Screenwriting : Story goal vs the protagonist’s want by Michael Khamis

Michael Khamis

Story goal vs the protagonist’s want

Are these two the same or is the protagonist’s want more of a symptom of the protagonist’s “Lie”?

Craig D Griffiths

A “Goal” and a “Want” are different. A goal may be to get my wife back because I want to be part of a family and feel loved.

I think a story goal may be better explained (in my mind) as a theme (I am not sure of the idea of a story goal).

Hope this helps.

Michael Khamis

Hi Craig, thanks for your response. Well when I'm referring to the story goal, I mean the thing that the protagonist is trying to achieve during the story. For example, in Gladiator. Maximus wants to avenge the death of his wife and child by killing the evil emperor. So I'm wondering if the want is something that he's wanted before the inciting incident.

Craig D Griffiths

Not in that example or in say Star Wars. I think you can set them up. In “finding memo” we see his dad is super protective of him. The first time Nemo leaves his sight, Nemo is taken. We know what he will do, because he was well established.

Rohit Kumar

I don't know if there is anything as Story goal, because if that exists than it has to be for writer/director's vision based on how the story unfolds by juggling between Protagonist's needs and wants. But there is nothing as hard rules that story should be as a 3Act structure or it got to have a goal as such unless it's a commercial movie.. Quite often Protagonist's needs and how he/she achieves that is the story's goal.

For example, there is an Iranian movie called "A Separation" . You can watch it on youtube it's available. Now in that a couple wants to get divorce because the husband wants to stay with his father who got health issue and the wife wants to move everyone to a better country as their daughter is growing up and she needs better life style. Now both of their needs is to stay together and give better life style for the daughter as well as help father, but the story's goal takes a complete shift when they encounter an event where the caretaker of the old man gets injured the two families(the divorcing couple) and the caretaker's family got to go through a legal battle which completely takes the story to a new trajectory.

So story goal if exists is all about how writer/director juggles between one or multiple protagonist's needs and wants to tell his/her view on something unknown to the audience to surprise them. For audience the story hook is what the protagonist's needs and wants arc is. So all three are different thing in my opinion, but most often like 80% directors want all three to be closely tied together.

Doug Nelson

You have character 'wants' and character 'needs' and the two are not often the same. The goal is the want that drives the story forward; the need has more to do with the character arc.

Nick Assunto - Stage32 Script Services Coordinator

The story goal can be a result of the choices made in the protagonist's pursuit of a want. It's the repercussions of the "pay the ultimate price" beat. So now the stakes are higher and they have to make another choice, which may change their want or simply heighten it. Brody wants to close the beach to prevent more shark attacks, but the Mayor says no. Brody now has no choice but to head out on the water to save lives.

Michael Khamis

Those all make sense. I thank you all for the replies.

Craig D Griffiths

Michael Khamis craft questions like this are great.

Having everyone throwing in their ideas and opinions helps us all. If you have more, please ask.

I think people sometimes don’t ask for fear of being talked down too. My mind is always expanded by the opinions and views of others.

Marcin Klinkosz

I think the shortest version is that the desire/goal is what drives the story. The plot of the story is focused on the hero’s desire (save the princess, kill the dragon). The need is what the hero must fulfill within himself (usually overcoming his weaknesses, help him grow)

Michael Khamis

I like that explanation. What was throwing me off is this book I’m reading. When it refers to the character’s want i was unsure if it meant his want that he develops at the first plot point or his want at the beginning of the story due to his “lie” that he believes as a part of his back story.

Doug Nelson

Personally, I think the character's 'want' ought to be defined in the first scene or very shortly thereafter. The 'need' will become evident as the story unfolds before the audience's eyes.

Opal Morningstar

Introduce the character early and the conflict they must resolve.

Craig D Griffiths

That’s the problem Micheal. You are trying understand someone else’s concepts. Whoever tells you art is formula and engineering is selling you something. Have faith in your own ability to tell story. Your comments show insight. Trust yourself.

All your early work will be bad. Everyone’s is. But you can only learn to run by walking first. You’ve got this.

Michael Khamis

Thank you Craig. That’s very encouraging. Everyone’s comments here are making things clearer.

Dan Guardino

You should probably throw the book away instead of letting it throw you off. Most of them are written by self-proclaimed experts who couldn't make a living writing screenplays.

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