Last updated on 11 November 2018
You have a story but it seems that the pages feel slow and aimless. You check the character and the premise, both are good enough to move the story. However, there’s a problem in the handling of the characters’ goals.
We as writers understand what a goal is in storytelling. It is what the main character wants to achieve at the beginning of the story.
What are the things we need to pay attention to when writing the main character’s goal?
Define an immediate goal at the beginning.
So we have a character who wants something, and wants it now. Okay, says your reader. “But why should I care? Let the character have it.” Hmm, that’s not going to be. Although the main character’s goal is something immediate, it should not be too achievable. Now, the reader has something to worry about. Will he/she get it or not?
Build around that goal.
We as writers tend to put in some background into the story to explain why the main character needs to achieve the goal in the first place. Cut it out, if necessary. Readers don’t want to be dragged through those kind of stuff. They want to be turning pages to answer the question “Will he/she get it or not?”. Get the readers into the action. Use the writing tools of description, or dialogue in introducing the goal your main character wants to achieve.
When I’m writing, I want people to actually have a goal, something that’s dragging them forward. – Kaui Hart Hemmings
Sharpen the conflict.
We already defined the main goal, but what is the main obstacle? To make the story more effective, the obstacle should be strong and meaningful for the main character to get through. It grows out of other characters in the story and bring out their personalities, fears, and world views. So you’re not just thinking of the protagonist’s goal but also the antagonist’s goal, too.
The clash of goals brings out the clash of world views. This way, we know who the characters are, their goals, and how are they going to get it. It is this kind of differences that moves the story forward, keeps the reader turning pages, and gives the story the depth and dimension.
Transform your good fiction to great fiction by keeping your characters’ goals clear, immediate, and complex.