Stay on Track with Clear Goals For All the Main Characters

Before painters put a drop of paint on the canvas, they sketch out their ideas first. Yet far too many screenwriters start by simply writing and rewriting with no clear goal to aim at. The end result is a mess of jumbled ideas that fail to support each other, the theme, or the characters.

If you’re constantly rewriting your screenplay, you’re doing something wrong.

The first step is to outline your story and that begins by defining exactly what all your main characters want from the beginning. Once you know what the main characters want, then every scene will drive them closer (or further away) from that goal, but that goal will keep your overall story moving forward.

In “Die Hard,” the hero (John McClane) has one clear goal: get back with his wife. The villain (Hans) also has one clear goal: get away with stealing corporate bonds from a company vault.

At first glance, these two goals seem to have nothing to do with each other, so what links them together is John McClane’s wife. John wants to get back with her but she’s being held hostage by Hans. Because John wants his wife and Hans wants John to stop interfering with his plans, the hero and villain are slowly drawn into inevitable conflict.

The only reason Hans cares about John McClane’s wife is because John keeps messing up his plans. “Die Hard” works because both the hero and villain have clear goals that they’re constantly striving to reach with John McClane’s wife caught in the tug of war between the two.

Now watch any bad movie and you may notice that the hero’s goal is unclear, the villain’s goal is unclear, or both. When the hero’s goal is unclear, the movie often substitutes a goal with more action, explosions, and car crashes, none of which makes a story more interesting. When the villain’s goal is unclear, there doesn’t seem to be a point of the hero doing anything because the villain doesn’t know what he or she wants. This creates a muddled story that feels like it’s going nowhere.

So make sure your hero and villain both have clear goals and they’re constantly striving to achieve them. Just this little bit of planning ahead of time can make all the difference in the world when you actually start writing your screenplay.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Time limit is exhausted. Please reload CAPTCHA.