Yves Lavandier’s book Writing Drama currently rates as the absolute favorite of our book reviewer Jack Brislee.
To give you the opportunity to delve into Lavandier’s amazing knowledge and insight, we will be publishing a weekly excerpt from the book.
The nature of the objective
It is clear from this that an objective does not have to be particularly ambitious or philosophical. In some cases it can be merely a pretext. Oedipus’s objective in Oedipus Rex is to bring to an end the plague epidemic that has ravaged Thebes. But what interests Sophocles is that Oedipus should discover his true identity.
That is why, after the Oracle has conveniently intervened, the objective changes, with Oedipus now wanting to find out who killed Laius. Even if the Oedipus legend had not been available to him, Sophocles would have been able to find another pretext for his protagonist.
Moreover, though theoretically there are an infinite number of possible objectives, these can be boiled down to a relatively small number of basic objectives. In drama as in life, most people pursue similar objectives. Who for example does not seek to throw off cares? Finding things out, escaping from something, seeking revenge, protecting oneself: these have been classic objectives since the dawn of time.
In drama as in life, most people pursue similar objectives.
Winning a person’s love is the objective embodied in many works of drama (The Apartment, Cyrano de Bergerac, The Importance of Being Earnest, Let’s Make Love, and such Buster Keaton films as The Cameraman, College, The Three Ages, etc). So is finding a missing person (ComDads, The Magic Flute, Missing, etc) or a missing object (Raiders of the Lost Ark and innumerable fairy tales). In The Bicycle Thief as in Pee Wee’s Big Adventure, the protagonist’s objective is to find his bicycle.
The joint protagonists of The Warriors have the same objective as Dorothy (Judy Garland) in The Wizard of Oz or Neal (Steve Martin) in Planes, Train and Automobiles: to get back home. This incidentally is the objective of one of the very first protagonists of narrative fiction: Ulysses (The Odyssey).
These examples demonstrate that the same objective can give rise to very different kinds of drama depending on the nature of the arena, the protagonist and the obstacles he encounters.
the same objective can give rise to very different kinds of drama
A word of warning: though even an apparently banal objective can create great drama, this does not mean that a writer can choose the first thing that comes into his mind. On the contrary: the choice of an objective is a delicate matter.
The nature of the objective is one of the three determining elements of a story, along with the nature of the protagonist and the obstacles placed in his way.