Thursday, March 31, 2011


Do you remember Pretty Woman?  In the beginning, Angel is interviewing roommates and she says "You gotta have a goal.  Do you have a goal?"  That's true about everything isn't it?  Yesterday my boss emailed me and tells me that I have to do my annual goal setting worksheet for work.  Every year, we have to fill out a little sheet that lists our goals - what we hope to accomplish in our jobs by the end of the year.  When we wake up in the morning, whether we realize it or not, we have goals.  A list of tasks we hope to get accomplished by the end of the day.  It may be getting the house clean, getting the grocery shopping done, doing a load of laundry, or simply making it through the day without having a nervous breakdown.  Regardless, we all have our goals.

Well, our characters, and our stories have to have goals to.  Something that we hope to accomplish by the end of the book.  If those goals are left undone, the reader is let down.  Worse, if the story doesn't have a set of clear cut goals, we probably lose our reader before they get to the end of the story simply because they don't care.  This is something I've been struggling with in my writing lately.  What are my characters' goals, and more importantly, what is my story's goal?

First and foremost - to entertain your reader is definitely not a story goal.  LOL.  A story goal is something that your characters are trying to accomplish.  To save the world for instance, might be a nice story goal.   To fall in love is also not a really good story goal if you write romance.  In fact, I've found that in most romance books, the characters don't set out to fall in love, it just sort of happens.  Then, if you find a goal for your characters, it a) can't be something mundane - i.e. doing the laundry, it has to be something that your reader wonders whether they will be able to accomplish b) it has to be believable - i.e. it has to be within their character and c) it has to be clearly communicated to the reader on some level.

I've actually been through several iterations of my story goals for my sequel and finally think I hit upon something that works.  It gives all of my characters goals that fit with the story, their characters, and also provides the conflict that is so desparately needed to keep the story moving.

Now...I'm on to the three act thingee.  I started out with my first act BAM - wanted to get the reader's attention, so now....huh.  Gotta put my thinking cap back on for a while, but the story is slowly coming together, I think...maybe...I don't


Cora Zane said...

I <3 your thinking cat. I mean cap. ^_~

Just for the sake of saying so, if you already know how your book ends -or what your main character attains at the end - you can make a list of his accomplishments and reverse pick your goal.

For example: the hero ends up with his own fast food restaurant at the end of the book.

Okay, lots of options with that one. His story goal could be that he wanted to own his own business. And he struggles through the book to realize a dream, but ends up the owner of a fast food restaurant.

Or, maybe his goal is to land a promotion. Or he wants to prove to his disenchanted girlfriend that he's responsible enough to be in a leadership role.

Lots of comedies are like that. For example, a lovable but incompetent hero is left to handle a work environment after his boss is in a freak accident and is in a body cast for six months.Crisis after crisis hits, until at the end, he pulls it all together so when his boss comes back - the place is tip top. The end of the book, he ends up the manager of his own restaurant.

If you're struggling to find your main character's goal, it's worth a shot. :0)

LinneaHall said...

Awesome Cora - thanks. I know how my book ends, but unfortunately, it's more of a revelation. She learns something about herself, but it's not a journey of self discovery, more of a smack in the face. Instead, I put my character in a helluva situation she needs to escape from. Think Wizard of Oz ummm...sort of. But then, the whole 3 act thingee is throwing me. This is harder than it looks.


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