Story Goal Coin in thrillers/Speed

Kinda confused over the Story Goal in thrillers in general. Often times the archtypical “bad guy” aka the antagonist is the one pursuing the Story Goal and the Protag “good guy” is the one trying to prevent the Goal. So, how does this work in Dramatica?

Let’s take Speed as an example.

Logline on IMDB is: A young police officer must prevent a bomb exploding aboard a city bus by keeping its speed above 50 mph.

The “good guy” Story Goal is to diffuse/prevent the bomb from exploding and save the hostage passengers

The “bad guy” Story Goal is to terrorise the city officials and hostages by having a bomb onboard a bus and extort $3 million.

They are on opposite sides of the same Goal Coin.

Since the bomb does eventually explode, the antagonist gets part of his goal but because he hasn’t yet received his ransom, he carries on.

The protagonist has partially failed because (strictly speaking) the bomb went off but because he managed to rescue most of the hostages off the bus he partially succeeded. Except for one hostage who is taken.

It carries on.

So, who exactly is the protagonist in Speed? The one pursuing or the one preventing the Story Goal?

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The protagonist is always the one pursuing the goal. It’s just a question of working out what the goal is. And since everyone has an interest in rescuing the hostages and finding the bad guy (bad guy doesn’t want that, everyone else does), that’s likely what it is. The story keeps going after the bomb detonates, and Bullock is taken hostage, so I think that’s more likely to be the goal.

So, in this story, it’s good guy protagonist. Hostages are saved. Success ending. The deaths will be costs and I’m pretty sure keeping the bus above 50mph is a requirement or something.

If you’re really unsure, you can usually tell by the Outcome/Judgement. Generally speaking, happy endings will let you know that whoever ‘won’ at the end is likely the protagonist and tragic endings will let you know that whoever ‘won’ was probably the antagonist.


@whitepaws Have you read this one?

Also I asked a related question a little while ago: "Bad Guy" Protagonists, Story Goals, Outcomes and Judgement


One litmus test is to check for the Consequences. If the “bad guy” won, but the Consequences didn’t come about, then the “bad guy” was the protagonist. And vice versa.

If the antagonist wins, then you should see the Consequences, regardless of whether you’re rooting for that character.


Ok, I read the Bond article (thank you, @Lakis) and yes I agree Bond as the antagonist who is trying to prevent the goal is exactly where I was ending up in my own story. I was having a difficult time reconciling my MC being the Anatgonist :frowning: because she’s a good person!

I really like the litmus test idea.

I have to chew on all this. As the Bond article says - it does seem that Bond is the antagonist (preventing the story goal) but because we are all rooting for him it doesn’t seem right that he is the antagonist. hmmmm.

I think Etherbeard really hit on something. The consequences are what the protagonist is trying to prevent, yes? So the protagonist in Speed is trying to keep the hostages safe, so the Keanu Reeves character succeeds in that. The antagonist is trying to defend his dastardly plan, which fails.

This is a point of theory contention between Melanie and me. She posited that James Bond in Goldfinger was the antagonist, whereas I am of the opinion that James Bond was the protagonist. To my way of seeing, from the beginning James Bond is supposed to stop the bad guys from doing whatever devious thing they’re doing, even if it isn’t fully understood (by JB) until well into the story. As such, that makes him the protagonist and the goal is to “prevent Goldfinger from irradiating Fort Knox”.

“Goldfinger” feels like a happy ending, which indicates that it is a Success/Good story. If Goldfinger is the protagonist, and he loses, then it would be a Failure story. Since the story doesn’t play out that way, the Story Outcome is another indicator of the author’s intent.


maybe it’s a matter of looking at the Story Goal more closely.

Maybe it’s important to identify who sets the goal - which is what makes the goal a positive or a negative?

If the antagonist sets the story goal (which will be a negative event), the protag will do what he/she can to prevent it?

Ultimately, I think this is where the Archetypes start to break down a little, and you have to fall back on the Elements below them. I would describe a villain who has some evil plan they’re hatching Proactive, rather than Pursuit. By contrast, the unplanning hero must React to the villain. In that sense, the villain is the Protagonist and the hero is the Antagonist. But when the Hero starts to pursue the villain, the villain must Avoid capture–now they’re falling back into their classic Protagonist hero and Antagonist villain. (Although by that framing, the detective in The Fugitive is the Pursuer, and Kimble is the Avoider. Still not sure that fits right…)

All this to say, I think you get some really interesting framing of stories when the Elements we think of as Protagonist and Antagonist get muddled up. The Hero thwarts the Villain’s evil plan–or the Hero must keep the Villain from sabotaging their glorious plan. The Hero must trap the Villain evading capture–or the Hero must solve the problem without getting captured by the Villain.

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I think it’s much simpler to base it off the Outcome, as in Chris’s example. It’s pretty obvious that for Goldfinger to feel like a triumph, James Bond has to stop Goldfinger’s evil plan, and a Triumph requires an Outcome of Success. Therefore, the Story Goal must be on Bond’s side.

The sort of backwards stores that have the “badguys” as Protagonists will have a more complex feeling at the end that’s due to a Failure when the good guys win, or a Success when the good guys lose. Examples of the former are How To Train Your Dragon, The Empire Strikes Back (Vader as Protagonist recruiting Luke to the Dark Side) or Raiders of the Lost Ark (Nazis as Protagonist bringing the Ark to light). An example of the latter is Captain America: Civil War.

(Note this complexity of ending is a separate dimension from the nuance that Story Judgment can bring in the two bittersweet ending types.)


I think your looking ONLY at pursue and avoid in a literal sense here, as opposed to pursuit of the story goal. Kimble is pursing who actually killed his wife, Dr. Nichols is the one trying to avoid discovery of his wrong doings and keep his status quo – classic antagonist behavior.