Goals & Motivations

While you are diligently writing along to my various prompts each day, I want you to also take some time to think about your novel.

Today, take a few moments to consider your characters goals and motivations. If you have more than one main character, a protagonist or two, even a few supporting characters, think about why they do what they do. What gets them out of bed each day? What are they hopping to achieve? What are their inner most secrets? What is their integral motivation in life? Why is that goal important to them? What do they think/feel would happen if they failed to achieve it?

Remember that a goal can push your character onwards through the story or it can hold them back, and so can secrets. You can use the two to create tension or conflict, either external or internal.

Give each character a goal and a secret that will help to create your story. A goal could be relocation, ending an affair, starting an affair, retire, vengeance, answers, family pride, honour, fame, fortune, renown, wiping out a deadly foe, or to just be left the hell alone.

Consider whether this goal will be achieved and at what point, what happens next or perhaps that goal changes and seems so very unimportant to the character in the larger story of their life. Goals can change, even if it’s been the main motivation throughout the novel till this point.

Once you really understand what your character wants deep, deep down, you can help them achieve it. You can help them work hard to reach that pinnacle. They will experience new things and they will grow and change from the trials before them. Who will they be one they achieve their goal, will it be what they wanted or something else entirely?

When your characters have clear goals, you can create tension filled moments when something or someone gets in the way of that goal. Consider how the goals and secrets of your other characters interact with the lead. Is there a theme going on around everyone’s goals and secrets? Perhaps they all want to achieve something, find something (internal or external), give something up. What happens if you give two characters conflicting goals or the same goal but with different approaches to achieving them?

It’s also important to make the underlying emotional connection to that goal clear and real to the reader. One article I read on goal setting for characters mentioned that, if your character is just after a new outfit, the reader can’t relate to that as integral to the characters life, but another article mentioned a book, Mrs. ‘Arris Goes to Paris, where that very goal is the driving force for the main character and the story itself. It just goes to show you that anything can be a worthy goal if you really think about the driving forces behind it.

One last thing to think about, how do these goals relate to the plot? They are not the plot, but they do need to have something to with each other. The simplest way to do this, of course, is to have your protagonist and antagonist having conflicting goals – for one to succeed the other must fail and thus your tension is born.

I’m finding this article a good read to understand motivation.

So excuse me now, as I go and ask my characters about their mothers.

Tracey Ambrose
"Don't be too timid and squeamish about your actions. All life is an experiment." Ralph Waldo Emerson

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