There’s more to life than romance. Of course people want to fall in love, be in love, stay in love. But flesh and blood people also have families. They have friends, careers, and hobbies. They get hurt and they bleed, they laugh and they cry. And all because they have dreams. A husband wants to give his wife and kids a good life. A young woman wants to be a dancer. A skinny kid who’s
pretty good at basketball hopes he’ll be the next Michael Jordan.
Those dreams are your characters’ goals. The things they’re pursuing in your story. They have to matter. It’s not enough for your hero to have a hankering for a candy bar. The goal needs to be something big. Something important. Something worth fighting for, worth getting emotional about.
There are two kinds of goals: outer goals and inner goals. (These are part of the GMC – Goal, Motivation, and Conflict.) Outer goals are concrete, like having your hero build the girl a dream house before they can get married. Inner goals are what your character needs (on an emotional level). Does he need love? Does he need to feel good enough? Does he need his father’s respect?
Ask yourself the following questions:
1. How much effort does the goal require?
A candy bar takes a walk or drive to the store. Not much effort. Building a house takes hard labor, buying the materials, drawing up the designs, hiring people to do the labor, etc. Can your hero handle this?
2. How much time will it take?
If the store is close by, the candy bar is a quick purchase. Not much to write about. The house project can take months, maybe even a year. Will your hero sail through the process or will he crack?
3. How many people are involved?
The candy bar involves one person going to the store and perhaps a cashier at the checkout counter. The house building involves your main character, family, the architect, homeowner’s asso-ciation, the people at the various materials’ companies (tiles, flooring, lighting, appliances), the contractor. Can your hero deal with different personalities? Does he get frustrated easily?
These goals and questions apply to most types of stories. The more invested your characters are in their goals, the more interesting the story and the higher the stakes. One major rule to remember is that when the goals are reached the story is over. So don’t let your characters reach their goals too soon.
What are your characters’ goals? Are they worthy?
[Photo credit: dancerinthedark, morgueFile.com]