Monday, August 30, 2010

The Important Thing We May Forget


One little thing we may forget while writing a story could make the difference between a sale and a rejection. So, that little thing turns out to be not so little after all, doesn’t it? What is that little thing; our character’s goal.

Our characters must have at least one goal.  They must each have a dream or a desire; something they are working toward or wish to acquire.

Your character’s goal could be what makes or breaks the story. For example; sometimes the goal is something the character desires so desperately he/she will do anything to get it. This type of goal seems to fit right in there with motive. It makes the reader wonder if  the character wants it so badly he’d kill for it? It also makes the reader care about the character acquiring that goal.

Now doesn’t that add an element of suspense to the story? Doesn’t that keep the reader glued to his/her seat and the pages turning?

In The Complete Guide to Writing Fiction, author Barnaby Conrad writes that:

Memorable characters have goals, attitudes, and qualities which keep them from conventional responses. They are briny, perfervid, driven beings caught up in some quest or vision. . . Les Miserables would lose most of its bite if a laid-back Inspector Javert limited his pursuit of Jean Valjean to weekends and holidays; there would be no dramatic thrust if Captain Ahab was less than full-throttle in his seek-and-destroy mission against the white whale; there would be no Maltese Falcon if Brigid O’Shaugnessey, Caspar Guttman, and Joel Cairo had stopped short of murder and duplicity in their quest for the fabled black statuette.

While the goal of a character may seem like an unimportant matter to some writers, we must see that a character without a goal is equivalent to a book without a story to tell.

Do you agree or disagree? Why? How desperately do your characters want what they want, and how far would they do to get it?


  1. I agree; goal is SO important. And I admit, some of my characters have had lukewarm goals. Oh, there's a plot, but there's not always a compelling goal. Good stuff to ponder, and then find ways to increase the motivations of my characters. [Perfervid? now there's a word you don't hear often. I will have to look that up...]

  2. I think goal is really important. It took me a while to learn this, and now it's an essential part of any of my stories.

  3. Agree - though there are also books that cross the line into, "Well, I don't even understand why this is important anymore." Usually this involves keeping a secret that doesn't seem all that crucial ... ugh, this is the worst comment, sorry. I had an example, but it slipped out of my mind, haha.

  4. Lydia and Ru:
    Thanks for responding. I'm glad you agree that a character's goal is important. When the character has a goal in mind, we seem to share that need to accomplish the goal with the character. I think it makes the character more believable and life-like. Do you agree?