Every writer who’s spent any time on their craft knows that conflict is the meat-and-potatoes of fiction. Those with a bit more practice know that character goals should drive conflict.

But even understanding these two things it’s possible to miss an important fact about your stories.

Obviously, each goal should be realistic to the characters as presented, but almost any plot can have the particular goals rearranged without affecting the actions taken by any of the characters.

If Indiana Jones was a pulp police officer instead of a globe-hopping archaeologist, the opening scene to Raiders of the Lost Ark wouldn’t have been the search of a golden statue, but the high tension rescue of a hostage. Replace falling stone walls with automatically closing security doors, a pressure plated artifact with a trigger happy criminal and the scene could even have the same basic actions.

The goal doesn’t matter, except in so far as it creates the conflict necessary for a good story. But if the current goal is making things unravel, maybe you need to redefine it. Switch the props.

Your turn: Take a favorite scene, like the opening of Indiana Jones, and switch the goal. Describe for everyone your new vision.

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