Get to that Goal
We all know the importance of Goal, Motivation, and Conflict in our characters and their story, but as I’m grappling with the end of the book I’m writing, it’s becoming increasingly important for me to keep this in mind, so I thought I’d share my thoughts on the topic with you.
Toward the very beginning of every story, we need to show the reader what the protagonist’s goal is—what they will be working on trying to achieve for the entire story. As we go through and write the story, the motivation for that goal—the character’s backstory—will slowly be revealed. And from the time we learn what the goal is, it should be clear what is stopping your protagonist from attaining their goal.
So, to give you a concrete example, I’m going to give away the plot of the book I’m working on now.
Lydia, my heroine, has the goal of NOT getting married despite the fact that she’s promised her father she would spend the London season searching for a husband (yes, she lied to her father). We eventually learn that the reason why she doesn’t want to marry is because she’s afraid she’ll die in childbirth like her mother did—which Lydia witnessed when she was seven years old.
Obviously, in a romance, a goal like that is not going to come through. My heroine is not going to achieve her goal and for her to be okay with that is going to take quite a bit of convincing and changing of Lydia’s mind. That’s, essentially, the entire second half of the book.
But, you see, it’s not one event which makes her change her mind. If it were that easy, her goal wouldn’t be a valid one because she wouldn’t have been completely committed to it. Your character has to want this goal more than anything. They have to be able to give up something extremely important to them to attain this goal.
Right up until the penultimate scene, Lydia was absolutely certain that she wanted her goal—and she was willing to give up a life with the man she loved and children in order to attain it. She was working hard to try to keep to her goal, right up until that second to last scene. Yes, she had begun to have some doubts, but she was still pretty dedicated to it. She had, after all, had this goal since she was seven years old. She’s not going to give it up that easily—if she did, where would be the fun in the story?
Yes, eventually, that penultimate scene is the straw that broke the camel’s back and convinced Lydia to give up her goal, but it didn’t come without a struggle.
So think about your character’s goal. What is it that they would be willing to give up to attain this goal? Just how important is it to them? Would they be willing to give up their life? Something they love dearly?
It’s fine if their goal changes, but be sure that it’s clear to the reader and to yourself what that goal is and don’t let your character let go of it, not for a minute—until they absolutely have to.