Even though I eat books for breakfast, lunch and dinner it wasn’t until I started writing that I realised that authors gave their characters goals.
Kristen Kieffer of the extremely popular Well Storied website has written a great post on How to Craft a Killer Character Goal.
Kristen defines a character goal as:
The one thing that your character is ultimately striving to attain or defeat throughout their journey.
Drawing up a character arc will allow you to throw obstacles at your characters so that they ultimately either achieve their goals or are defeated.
Goals need to be clear
Other advice I’ve read about writing primary character goals (and secondary characters need goals too) is that:
- the goal needs to be made clear to the reader
- and needs to be made clear in the first chapter.
I’ve started to pay a lot more attention to this in my recent reading and it made me think about how well an author actually achieves this.
Below are three books that I’ve read where I critiqued character goals:
The weeping and the laughter – noel barber
At one-third of the way through the story I was still unclear as to what Nick’s goal was. I had to presume that it was to find his missing twin brother, Rudi, dead or alive. If this was so, then Nick doesn’t do anything about this until a recent photo turns up of an alive Rudi.
the returned – jason mott
This book was turned into a TV series, Resurrection.
The idea of the returning dead and how a community would cope with that offered much promise, but failed to deliver. There were a number of defects in this book and one of these was that the main character didn’t have a goal.
Speed freak – fleur beale
This book drew me in immediately and quickly because Archie, the main character, had a clear goal, motivation and conflict was foreshadowed that would prevent him from achieving his goal.
Goal: To win the Challenge
Motivation: To race in Europe
Conflict: Craig, his rival; maybe Erica, his dad’s new girlfriend who doesn’t want her son to get involved in go carting; maybe Silver (a girl)
Speed Freak made it easier for me to know exactly what Archie wanted to achieve, why and the possible obstacles.
Characters who have a clear GMC (goal, motivation, conflict) helps ground the reader and ensures the story has a purpose.
Have you ever read a book that either had the main character’s goal clear within the first chapter or left you wondering what the story was going to be about?