Make Every Goal As Difficult as Possible

If you analyze major scenes, you’ll notice they actually have pretty simple goals. In the scene below from “Back to the Future,” the goal in that scene is simple. Marty needs to drive the DeLorean at 88mph and hit an electrical wire at the exact moment a lightning bolt strikes so it can power the time machine and send him back to his own time.

Yet if that scene simple showed Marty accelerating the DeLorean to 88mph and hitting the electrical wire, the scene would be boring. What makes every scene interesting is when nothing goes right.

Here are all the problems that Marty and Doc must overcome to achieve the goal:

  • Marty gets the DeLorean to the starting line but it conks out. Only by banging his head on the steering wheel does he get the car started again.
  • Doc climbs the clock tower but can’t reach the electrical wire connected to the lightning rod.
  • When Doc tries to reach the electrical wire, he nearly falls and almost drops the other cable.
  • Doc can’t connect the cables together because a tree has fallen on the cable.
  • Doc yanks the cable to unplug it near the ground, but gives him enough slack so he can plug it in near the clock tower.
  • Doc has to slide down the wire to get to the ground as Marty accelerates towards the electric wire.
  • Doc plugs the wires together just as Marty’s DeLorean hits the electrical wire.

All of these problems are physical issues but they all conspire to keep Marty from driving the DeLoreran to hit the electrical wire at the exact moment.

That’s the purpose of problems; they exist solely to keep a character from reaching a goal. All projects and all conflict works to keep the hero from reaching their ultimate goal, but problems also work against the hero to keep them from achieving milestones along the way.

If your story lacks problems, it won’t work. If your story has problems but they don’t keep the hero rom achieving a goal, you’ve got the wrong problems.

To create the right problems for your story, you must know exactly what goal your hero is trying to achieve throughout your story and in each scene. Then you create problems that directly interfere with the hero achieving those goals.

By making every goal and every milestone as difficult as possible to attain, you create suspense and that creates an interesting story.

Far too many writers try to come up with convoluted plots and unique ideas, but you should really focus on simply creating interesting and unique problems and conflicts that always work against the hero. By staying focused on creating problems that keep a hero from achieving a goal, you’ll always create a focused and interesting story.

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