The Specific Goal

A story would certainly be boring if the main character did nothing but remain passive and reactive. How do you make your main char acter active in your story? Give him a specific goal which he desperately wants to reach throughout the screenplay and you'll make your main character ACTIVE. The goal determines the action. The desperation determines the momentum and tension. This goal will give him the proper motivation to change in the climax.

For example, in Bend it Like Beckham, a young girl desperately wants to play soccer even though her parents won't allow her to, that's her goal. In My Best Friend's Wedding, a young woman desperately wants to stop her former boyfriend from getting married, that's her goal. In each case the goal is specific: to play soccer, and to keep her boyfriend from marrying another woman.

Each main character behaves in a certain way, because of the specific goal she wants to reach. The goal moves the story forward. You can see how the goal is the catalyst that gives your main character the action and momentum she needs.

The specific goal also provides the character's change or transformation in the climax. In your opening, the main character immediately must be faced with a dramatic problem or question to solve, in order to start your story moving.

"Will the detective apprehend the criminal?"

"Will the young girl's parents allow her to play soccer?"

"Will the young woman win back her old boyfriend and prevent his marriage to another woman?"

Each one has a goal which becomes the driving force that gives the screenplay movement, energy and a purpose. The important thing to remember about your character's goal is that it must be specific. It can't be abstract. You can't just say your character wants love, power or money. These are all abstractions and are too vague a goal. If your character wants love it must be the love of a certain person. You want to determine the person who your main character desperately wants to love and focus on that specific person. Your character doesn't want just love, she wants the love of a specific man.

For example Romeo wants Juliet's love, Antony wants Cleopatra's love. In Titantic, Rose desperately loves Jack and not her fiancé. Now you can see how important it is to keep the goal from being abstract and to focus on the love of a specific person.

Another example of a goal that is not specific enough would be a goal where your main character wants justice. Justice in itself is too broad a goal and once again is too abstract. But if your main character wants to get justice against a big tobacco company which is addicting smokers and lying about it, then your character's goal is specific. It is imperative that you always give your main characters a specific goal to create momentum and conflict in your screenplay.

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