Jul 30, 2013

16 Ready-Made Goals for your Protagonist

The Rider
by Ken Wong

Goals. What would life be without them? Farkin' paradise, that's what. Just imagine:
You got ahold of a magic lamp. You rubbed it once, you rubbed it twice... and out popped a genie, still washing his privates, because you interrupted his shower.

Have you ever seen a genie's dong? It's kaleidoscopic. Don't look at it too long, you might go blind. Or insane.

The genie covered his magic wang and worked his facial muscles into a bitter, bitter scowl.
You delivered your best impression of a partially inflated sex doll.
"Hurry up and wish for something," said the genie. "I have a meeting with my social media strategist at 10."

Now, if you're like me at all, your first wish would go like this:
"I want a food replicator that runs on free energy." 

Your second:
"Give me the power to print money."

Your third:
"I'd like to change into a spider monkey at will."

But life doesn't work that way. Genies have long since died off or gone into hiding. (At least George W. Bush seems to think so.)

And this, boys and girls, is the reason why we must have goals -- there are no genies left to give you food replicators, free money, or shape-shifting powers. Because fiction resembles life, elementary logic demands that the protagonist of your story have a goal.

It doesn't matter how trivial the goal, as long as it keeps the story going. Take the movie Signs, for instance: Mel Gibson wants to become a priest again. The Matrix: Neo wants to make out with Trinity. The Happening: Plants want to kill everyone. Sinister: Ethan Hawke wants to wear flannel and watch home movies.

Goals are really hard to come up with, so I thought I'd provide you with a few. You might feel a little stuck at this juncture, yoked under a bad case of analysis paralysis, who knows. Despair no longer! Here comes John to save the day...

16 Ready-Made Goals for your Protagonist

1. Limit candy cane consumption to 4 ounces a week.
2. Trap a ghost inside a cookie jar.
3. Stop a bank robbery with a stapler and a Frisbee.
4. Traverse the Crab Nebula so you can deliver a blind spy to a deaf emperor.

5. Develop a game about the sex lives of zonkeys.
6. Prove to the world that butterflies are in fact tiny clones of Genghis Khan.
7. Travel back in time to prevent the discovery of DNA.
8. Become a porn director to work with your porn star boyfriend and find out which of his co-workers he cheats you with; to spice things up, set the story on a generation ship. Because space is truly the place for a flying fuck! What? Bad joke? Meh.

9. Sell ten thousand donuts for charity in a day and a half.
10. Lose forty pounds in two weeks so you can enter a beauty pageant, win, and conquer the boy of your dreams. Find out he liked you just fine the way you were. Find out you're gay and fall in love with somebody else.
11. Protect a senator from an elite cadre of assassins who like to freeze their targets to death but will resort to other methods if necessary.
12. Become a cyborg in a society where cyborgs are discriminated against so you can prove that being a cyborg is hunky-dory. Try not to get killed or hacked in the process.

by Justin Benzel

13. Become a judge at a cat show to uncover a strange conspiracy involving transgenic dogs that look like cats.
14. Sculpt the largest fertility idol in the world to impress an autistic girl.
15. Run for mayor of a town secretly run by gerbils.
16. As a super-intelligent salamander, you have experienced the wonders of pizza thanks to a humane, if somewhat naive lab assistant. You now have two goals: a) break out of the lab where scientists run daily tests on you, to find the nearest pizzeria; and b) invent a machine to turn the lab assistant into a salamander so you two can do the nasty together.

Illustration by Brynolf Wennerberg for Puck Magazine,
September 26, 1914

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