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Learn & Become A Better Screenwriter


Goals in Television and Ensembles

The main way that goals work in television episodes and ensemble features is that each of these mediums have multiple storylines, with a specific Protagonist and Goal for each storyline. 

Each episode of television (whether hour or half hour) usually has a minimum of three storylines.  No matter who your Protagonist is for each storyline, there is usually a Goal they pursue, and this Goal will be achieved or lost by the end of the episode. 

Any episode of CSI has different characters trying to solve different crimes – they pursue different but specific goals which are resolved by the end of each episode (they solve each crime).   

Similarly, Ensemble Features have multiple storylines with multiple Protagonists who each will have their own goal. 

The fantasy adventure The Princess Bride has 5 primary storylines, each with a Protagonist who pursues a Goal:

    • Farmhand Westley wants to marry the beautiful farm girl Buttercup and under the guise of the legendary Dread Pirate Robert and fights to rescue her from all those who have kidnapped her.
    • The Sicilian bandit Vizzini wants to become rich by delivering Buttercup to Prince Humperdink.
    • Inigo Montoya, a master swordsman and one of the bandits, seeks to avenge his father’s murder by finding and killing the Six-Fingered Man.
    • Prince Humperdinck wants to marry Buttercup and then have her killed in the land of his enemy in order to spark a war.
    • A grandfather works to read the book “The Princess Bride” to his reluctant grandson. (The framing story.)

A Note on Television Goals

One distinction for goals in television series is that there can be (and usually is) a difference between goals a character will have for an entire season versus a goal they will have for a specific episode or storyline. 

For example:  In Season 1 of Game of Thrones, Ned Stark’s goal is to protect his family from their enemies, Viserys Targaryen’s goal is to secure a future for her and her brother by succeeding in her marriage to Khal Drogo, and Jon Snow’s goal is to survive the dangers beyond the wall.  But in each episode of the season, those characters have a more specific goal they pursue for their respective storylines of that episode.