Storytelling Element - Be the Best

This is the last of our Storytelling Elements for a while (at least until I finish upgrading the Table of Storytelling Elements page. At that point, I think I'll be ready to poll you, my marvelous readers, to see what Elements still need to be added to the roster.

For our final Element, we're looking at the motivation that's most commonly associated with Ash Ketchum and Son Goku - that is, they want to be the very best (like no one ever was). This is a pretty surface-level goal, and is therefore very flexible. That flexibility can work against you if you're trying to make it stand on its own, though, because it is likely to collapse on itself without the support of a secondary or even a primary goal beside it.

Goku wants to be the strongest and the best, but he also needs to do that in order to save the world.

Ash wants to be the best pokemon trainer in the world, and getting better at doing that training thing will win him money so he can keep eating (or at least win him friends he can mooch off of for a season or two).

It is more common, I think, to find villains with this motivation, or even more specifically, that want to be better than the Hero. Lex Luthor loves flaunting how much smarter than Superman he is. Megamind wants to be the equal of his rival Metro Man (this is an explicit parody of Superman and Lex, but we're ignoring that). Dr. Robotnik continually invents new and weirder gadgets in an effort to match Sonic the Hedgehog in speed, though he's demonstrably more intelligent than our chilidog-loving hero.

Without another goal to stand alongside the motivation of being the best or being better than [specific person], the motivation falls flat and comes off as cartoonishly simplistic. Because it is.

For example, take a look at Naruto. In the early show and in the manga, Naruto's most visible goal is to be stronger/faster/more skilled than his teammate Sasuke. But even in the very beginning, this doesn't stand on its own, because even though it's rarely addressed explicitly, Naruto also has a deep-seated desire to be accepted. This dual goal makes the character more dynamic, because no one ever wants just one thing all the time. (Even Goku prized eating and friendship as well as "being the strongest.")

So there you have it - a supplementary or surface-level goal that can accentuate or obscure a stronger/more interesting goal for your protagonist.

What characters do you know that want to be the best or better than their rival? Is it pulled off well, or does it seem annoying?

I'll see you guys next week with something new and exciting - who knows what that's going to be! :)

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