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Save the Cat!® Podcast: Why You Need a Tangible Goal for Your Hero

By on December 5, 2014 in Podcasts, Tools
Kevin Spacey in "American Beauty"

Kevin Spacey in “American Beauty”

STC!_PodcastDWhen your protagonist is “breaking into Act Two,” it’s crucial he or she is actively pursuing a crystal-clear external goal that your audience can recognize. That’s how we know if the hero is achieving that goal or failing to achieve it. Master Cat José Silerio and Guy Thompson consider the classic Rites-of-Passage American Beauty and ensemble pieces like Love Actually in this conversation about creating stories that resonate with meaningful goals and themes.

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Jose Silerio

About the Author

About the Author: José Silerio, a screenwriter who served as Blake Snyder’s Development Director, has been integral to the success of Blake’s workshops and classes as he worked alongside Blake schooling writers in the Cat! method. “José is my right-hand man when it comes to script consultations.”– Blake Snyder, Save the Cat!® Strikes Back – More Trouble for Writers to Get Into… and Out Of. .

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  1. Sean Carlin says:

    Character goals are an invaluable screenwriting tool and a common trope of Hollywood movies (particularly the high-concept kind), but, like any tool, they are not right for EVERY job. I just published a blog post on the subject yesterday, as it happens: http://www.seanpcarlin.com/fallacies-of-storytelling-the-protagonists-goal/

    Scene- or sequence-specific “micro goals” are often employed in “soft” movies, like, say, “When Harry Met Sally…,” but the overarching plot in THAT particular case is NOT driven by an agenda on the part of the protagonists to achieve a tangible objective. In “American Beauty,” Lester’s infatuation with Angela is more of a private desire than an active subplot (a manifestation of his midlife crisis), even if it inspires him to work out and flirt with her on occasion; regardless, it certainly doesn’t drive the plot in any substantial way (in the end, SHE seduces HIM, so the moment is hardly the hard-won culmination of an active, goal-oriented pursuit on the part of the hero).

    A goal is both a storytelling technique AND convention, and the utilitarian essentiality of Blake’s ten genre categories is that it provides a tool by which screenwriters can determine whether giving their protagonist a tangible goal is the right choice for a given story. He understood that the form is malleable: In screenwriting, there are conventions and patterns that must be honored (ideally in an artful way), but there aren’t absolutes.

  2. thanks for that point, Sean. The older I get the more I am weaning myself away from black and white thinking and realizing that there most often are not absolutes with anything, and that goes with storytelling in general.
    I had become friends with Blake about two years before he died, and I love that people are continuing his legacy. I’m sure he would approve the idea that nuance is essential, rule-following or no.