The goal for the main character is to solve her problem, so she will be the one most affected by the climax. Whether the obstacles the protagonist faces are physical or emotional (they can be both or either), the author must balance the struggles over them and the way they are overcome, between the protagonist and the antagonist. This recipe provides suspense and tension to the story, leading up to the climax, ultimately ending with the spiritual, emotional, or intellectual change in the main character or what we writers call, the character arc.
Just as we are the protagonists in our own life, facing struggles every day, we must work hard toward our goals, ignoring our antagonists or if it is absolutely necessary as the only means to reaching our goal, we battle and overcome those antagonists, although making sure to maintain our integrity, until we are victorious. Suspense and tension shadow us every day in our lives, but it forces us to become stronger, to learn, to work harder, so that when we reach the climax of our daily stories, we are all the better for it.
Character evolution is at the heart of every good story. Whether the main character changes, emotionally, spiritually, or intellectually, it’s this change that the reader routes for through out the story. Will the little girl with no self esteem come to see how wonderful she is by the end of the story after reaching her goal? Will the sad and lonely man accept the ways of society and learn that there is a way for him to fit in? Will the teenage foster child finally find a family and come to feel loved? Will the little train who thought he could not make it up the tracks to the next town finally say ” I think I can , I think I can” and ultimately realize his worth and how capable he always was?
From the picture books we read as a small child or we have read to our own children (I’ve read thousands to mine!), to the middle grade books like Charlotte’s web with Wilber the pig and Charlotte the spider, to young adult stories like Hunger Games with Katnip learning the hard way about society and people, to the adult books we read today, every good story employs a character who seeks a goal, and along the way, with or without realizing it, he or she changes over the course of his or her own inner journey. And that positive change, like in real life, is at the core of every good story.