Friday, March 8th, 2013

Writing Prompt – Give Your Characters More Than One Goal

ListI’m sitting here looking at at a giant list of “2013 Fun Goals” that the Husband of Awesome™ and I put together a few weeks ago.

This isn’t something we normally do, but I thought it might be fun. We wrote them down on easel-sized paper in different colored markers and posted it on the wall. The list includes things that require us to get out of the house (hike, fish, attend a minor-league baseball game) and things that we can stay home and do (make homemade ice cream, tie-dye t-shirts).

And as we come up with ideas for things we want to do this year, we’ll add them to the list.

The characters in your stories should have these kind of goals, too. It makes them more like real people, and it provides a way to include more drama in your novels by creating subplots out of these desires. This ‘minor’ activity might even provide the hook or inciting incident you need to begin your story.

For instance, suppose you write mysteries. Your detective is spending a Saturday morning at the gym, taking a yoga class for the first time, deciding whether or not it’s the kind of thing she might like. Halfway through the class, a scream erupts from the women’s locker room. Someone found a dead body–and now your story is off and running.

These goals can also provide some comic (or not so comic, if you wish) “relief” from the intensity of a dramatic novel. Perhaps your character just wants to get away for the weekend…and each time he makes plans to do so–or even starts out on the trip–the main plot interrupts (ramping up the drama again!) until he tries again.

(This kind of sub plot will need to be resolved before the end of the book.)

Here’s Your Prompt:
Create a list of five or eight activities or goals your character might want to accomplish (which are unrelated to the main plot). Jot down why your character is interested in these items–you can’t just wing it. There’s got to be a compelling reason–a back story–behind the idea, even if it’s simply “because I’ve never done it before.” Just make certain that kind of reasoning rings true for your character.

(Someone who is afraid of heights will probably not have bungee jumping on his list unless there’s a very good reason for it.)

Choose one goal, two at the most, which could compliment the plot. Brainstorm some ways your character could accomplish the goal.

Finally, write the scene. What might happen that could affect the main plot — positively or negatively — during this scene? Could it lead to another clue in a murder mystery? Could your character break a leg and not be able to be a bridesmaid for her best friend in a romance? Does it simply provide relief from a very intense plot?

Good luck!

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Photo: © Dana Rothstein | Dreamstime Stock Photos

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