I came across the following article on Twitter and had to share.
I've been visiting K.M. Weiland's website for a long time. I love it and find it immensely informative. See what I mean below.
Most Common Writing Mistakes: Characters Who Lack
Solid Story Goals
Characters have to want something, right? That’s the whole point of a story. The character wants something; the antagonistic force gets in his way; conflict ensues. Bing, bang, boom. So it’s totally a no-brainer to point out that a book in which a character lacks solid story goals is a book that’s not going to work.
And yet . . . (saw that coming, didn’t you?) this is actually a surprisingly common problem. We come up with an awesome character and an awesome premise, and we turn that character loose within our awesome story world. And then something goes wrong. The story starts to flounder. The plot goes nowhere. We have a killer antagonist to create conflict, threaten the protagonist, and just generally make things interesting. Except that . . . it’s not interesting.
What’s gone wrong?
In situations like this, the problem is very often a missing ingredient: a solid goal for the character.
What does your character want? Not just in this scene, not just for his life. But for the duration of the story. We’re talking plot goals here. Without solid plot goals, there just simply isn’t going to be much of a plot. No matter how excited readers may have been about your awesome characters, premise, story world, and antagonist, they’re inevitably going to grow bored if you’ve forgotten to include solid goals that keep the action popping in a thematically meaningful way.
Different Types of Story Goals
Before we go any farther, let’s take a quick moment to differentiate the various kinds of goals we find in a story.
1. Scene goals
The scene goal is the basic driving force of your story on the scene level. Every scene is based on your character’s attempt to achieve something—which is then met with scene-level conflict. These scene goals are the stepping stones that will eventually lead him to his overall plot goal.
2. Life goals
Your character may have big goals that are entirely separate from the plot. For instance, the plot might be about defeating the evil bully nerd and winning the high school science fair, but his life goal might be to become a life-saving surgeon, marry, and have a big family. Sometimes life goals don’t affect the plot at all. Other times, life goals can only be enabled if the plot goal is met. And, other times, life goals will stand in the way of the plot goal.
3. Plot goals
Plot goals drive the story. Dr. Alan Grant’s plot goal was to survive Jurassic Park. Luke Skywalker’s plot goal was to stick it to the Empire. Mike and Sully’s plot goal was to “get that thing back where it came from.” These plot goals affected these characters’ life goals and were made up of their scene goals, but they were also distinct goals in themselves.
For any book to work, your character has to be exercising all three types of goal, but the plot goal is particularly important. Without a solid plot goal beginning to take shape in the very first chapter, your entire book will lack focus.
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