What is the right Story Goal for Classic Crime stories?

Looking for storyforms that fits some stories I run into the question.
What is the right story goal for classic crime stories?
There is a corpse in a living room in the very first scene (or a little bit later) and than a brilliant detective enters the scene.
What it is. Activity/Physics seems like the right choice. Now time for story goal.
Obtaining? Learning? Both seems to have some meaning.
What may be interesting, in case of Obtaining, the consequence is Changing One’s Nature. In case of Learning the consequence is Conceiving an Idea.
For me it may be something like:
Obtaining is for stories where we know who is a villain and we need to catch him.
Learning is for stories where we need to find out who’s the villain.
And to be honest, I have next to no idea on what would be the Conceiving an Idea kind of consequence in this case…

I’ll be thankful for sharing some ideas. Especially if it helps to untie this knot in my mind :wink:


While certain genres tend to follow a pattern of falling into the same domains (Superhero stories tend to have an OS of Physics), there is no singular “right story goal” for any genre (The Incredibles has an OS of Psychology). All story goals can be “right”. I would suggest that a better approach, then, would be to ask “what is the right story goal for what I as an author want to say?”

Obtaining is for stories that address conflict or tension created by having or getting something. For instance, Obtaining the criminal can only be achieved by putting ones self in danger (in the line of fire/taken hostage/engaging in a high speed chase through a crowded residential area).

Learning is for stories that address conflict or tension created by gathering information or experience. For instance, gathering clues draws the attention of the murderer and puts a target on ones back.

One possibility might be something like Failing to learn the very human motivations of the criminal will leave others with the idea that the killer is a monster.

Or failing to learn that the butler had a love for exotic animals, the detective will be left with no idea who the Black Mamba killer really is.


I think quite a few of these stories have an upper left Concern – if in Physics, Concern of Understanding (working out what really happened), if in Psychology, Conceptualizing (unraveling the murderer’s scheme). You could look at our analysis of Knives Out as an example.

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This feels like a Driver and not any indication of a particular domain.

The thing with “catching a criminal” is that sometimes this is the OS Goal and sometimes it is the result of achieving the Goal. It could be that the OS Goal is understanding some clue, the result of which is isolating the killer.


I’m eagerly watching this thread, because in my current WIP, I boggled over this. I went for Obtaining (with benchmark/requirement of Understanding and group motivation of Consider), because the detective in my story had to uncover information and its meaning rather than merely learn who did it.

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Which harder, Learning it or Understanding it?

Isn’t the detective, usually, getting paid? I would assume that plays a part in storyform choices. Sherlock Holmes types enjoy the challenge in doing the job. Then like in Frequency, someone wants them dead for some reason, so they’re saving themselves.


If everybody is lying, stretching the truth or misleading to cover or hide a personal secret, then the overall story throughline could lend itself to Manipulation. Conflicting statements can be used as the fuel of a murder mystery. They provide a wealth of red herrings.

The story goal could be Conceiving an Idea.

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