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.
A precise objective
The objectives I have listed have one thing in common: they are relatively precise and concrete. An objective must not be too vague or consist of too many parts. Leading a successful life, for example, or winning the esteem of one’s peers, does not constitute a sufficiently precise objective for drama.
This may be because such objectives can be applied to virtually everyone in all circumstances.
An objective must not be too vague
or consist of too many parts.
We all of us count growth, happiness, escaping anxiety and living in a stimulating environment among our overarching objectives.
For Carl Rogers , man seeks to attain his true self. What differentiates us, or what differentiates a story, is the specific means that we use locally— that is, for what would be the duration of a film, a play or a comic book—to be happy or at ease with ourselves.
For similar reasons, a protagonist cannot simply set himself the objective of having everything turn out fine. That would be much too vague. Who does not look for an easy way of achieving the goals he has set himself?
a protagonist cannot simply set himself the objective
of having everything turn out fine.
Conscious and unconscious objectives
The writer needs to be fully conscious of the objective he has set his protagonist. By contrast, this is not necessarily true of the protagonist.
The writer needs to be fully conscious of
the objective he has set his protagonist.
Certainly it is usually the case that the protagonist knows what he is seeking to achieve, and it is even preferable that he should. Hamlet knows that he wants to avenge his father (Hamlet), and Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) knows that he wants to recover a treasure (Raiders of the Lost Ark). But there are exceptions.
In Death of a Salesman, Willy Loman does not actually say aloud: “The time has come to weigh up my life’s achievement, and I am trying at all costs to justify the decisions I have made.” But though he does not realise it, that is in effect what he is doing throughout the play.
In The Savage, Martin Coutance’s (Yves Montand) objective is to have peace and quiet. This is a unconscious objective. He does everything he can to achieve it without stopping to think about what he is doing. This does not prevent the spectator from understanding it.
Finally, there are also the many works in which the protagonist’s immediate objective is simply to stay alive. Most of the time this objective is instinctive, and thus unconscious.