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Giving a character two goals?

Discussion in 'Writing Discussions' started by Darkfantasy, Apr 19, 2019.

  1. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

    Sorry but I need you again guys!
    Been doing some writing tonight and realized my main character may have two goals. Not sure how to present them.
    My main character, EMMA, is a teenage girl and the last human on a planet dominated by magical beings.

    Personal goal: Although she has never gone without material things Emma does not feel part of her community and as she and her friends grew older and they took on careers and husbands, her uniqueness has made her a loner. She now spends every free moment secretly searching for the answer to why humans mysteriously vanished and why she was the only one left. Why her mother abandoned her. (most jobs/careers on this planet require a magical user so she gets stuck with mundane jobs. There is also an aging difference between her and the other two species that could offer her a partner.) Her life is becoming lonely.

    This goal is achieved by the end of the First Act. She finds her own kind in a dystopian world where they are slaves. So now she has what she wanted but has lost all her material wealth, her safety and her freedom. She sees the best in mankind and the worst that makes her wonder if she's left everything behind for nothing. Without magic working she can't return to her old planet but would she want to if she could? Maybe not a goal throughout but certainly some conflict.

    Goal: Restore magic
    Problem: the beings in this world rely heavily on magic for survival. It has never failed them before so they have never devised any other method for healing, travel etc besides magic. So when magic begins to suddenly fade away for seemingly no reason, daily life becomes difficult for them. Some are having to face losing their powers all together and the future returning to being primitive. Magic purifies water to drink, they have no other way. Emma's own community are the oldest race on the planet, created by a God and they need it to live. They are beginning to grow weak and die. This problem continues throughout the novel as Emma realizes that not only does her old planet need magic, but saving magic could also save mankind from enslavement. So her goal becomes discovering what's happening to magic.

    Should I try and connect the two goals or keep them separate? Is finding humans her internal goal and saving magic her external goal? I'd like to try and conflict her goals just not sure how yet. I really need some advice. Which goal should be the main focus?
  2. Rkcapps

    Rkcapps Sage

    My take - Focus on the external goal (i.e. restore magic) and in following that path you should find, the more you write, that you'll address the internal goal. A verb like "restore" is a great goal because it's actively doing something and readers want a story that moves.
    Darkfantasy likes this.
  3. Caltan

    Caltan Acolyte

    It sounds like you have the beginnings of a natural progression from the character having one goal, to gaining the second.

    The end of your first act is the discovery of enslavement, this could harden the character's resolve into finding out what happened to magic and if it could be fixed.
    Darkfantasy likes this.
  4. FifthView

    FifthView Istar

    Well this pretty much tells me that finding out what happened to other humans can't be the main goal, unless your story is only one act!

    I do think these two things are easily intertwined if the source of magic, its basic nature and origin, caused the one society to flourish while the other didn't. As you explore the nature and origin of magic, part of that exploration can be this history of what led to the separation of humans from the dominant society.

    I also think that you probably haven't explored Emma's true desires very well. She's lonely, feels impotent in her world, and finding other humans is only one method she has for solving this. Forgive the pun, but finding other humans is her Magic Bullet, a mere means to an end that turns out not to be a means to her end. Finding other humans didn't really solve everything. I experienced something like that in my own life when I came out of the closet: a sudden rush as if everything was solved! But it turns out that my long-lost community was neither better nor worse for solving my feeling of being out of place and alone. (Took me years to realize this.)

    BTW, I'm not sure you've explored Emma's nature sufficiently, or else you've just not given us the information. Why, when all other humans disappeared, she somehow didn't? How did she come to be, anyway? I think the answers to this might shine a light on the whole magic vs human history, the nature of everything about these two worlds. Maybe her primary goal should really be about coming to terms with her unique place in both societies. This might lead to her realization of what she needs to do and why she's the one to do it. Plus, she might come to terms with her sense of being alone—she's the only one who can do what needs to be done, after all—and lose her sense of impotence in her milieu.
    Darkfantasy likes this.
  5. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

    Haha, yeah I realized this last night! Sometimes I write until I'm so tired I can't even think straight. On intertwining these two things, all I have is that the same being that enslaved humans is also stealing magic. This being can create her own realms that are powered by her magic, which began to run out, so she tethered her realm to Emma's world to keep it going. But it's definitely something I need to work on. This book is only in the early stages right now.
    But I managed to get my stories premise in a somewhat coherent premise today. And so I think I'll take your advice and explore Emma's nature a little.

    Emma's journey is a little like your own. Finding her long-lost community doesn't solve her problems, just seems to give her new ones.
  6. MythicMirror

    MythicMirror Dreamer

    In my opinion, it's a good idea. But you have to seperate them. The personal goal can be something like getting a girlfriend while the plot goal could be destroying the ring in a volcano.
    Darkfantasy likes this.
  7. Helen

    Helen Inkling

    You don't have to, but it helps to keep them thematically and premise connected. In other words, have you identified these and are the goals related to the underlying arguments.
    Darkfantasy likes this.

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