Johnny: Alternate Ending
This is an alternate ending to the example story included in the post entitled ‘Preventing Phantom Protagonist Syndrome’. Please read the aforementioned post first.
Johnny swears by his morning cup of coffee to get him through the day. He’s often late for work and his boss has told him if he is late one more time, he’ll get the sack. One morning, Johnny wakes up and – oh no! – his bus leaves in ten minutes! He decides to try and make the coffee while he gets dressed and knock back as much of it as he can before he reaches his front door. Unfortunately, juggling the two tasks proves more complicated than he imagined it would be and he spills coffee all over his work uniform! All his attempts to clean it with a towel do nothing to remove the dark brown stain that is apparent on his chest. He quickly makes a second cup of coffee and knocks it back as fast as he can – but not fast enough. When he finally reaches the bus stop, his bus has long gone. He runs the rest of the way to work only to be told that he is fired. He never drinks coffee again, lest its bitter flavour remind him of his loss.
Even though we have completely changed the ending of this story, it still works in accordance with the same rules as the original story. Johnny still does everything based on his motivation, exactly the same as with the original ending. All that has changed is what decision he made, but it still remains rooted in that same unshakeable motivation:
|Motivation||John wants to hold down his job|
|Goals||To this end, he aims to drink a cup of coffee and get to work on time. He believes both are needed to satisfy his motives.|
|Conflict||Time (an abstract sort of antagonist, if you like) has conspired to make him lose his job by forcing him to choose between his two goals.|
|Epiphany||Having lost his job because of his bad choice, he realises (only when it is too late) that he can live without coffee after all.|
Using the same rules and the exact same character, we have created another story, equally as viable as the one the original. If you keep your protagonist grounded in his motivations, you can still cause the story to unravel in almost any way you wish so don’t be tempted to think that you should build your character around your plot. The best thing to do is to build your plot around your character – not the other way around.