Is your character goal oriented? A strong goal is vital in creating a compelling protagonist. In today’s video I offer tips and suggestions to strengthen your protagonist’s goal and to ensure it’s working effectively in the plot.
- A goal is a concrete, definable objective driven by the character’s motivation, which is a desired emotional state. I covered this concept in much more depth in my article: Creating Deep Realistic Characters.
- When the character is part of a group, he is more likely to suffer from a weak or absent goal. A character in a group must have a personal goal that exists outside or inside of the larger group goal. Just being a “good guy” or doing the right thing is not enough.
- If the character’s goal changes many times throughout the novel, it becomes problematic when there is not an underlying motivation that ties the goals together. Creating a motivational thread helps to keep the novel cohesive.
- If readers don’t care about your character or struggle to empathize, it’s usually because the goal is absent, isn’t personal, or has no underlying motivation.
Questions to Ask About Your Novel
The questions below will help you to apply the concepts in the video to your novel.
What is your character trying to achieve?
The answer needs to be concrete enough that the reader will know for certain whether the character achieves this goal. Vague objectives don’t make for effective goals. For example “A date with the hottest guy in school” is a nice concrete goal while “being popular” may be too vague for the reader to have a clear sense of when/if the character achieves it.
2. Why does your character want to achieve this? What is his/her motivation?
The character’s motivation is the emotional drive that leads the character to the goal. The same goal can have a wide variety of underlying motivations. For example, a character could be motivated to become rich because she believes it will buy her love or because she wants the security money provides or because she wants to feel in control. Defining the motivation is just as important as defining the goal.
If you have any questions about writing a goal-oriented character, please post it in the comments below.
Comment Question: Did you know your character’s goal right away or did it take a while for you to discover it?
Workshop #1 critiques will be posted later today and every day this week. If you didn’t get a chance to submit last week, the submission form is still open!
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