Tink...tink...tink...anyone out there? Hi! I'm Barbara Donlon Bradley - Author - editor and slightly crazy - ask anyone in my family. I hope to use this blog to talk about writing, editing and whatever pops in my head. Hope you enjoy.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Writing Down the Bones: Character Goals

When you start your story you need to think of your plot. Is it strong enough? Is it believable? Do you have more than one plot in the story? Believe it or not every character in your book should have one. Your hero, heroine, the sidekick, the bad guy. The girl on the street. If they don't then why are they in the book?

Your main characters need goals. It gives them something to move toward in your story. An achievement they reach at the end of the book. And those goals can conflict. You have a bad guy who's goal is to kill and a good guy whose goal is to stop him. You have the beginnings of a strong plot. Your reader will continue to turn the page, wanting to know who will win. Especially if the goals are plausible.

 Then you need to ask if it's believable. If not what do you need to do to make it believable.

So lets try an example:

You have a hero who wants to open a book store - okay that's the first goal. A nice simple one. Now why does he want to open the book store? Because it would be fun? Not strong enough. Because he had tried to start a business before and failed miserably and needs to prove he's not a failure? Okay that makes the plot a little stronger.

Now why would writing a book about opening a book store be something to write about. It's a pretty boring topic. It needs something else. So what sort of spin are you going to put on this? Is it a murder mystery?

That could be good - he gets the building and finds a body in there and he is accused of the murder.

How about a romance? That's the way I'd go.

Every romance has a heroine. Someone for the hero to love. She could be a good twist to the plot. But how? Hmm, let's make her one of those people who sticks up for the little man, hates the big businesses who have the money to force small companies to close their doors.

So our heroine is an activist. She's heard of the corporation that wants to buy the same land our hero is interested in. It is a beautiful old building that has a great history. One of the oldest one in the town. She remembers what this same corporation did in her hometown and swore to stop them from doing it again. The building needs to be saved!

She going to fight for our hero, even though he might not want any help. Hmm, he doesn't want any help. His goal is to prove his family wrong, not fight for some old building. If this site doesn't work out he could try another one. He needs to prove to his brother, the big corporate man, that he doesn't need to be bailed out over and over again. He can do this on his own. An activist would just get in his way.

See how this is developing? What other twist can I had? How about the CEO of the corporation is his brother and he's not this big evil person the heroine has in her mind. The CEO  has wanted to help breathe life into the small towns he feels he can save. What he doesn't know is that the man in charge of these particular jobs is not doing what he's supposed to. He hasn't been saving the towns, just lining his pockets and covering his tracks.

So we have a man who wants to open a book store to prove he isn't a failure. A heroine who wants to save the building because she had failed at saving one in her own town and refuses to allow that to happen again. A brother who is blind to the wrongdoing that is undermining his goals.

I got it.  The hero wants to prove his worth to his brother and thinks opening the bookstore would be a good way to do that. The heroine hated that she couldn't save her local library from being knocked down to make way for a strip mall that failed. She champions the save the bookstore, pushing her theories unto our hero about the evil corporation. First he's angry that his brother is going for the same property and confronts him and finds that his brother believes he's been doing all this good. He knows his brother would never lie to him and researches the other towns. He learns the heroine is also telling the truth. Now he has to help his brother by ferreting out the man who is lining his pockets. He ends up proving to himself that he is worthy, which his brother knew all the time. The brother learns he doesn't have to coddle his sibling. The man can take care of himself. And our heroine learns that she didn't fail her town. It was destined to fail because of the weasel.

Now you have something to start with. As a pantser this gives me everything I need to write the story. The romance will be blended in as I go. I never put it into the blurb I use to base my book off of. And story might change a little as I go but I have my beginning and my end the rest will come.

Hope this helps.

Barb:)

2 comments:

  1. Great example of a break down, Barb. :) As a pantser I have trouble working things out even this much. :/ I write the beginning and an idea of how I'd like the ending comes to me somewhere between those first words and chapter two. I aim blindly for that goal...which rarely ever ends the way I'd planned once I give my characters their heads. LOL

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    1. Thanks Calisa. To me that is the best part of writing - that journey of discovery as the words flow - but that's why we're pantsers huh?

      Barb:)

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