Finding the Right Goal and Consequence for Your Story

Determine what you want to say, not what you think your story is trying to say.

Over the weekend, I watched Cory Fukunaga's Sin Nombre. While compelling and eye-opening regarding subject matter, the narrative offered a Tale rather than a complete Story. The short running time suggested such a thing, but after Jane Eyre and the first season of True Detective I had high hopes.

Coincidentally, I received an email from a writer experiencing difficulty finding the Goal and Consequence of their story. The story was about a young man trying to break free from the Japanese underworld of the Yakuza. The following is my answer to the Author, illustrating various ways one uses the model of the Storymind in Dramatica to find the meaning of their story.

What do you want to say

As far as the Story Goal and Story Consequence go—I would try and focus on the first and let the model of the Storymind help you figure out the latter.

If the Goal is to escape the Yakuza physically (as it was in Sin Nombre), then I could see an Overall Story Goal of Obtaining working for your story. When you select that Storypoint, the model of the Storymind automatically sets the Story Consequence to Becoming. Examples of Becoming are Being Dead, Converging with Something, or Being Transformed. The first example is clear, and you can imagine the second two telling the story of someone who—if they don’t get out—becomes the thing they feared the most: literally “converging” with the desperate criminal element and becoming a part of it.

If you were interested in telling a different kind of story, perhaps a more coming-of-age type story, you could see a young woman trying to get the people of Jakarta—or at least her immediate community—to conceive of a life outside of what they see day-to-day. Perhaps, she spends all her time lighting up the imaginations of the children in her community, only to face reticence in the eyes of those who count on the children growing up to be criminals. That would give the story an Story Goal of Conceiving.

Then, depending on the kind of story you wanted to tell, she could succeed and improve the lives of many of the children OR she could fail and come to learn that some things you can’t change. Either of these endings would fulfill the Story Consequence of Learning that the model would provide if you were to set the Goal of Conceiving.

When determining the Story Goal of a narrative, it’s more about determining what you want to say with your story rather than any Goal arising from the subject matter or logline you provide. What Goal speaks to you as an artist? What is it you feel compelled to put out into the world?

Answering those questions will help you find the right Goal and Consequence for your story.