tail » Wed Nov 07, 2012 11:18 pm

Exactly what I mean. I watch a lot of sitcoms and noticed the lack of a well defined goal, which I why I asked this question. I have realized that the goal may not be saving the world, there has to be something in the plot to keep the story moving. The push can come from a character's fear, greed, humiliation, revenge, natural disaster, government's fall, terror attack, infection by a skin scarring bacteria, past affair, anything that makes the character 'wake up' the next morning.
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Linton Robinson
 
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Re: Should All Protagonists Have An Immediate Goal?

Postby Linton Robinson » Thu Nov 08, 2012 10:05 pm

And how often is it just getting laid? :-)

Which always makes getting up the next morning a lot more fun.

Usually, anyway.

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Rabuhato
 
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Re: Should All Protagonists Have An Immediate Goal?

Postby Rabuhato » Sun Jan 13, 2013 5:29 pm

When I write, many of my characters have personal goals that will last for part of the story (getting to a location to the plot can continue), but no clear over arching goal.
If they get one, it's because the plot demanded they reach that goal, not really because I set it out for them ahead of time.

I find that many of the stories I enjoy have protagonists who have no idea where they're going. They just get swept along into events until they finally (somewhere near the middle of the second half of the book) realize they can actually DO something! Up until then it's like the other characters are "training" them into that position either on purpose or not. The protagonist is seasoned into knowing or accomplishing their goal.

One of my better stories actually had no goal for the protagonist at all. She simply responded to everyone else until the surrounding characters realized something about her that turned the entire story on its head.
I say don't worry so much about goals. Worry more about what you want to say with your plot in general.
...Strange and wonderful creatures...

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