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  1. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    Is my character's goal causing my plot problems?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by cosmic lights, Aug 19, 2019.

    Hi, I need some sound advice. My current novel is a disaster story/Fantasy so my main character's goal throughout is to survive as her situation goes from bad to worse. I get a third of the way through on my story board and can't seem to figure how where the story goes next.

    I thought it could be the lack of a concrete goal. Maybe “to survive” is a bit broad and she needs more to focus on? Family is an obvious one. Maybe a second goal revolving them would help. Often in these types of stories it does revolve around family. Finding family, keeping family alive and together. But what else could be important? Friends? Maybe her morals/beliefs? My problem may not even be goal related.

    If anyone wants a brief synopsis of my idea so far to help I will provide it.

    Thank you for your time.
     
  2. LoaDyron

    LoaDyron Contributor Contributor

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    Hello, friend. :superhello:

    Well... a little of help to understand your MC could be a great idea so that we can help you. :superwink:
     
  3. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    Ok, I'll write one up. It's in the early stages so details aren't decided completely yet.
     
  4. talltale

    talltale Member

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    "Hi, I need some sound advice. My current novel is a disaster story/Fantasy so my main character's goal throughout is to survive as her situation goes from bad to worse. I get a third of the way through on my story board and can't seem to figure how where the story goes next."

    A simple survival plot isn't enough (altho Carmac Macarthy might disagree :bigwink:). Your climax should coincide with your main character having to make a choice: it could be related to her his/her morals, but it has to be a decision/action that brings your story to a resolution.
     
    Last edited: Aug 19, 2019
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  5. LoaDyron

    LoaDyron Contributor Contributor

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    That's fine. It's your first draft so anything can come and go.
     
  6. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    @telltale - still miles away from reaching an idea for my ending but that's definitely some good advice to keep in mind! Noted it in my little book.
     
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  7. Katibel

    Katibel Member

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    To survive is a short term goal, which is likely why you're running low on ideas. What is her long term goal?

    Back when humanity was struggling to survive, the goal was often security. Family was a form of security, that's what made it so important. Stability was another form of security, which came in the shape of technological advancements (wells, carts, mills, etc.), innovation, tribalism, rules / law, alliances, food storage, and so on. Security ensured survival over the long term, which freed people up to pursue other goals, such as the arts.

    If your MC is coming out of a society wherein people were free to pursue art and happiness, then she might desire to return to that safety. And her pursuance of "normalcy" can happen in many different ways, most prominent of which, I think, is either as a desperate "all sacrifice for the idea" tyranny, or from a place of heart such as seeing what desperation can do and attempting to overcome it. Which is she more like?

    If she continues to survive simply for survival's sake then that's all she'll ever do or be, which isn't a very compelling tale so I might agree with your assessment.

    What is the MC coming out of, what is she accustomed to, who was she before, and who do you want her to be after? Might be the most important questions to answer.

    Hope some of that can help!
     
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  8. StoryForest

    StoryForest Active Member

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    A synopsis would be great. :) In general though, this type of plot problem is usually not a “character goal” problem, but an “ideas problem.” Stories are made up of individual sets of creative ideas in our minds string together through logic. When we’re stuck on where a story should go next, it’s usually because the creative idea portion is missing. Appling logic (like motive, goals, themes etc) don’t really work as well as just getting creative juices flowing.

    Since you’re stuck a third of the way, do you have a vision on what the fourth part looks like? If so, the second and fourth part will give you some boundaries to work off of (brainstorming has more to do with thinking creatively within boundaries than just random thoughts). If not, then see if you can come up with a rough idea on what the fourth part would eventually look like and work backwards.
     
  9. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    Very early concept. But here's the idea so far as requested.

    Set on Earth in the future when a portal opened to another dimension (20 years ago) and brought mythical creatures and beings into our world – as well as magic. The humans were over thrown and those remaining had no choice but to submit to the new dominant race (haven't come up with too much about them yet, but they are magic users). Soon humans were rounded up and forced to live in large slums (cities and towns with a magical fence to keep them in and soldiers as watchmen). Life in the slums is hard, food is rationed as is medicine and clean water. But they are largely left to organize themselves and wait to be called up for work (physical labour, soldiering so on). Children from birth to nine are expected to be given up to the mysterious “starlight” project and are never seen or heard from again. Children under nine are considered “illegals” and the whole family can be arrested for harbouring them

