Digging for Character Goals

I've been participating in an online workshop over at WSE (Write Stuff Extreme) and one of the topics we're focusing on at the moment is about CHARACTER GOALS. Doesn't sound too hard, does it? Actually, it is.

We know to ask the obvious questions:

-Who is your character?
-What do they want?
-What's (or who's) standing in the way of your character's goal?
-Is this goal feasible?

The problem, I've discovered, is that in a course of a story, your character will have MANY goals. What your character wants in the beginning of the story may be different from what they want as you near the end. So how do we answer the big GOAL question? 'Cause ultimately, we gotta have ONE GOAL that'll encompass all of these mini-goals.

TIP: By the way, if you can answer those questions above, you've got the beginning of a query letter right there.

Check out this video by the Plot Whisperer aka Martha Alderson for great plotting tips.

Also, my lovely friend Mary Frame talks about goals and flaws that you should absolutely read because it's great.

Aannnddd, my equally lovely friend Mary Baader Kaley (yes, I have a lot of friends named Mary and they're all wonderful), who introduced me to WSE, has a lot of critiquerly advice over at her blog Not an Editor.

So tell me, how do you assess your character's goal/s? Is it so clear-cut that you know exactly what your character wants and how they're going to get there? Or are you floundering in the dark, like me, trying to dig into the core of the story? 


J. A. Bennett said...

I'm totally floundering too. At the writer's conference I had the chance to do some kinda mock pitches with other writers and yeah, I failed miserably and I'm pretty sure this is my problem. If only it where easy to know the answers...

cherie said...

It's not easy. I totally know how you feel, Jen. I'll email you later today and maybe we can brainstorm. <3

Angela V. Cook said...

Thought provoking post! This has me rethinking my query letter, actually. Hmm . . . I see some revisions in my future ;o)

Thanks for sharing!

LTM said...

right! These questions are what drive the pacing and I think without them, the story DOES feel like it's floundering. I try to know these before I start, but you can find them out as you write. It just makes for more revision work.

Best~ :o)

Marybk said...

I so love having you at WSE! Hmmm. I'll have to get to that query letter sooner or later. :/

Jessie Humphries said...

I have actually been prompted by this question a lot lately. Something I read over at Storyfix.com made me write them all down. Good stuff.

Lydia Kang said...

I usually try to set an obvious goal when I first start writing, but sometimes halfway through I forget my goal!

Bethany C. said...

Seems like I will know the BIG goal from the get-go...after all, that helps drive the plot. It's the little goals, like scoring the perfect tube of lip gloss, that evolve along the way that make the story sweet.

Love this post!

T.S. Welti said...

I always know what my main and secondary characters' goals and obstacles are before I begin writing. I'm very much a plotter (you already know this), so I need to be able to see the ocean before I jump out of the airplane. Once I dive in, that's when all the details are revealed. I don't know very many details until I actually begin writing, and that's where the fun stuff is born.

Great post! :)

Anita Grace Howard said...

What a great post, sparkly! LOVE the props for our Marys.

I used to thing GMC was the name of a car, until I started writing. Now I know that it's Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. Once you've figured out the first, the other two usually fall into place naturally. The fun is when two characters have opposing GMCs. That's when things get interesting.

Kimberly Krey said...

Truly brilliant! I've got it figured out in my first novel, working on it with the second. I love the way she's broken it down for us with the well-known books. Simple is my favorite language. :)

Ashley Nixon said...

I have found that my main character has one goal...but it's the other characters who have another in mind...thankfully they connect! lol. It did worry me for a while cause I wasn't sure if I would confuse readers with my characters goals...but Leaf knows what's up, and keeps Barren in check!

Bethany C. said...

Holy, WHAT?! I have no idea what I typed up there. Sorry.

I meant to say "I usually have the BIG goal in mind when I write the story, as that generally drives the plot. It's the little goals along the way that spring up when I least expect them.

Love you. -Your cracked out goat sister

Marewolf said...

Why am I just now seeing this post? lol, I need to log into my blogger more often! Great post, Cherie, and thanks for the shout out :)

I love this workshop! Totally makes me think everything out. It's fantastic! And where are you, anyways?? I haven't seen you since the OSCAR! *cries*

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