Characters’ goals

» Posted on Dec 30, 2006 in Blog | Comments Off on Characters’ goals

I wanted to discuss a character’s need for a goal because this is the time of year we think about the new year approaching and what we want to accomplish in the coming year. So I thought a discussion about goals was appropriate here.

Every important character needs to have a goal in your story (both internal and external. A goal is what your character wants. What is his dream? In order to come up with goals we need to look at the character’s past. I want to emphasize the importance of building a character’s background and back story in order to develop his/her goal(s). This not only works for goal development but also for motivation and conflict development.

When you’re developing your characters for your story, so much of it will evolve from what you come up with concerning your characters’ background (or back story). You need to live with your characters until you think they are your new best friends. The better you know them, the easier it is to write them. I find some protagonists are easier to write than others. Some speak to me better than others.

No matter how much I think I know my characters when I start writing, I am always surprised when I actually get into putting the story down on paper. They throw me curves in every book because as you write their story, you become even better acquainted with your protagonists. That’s okay. Occasionally you need to be careful and pull them in, but most of the time listen to them as they tell you what they are like and what they need (goal).

On my website under the article page there is a characterization article and sheet you can use to help you develop your protagonist in depth. A lot of this needs to be done before you start the story, but fine tuning will take place as you write. A word of caution here: please don’t try to put all the back story up front in your book. Sprinkle it throughout your story. And please feel free to use my characterization sheet if it will help you.

A person’s goal will evolve from their background so take the time to develop an in depth one with many layers to it. When you do, coming up with a goal is a natural extension of your characterization. Example: In my latest book Laura had been married to a controlling man. He wanted her dependent on him and over time she became that way (this is all back story). When he died, she never wanted to feel that way again. Her goal was to become independent and not to depend on anyone else but herself. This is where the story begins.