    Hannah is 15 and lives in one of these slums. She works as a “nurse” at the hospice that was started up by her father who has been a physician before the enemy invaded. Her father and Mother were taken to the war front months ago and not heard of since. Hannah has an elder sister (Ellen) who has just given birth, and two younger sisters, one (Mia) is below the legal age and the other (Beth) is sick. Hiding one older child wasn't to hard, even though their family only received enough food for three, but hiding a 3 week old baby is almost impossible. The baby cries and the neighbours can hear it. People are given benefits for reporting anything considered a crime and with things in the slums getting more desperate, Hannah knows it's only a waiting game. So many people are sick and hungry, someone might report them for privileges and freedom from the slums. Hannah is looking for a “smuggler”. People in the slums with connections who are helping small groups escape, they keep their identity guarded, as they also can be reported and taken away. So far one man will accept Hannah and her sisters, but not the baby, because if it cries during the escape it could give the whole group away. Since her sister can not provide milk to the baby, finding milk for it is not only becoming harder but drawing suspicion when milk is considered a luxury only the watchmen have. Bartering is dangerous. A highly contagious illness has also broken out and those with the disease and their families are locked up in their homes, causing even more panic.

    Hannah works at the hospital with her best friend, Danielle. Until Danielle and her sisters receive a letter summoning them to the work camps. In a panic, and desperate to save herself and her family, Danielle reports Hannah and her family for harbouring children. Hannah and her family are arrested and sent to the work camp, where the children are removed from them.

    From this moment on I'm not sure where to take it. I just know I want it to be more about human psychology than magic. We meet an antagonist in the slums. Someone without power who begins to gain it and become a threat to Hannah. I thought about keeping it more about the humans, and keeping the "invaders" more mysterious. Although I do plan for Hannah to start meddling with magic later on.
     
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  10. Alan Aspie

    Alan Aspie Banned Contributor

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    This sounds like Hauge might be the best help you can get.

    Watch these two. Review your story and it's base idea again after that.



     
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  11. Lawless

    Lawless Active Member

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    My immediate reaction is that she should plausibly be more worried about helping her family get together with the children than her own survival.

    She might also desire to find a safe place for all of them where they could lead a normal life. And why not the overthrow of the aliens' yoke as well?

    Maybe I'm not quite understanding which part of her motivation is difficult for you.
     
  12. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    @Lawless
    Maybe it's not a goal/motivation problem I'm having.

    And she is more concerned with their survival. So that confused me. Where are you seeing it the other way round? I may need to fix it.
     
  13. Maverick_nc

    Maverick_nc Senior Member

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    Seems to me that being a nurse, of sorts, her goal/ambition is actually to help people in some way. Perhaps her overarching desire is to reform the system, be a leader, become chief nurse - something like that. Survival is the conflict she encounters on the way to achieving her goal.
     
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  14. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    @Maverick_nc - amazing idea
     
  15. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    That's very possible. If the story is just about surviving (or helping those around her survive,) then the drama can be all about the struggle. The trick is just throwing worse and worse stuff at her throughout the book. Maybe everyone survives, maybe they don't. Losing people along the way is worth more tears and suspense than any "life goals" anyway. How dark do you want it to get?

    If, on the other hand, you want more of an adventure plot (doesn't have to be as cheerful as the word "adventure" often implies,) then I think the makings of your plot are all in the synopsis above. The first goal is to escape the work camp. The second goal is to find and save the children. The third goal is to find a safe place to ride out the apocalypse. Of course, in book II, you'll probably want to address some sort of uprising (which is also one possible answer to the "safe place" question. They finally make it to a resistance camp.)

    This is just an idea, but if you go with the "save the kids" plot, Hanna could run into the friend who sold her out. One of the perks she garnered for informing on Hanna's family, is that she now has a cushy job inside the Starlight project. Maybe she loves it and is a horrible person, and Hanna ends up having to kill her while rescuing the kids. Or (and I like this better) maybe she hates working where they do whatever it is they're doing to these kids and has deep guilt over what she did to Hanna and her family, in which case she helps her get the kids out. (...and dies a martyr along the way?) Maybe, regardless of either of those options, it's already too late. The kids are already brainwashed or transformed and super-powered or mashed up as food, whatever happens there. Lots of crazy ways to go. Either way, I like what you have so far.

    ETA: Even if she doesn't work in the Starlight project, I would consider bringing the turncoat friend back in for a minute later in the book. There's good drama there, however you decide to play it.
     
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2019
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  16. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    Her friend is a major player I now that so far - she will be important to the end, either as a friend or as an enemy. I think trying to save the children is an obvious goal that people would question if she didn't pursue it.
     
  17. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    Like I said. It's all in your synopsis. I don't see a goals problem. I'm sorry if you thought none of that was at all helpful. What kind of goals do you want? Are you talking character motivations? I think you have that covered too.

