What is the “Super-Objective”?

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  • What is the “Super-Objective”?

    Unlike short-term or moment-to-moment objectives, the super-objective influences and guides the character’s actions throughout the entire course of the story.

    (By Tonya Tannenbaum)

    (Photo by TK Hammonds on Unsplash)

    The “Super-Objective” is the primary goal that the character wants to achieve. Unlike short-term or moment-to-moment objectives, the super-objective influences and guides the character’s actions throughout the entire course of the story.

    Konstantin Stanislavski was one of the first to recognize, and teach, the importance of the character’s super-objective. Stanislavski believed that a character can have a variety of smaller objectives throughout the course of a story. And, while those objectives inform the character’s actions on a moment-to-moment basis, every character has a single, overarching objective that influences their actions from the beginning of the story to the end. He called that objective the character’s “super-objective”.

    For example, a young character might have this single, super-objective: “I want to be king, someday.”

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    Throughout the course of the play or film, the character may have lots of smaller objectives. In one scene or act, the character might have the objective of convincing his lover to become his bride. In another, his objective might be to prove his valor to his father, the current king, and to the soldiers who are loyal to him. And in yet another, his objective might be to undermine the king’s trust in his older brother.

    Each of these smaller objectives target minor goals and accomplish minor achievements. But they don’t conflict with the super-objective. In fact, they all work in concert to help achieve the super-objective.

    The character’s objective of winning over his bride, for example, might help the character achieve his super-objective, since his lover might one day prove to be a great queen. Marrying her might also help increase his power as king. His objective to prove his valor to the king’s army might someday come in handy when he must command that very same army. And the narrow objective of undermining his elder brother might help him bypass his brother’s right to the throne so he can claim it for himself.

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