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Protagonist’s Objective

By Michael Schilf · January 22, 2010

Only in light of the protagonist’s objective can a screen story be plotted, because in the end, the pursuit of that objective determines the course of the action, however straightforward or devious the path may be. 

The three main points about the objective:

1. There can be only ONE main objective if the film is to have unity.

2. The objective must be capable of arousing OPPOSITION in order to produce conflict. 

3. The NATURE OF the objective is a leading factor in determining the attitude of the audience toward the protagonist and his opposition. Protagonist and objective are so closely identified in our minds that it is impossible to consider one without the other.

Remember, superficial traits help to depict character: language, manner of speaking, dress, gesture, physical condition, mannerisms, and so on. But the KEY FACTOR still comes back to the character's OBJECTIVE and the means employed to attain it. 

And when the story ends, what happens to that objective or desire is essential to the emotional impact. Are we glad that he reached what he was after, or do we hate him at the end because he reached it? Are we sad he didn’t make it, or are we glad that he couldn’t. These possibilities determine the tension, what we hope and fear.