The goal you choose for your main character in the opening of your screenplay is really the action or the story structure for your screenplay. Does the character want to be a prize fighter, play soccer, climb a mountain, overcome a disease? The main character's goal is what sets off your story in the opening of your screenplay as you can see from all of the above examples.
The goal gives your script movement, provides your protagoist with an objective to strive for throughout the story and furnishes your screenplay with a story. In all of the above illustrations we've only dealt with the character's external goal. This is often known as the false goal. A false goal is what the character thinks he wants, only to discover in the climax that it isn't.
However, there's another goal a character has in the script. This is known as the character's internal goal or real goal. All good screenplays and television movies include both the main character's external or false goal and internal or real goal. By having both types of goals you'll insure emotional depth to the entire script.
The following example will explain the difference between a false or external goal and a real or internal goal.
In Tootsie, a very well-structured classic screenplay, Dustin Hoffman's character, Michael Dorsey has a false goal, which is the storyline. The desperate goal is to get work as an actor. If his character was handsome and in demand like Brad Pitt that would be an easy and reachable goal. Then there'd be no conflict or script. But Michael Dorsey's goal is desperate, because he has such a difficult personality, that nobody will hire him. In desperation he disguises himself as a woman in order to get work on a television soap as a female lead.
Soon he has a successful role on the daytime show, and he eventually becomes the most popular character in the soap. In Tootsie Michael has proven that he's able to act and he's reached his external goal. However, it's really his false goal. In the climax he discovers his real goal—wanting love of the Jessica Lange character. So in the end he even quits his successful acting job and reveals his love.
Having both the real and false goal gives depth to any script no matter what the genre. Let's take a detective story for example. In any detective story a crime is usually committed and must be solved. That is the basis for suspense and mystery.
If in the opening of the script a murder has taken place, the goal of the detective is to find out who committed the murder and to solve the crime. This sets-off the story and is the plot structure. It is the driving force of the script and gives our main character his action. However, it is really the detective's external or false goal.
Now, if solving a crime is all the story is about, it will have little depth. There are many mysteries which are written just like that. The only goal is for the detective to solve the crime. These types of scripts have been done thousands of times. They offer nothing fresh and original and are routine.
On the other hand, if in the process of solving the crime, Mr. Private Eye, the detective, learns something important about himself and experiences an emotional change or catharsis by the end of the script his character and the screenplay will be much deeper emotionally. This creates a more complex character and gives him greater depth, than if he only solved a crime. It also allows the audience to experience an emotional connection with the main character. They feel satisfied when in the end he discovers his own internal goal and experiences a psychological transformation.
Always try to include both the false goal and the real goal in your script. When you do you'll have a screenplay that is both powerful, emotional, fresh, and original!
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