    Are you just unsure how to get to the next obvious goal? For what it's worth, I would think circumstances would drive the story entirely for a while at this point. What's the camp like? What horrible things happen to them on arrival or while being processed? What are they forced to do there? Do they meet anyone who helps them get acclimated? Are the other prisoners kind? Cruel? Does anyone have information or a way to obtain information about the kids? How long do you want them stuck there before they're able to save or attempt to save the children? (If the answer is not long, then I guess some of these questions won't help either.)

    Figuring out exactly how and when they're going to escape might help you fill in the space between with events and new characters that enable that escape.
     
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  18. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    Sorry you miss understood me. I was agreeing with you. You pointed out an obvious goal that I should have seen, because anyone reading this story (if they do) would expect her to try and save the children. Like duh me. Sorry for the confusion. So you actually did help a lot!
     
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  19. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    Sometimes talking an idea through with others is helpful. I just got to that point and didn't know where to go next, it kind of obvious, I just didn't see it. That may be "problem" solved.
     
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  20. Saphry

    Saphry Member

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    To save the children she could pretend to be a traitor of the humans, work her way into the Starlight project, manipulates the enemies, saves the children or use them against the suppressors, breaks down the system and achieve fragile/temporary peace between the two races.
     
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  21. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    I'm sorry. You're right. I totally misunderstood. Now I'm embarrassed. I'm glad that helped though. It's easy to get too close to a project to see what you'd notice instantly on someone else's page.
    I love brainstorming and spitballing. If I could just bounce story ideas back and forth with people all day instead of having to write the actual chapters and fret about a final draft, I would be in writers' heaven. Let me know if you ever need an extra pair of eyes or a sounding board.

    ETA: Do six unrelated figures of speech in one paragraph constitute a mixed metaphor? I just reread this, and it's like an idiomatic train wreck (a figurative deluge of figuratives!) Okay. I'll stop. It must be past my bed time. I'm getting goofy. :sleepy:
     
  22. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    I know! I think you may be my soul mate! And thank you so much for the offer, and it swings both ways. And it was my fault, I hadn't been clear enough. It was 3:30 am and I'd been writing so my brain was mashed. x
     
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  23. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    The Road is all about survival. @cosmic lights seems to have another story taking place inside her survival story. And I'm not so sure a climax is always about a character making a choice. Our characters make choices throughout our stories. I had to think about this one, but I don't think it's always about a choice a character has to make.
     
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  24. Rzero

    Rzero Reluctant voice of his generation Contributor

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    :love:
    The Road.
    Yes. Cormac McCarthy. It was the first thing I thought when I started reading your OP about survival. I think you're headed into Papillon territory with the next section though (Henri Charriere.) I'm a big proponent of reading what you're writing. Most of the "masters" promote the "read a lot; write a lot" cliche, and I think they're right. I go a step further though. I chew through audiobooks like a fiend, and when I'm in new territory with my writing, I focus heavily on titles that are related in theme or content.

    As it would happen, I recently read Papillon for the first time and loved it. Coupled with the prison-farm nightmare chapters of the Bonnie and Clyde biography I read a month or two ago and an off-hand line in an episode of Archer, I was inspired to outline a story about a young man in a semi-near future in which most crimes are punished with hard labor sentences in mining colonies in the Kuiper belt. It's shaping up to be a bleak story of legal and political travesties, human rights violations and prison rape spurring repeated, desperate escape attempts. I haven't decided whether or not he'll escape or even survive in the end, but it will definitely be a decades-long endeavor fraught with setbacks and inhuman reprisals. Hmm. I used to write such happy stories.

    Anyway, I plan to read (audiobook) every prison camp, chain gang and sci-fi dystopia book I can get my hands on, if I ever get to the actual writing on that one. I also recently read (finally) 1984, and that has definitely colored parts of the outline so far. I guess the trick is not to get too derivative. (There's no Big Brother or Thought Police.) I find inspiration, yes, but mostly confidence gained from knowing how these sorts of ideas have been successfully conveyed before. There's nothing new under the sun, right?

    Escape from Camp 14 might be worth checking out, if you get a chance. I haven't read that one yet though. It's a slightly fictionalized autobiography of a boy in a re-education camp in North Korea. It's supposed to be pretty intense.
     
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  25. cosmic lights

    cosmic lights Contributor Contributor

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    That's what I do. Once I've settled on a concrete plot line (I tend to drift for a while and by the time I have a solid idea, it's nothing like my original idea) I go in search of stories that cover those topics/themes. Just to see how others handled it and, to make sure I'm not copying another idea too closely without knowing it. It's fun to see what is "cliche" and then put a new spin on it. I liked The Road and "Life as we Knew it". I'm not sure what I think about this idea yet, but I think it may have some potential .
     
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