by Colin Costello
So your protag, your main character, the one you’ve been “living with” for months (years?) has a goal, right? Riiiiiiight?
If you’re scratching your head, you’re not alone. I know it seems obvious, but I have read so many scripts from budding screenwriters who don’t understand that they must include two goals in their screenplays. It’s what sets a screenplay that moves forward apart from the ones that get passed on. To be honest, there are other reasons, but here’s your chance – a really easy opportunity – to take away one of those reasons.
So, here is the Colin rule: Every movie – every single one – and especially road movies…have TWO GOALS.
There is the midpoint goal, then there is the end goal. The midpoint happens… at the midpoint. The end goal… well, you get the idea.
The midpoint goal usually is a much more immediate and important goal than the end goal. The first goal gives our protagonist a minor victory, but also brings that character into the direct sightline of the antagonist. Let’s look at two examples.
“Star Wars: A New Hope”: After we’ve met Luke Skywalker and set him up with Obi Wan Kenobi, the midpoint goal is established – rescue Princess Leia. So, Luke, Obi Wan & the droids team up with Han and Chewbacca to save Leia. And as they approach the Death Star they realize there’s a huge danger to the universe. The thing is, they can’t worry about that right now – because they have to save the Princess. Eventually, they do and lose Obi Wan along the way. They, of course, escape, having reached the midpoint goal overall. But they are also now aware that the Death Star must be destroyed. Darth Vader is now also very aware of Luke. So they – along with the rebels – set out to destroy the Death Star.
That is their second goal – the end goal. It’s always bigger than the midpoint goal. The stakes are higher. And the victory is sweeter.
You see this same kind of set up time and time again. Take “Mad Max: Fury Road”: After escaping Immortan Joe and Nux, Max is forced to team up with Imperator Furiosa, Joe’s wives and the War Rig. Furiosa soon tells Max her goal – to get the women safely to “The Green Place,” an idyllic land she remembers from childhood. The group then sets off to the midpoint goal. Once they reach that goal, they discover other factors that make them choose a new or end goal – they must return to the Citadel, Joe’s home, and take it over, thus saving everyone there.
Before you sit down with your script, take a look at some films. Identify the midpoint goal and the end goal, then apply them to your script. You will have given your reader one more reason to love it!