Today’s challenge is to discuss Character Goals.
This is a really interesting topic. Do I approach it in terms of what my current WIP’s character’s goals are? Or do I do it as more of an umbrella topic?
I think I’m going to approach it as more of an umbrella topic. Stay with me here…
It’s important for characters to have strong goals.
I bet you’re thinking, “Well, no dur Sherlock!”
But it’s not that simple. You see, for a character, plot, and book to truly be successful, the characters (not just the MC, but any integral characters) must have goals. And not just one. They need to have at least one goal that they’re striving for, that appears to be the main plot of the book. But they also need to have at least one other goal that they don’t realize they are striving for, but ends up being the ultimate goal.
If you’re scratching your head wondering what I’m talking about, let’s dive in a little deeper.
Let’s take Harry Potter and the Sorceror’s Stone as an example. When this book first starts out, Harry’s main goals are:
- Learn magic
- Succeed at his new school
- Hopefully make some friends
But Harry doesn’t realize that his goals ultimately go further. Not only must he do the above things as his goal, but the ultimate goal of the book is:
- Protect the sorceror’s stone
- Defeat Voldemort
Of course, as we read through the book, we as readers know that Voldemort—and probably the sorceror’s stone—is going to play a role in Harry’s goals for the book, but Harry himself in the book doesn’t see this as a goal until nearly the very end of the book.
So, why is this?
Let’s think about the real world, our real life issues. How often do we have a goal in mind, achieve that goal, and find pure happiness because we achieved the goal we had in mind?
Oh, I’m sure there are a few of you that this may have happened to, especially when we talk about some of the more innocuous goals like weight loss or word counts for manuscripts.
But I’m looking deeper than those surface goals.
In life, we have things in mind for how we want things to be, goals we want to achieve, etc. But rarely do we achieve those goals and attain happiness. Because that’s just not how life tends to work. There’s always some wrench that gets thrown in, or—more commonly—our goals change because we change. We may start out with a goal of losing 50 pounds by summer… and that goal may or may not be met, but as we reach to attain that goal, the goal shifts or changes: we want to be a size 6 by summer, whatever the weight loss; we want to focus on better health overall, rather than the arbitrary number shown on a scale; we want to be able to do _____ activity.
Now, that’s a very basic view into how goals can change. Let’s dig even deeper.
We think our goal is to lose weight, be a smaller size, etc. We strive for those goals. But what we don’t realize is that deeper down, internal, our goal is really something else entirely. Sure, we want to be smaller, we want to wear that cute bikini… but our mindsets actually have a different goal in mind, one we may not even realize we want.
That is what makes a compelling story. We think we want one thing, but it turns out we need something else entirely in our lives. Perhaps by focusing on weight loss for ourselves we find that what we really need is to learn more about our body and how it responds to different stimuli or foods. Perhaps on our journey to weight loss, we find a deeper love for something else and that’s really what we need.
And perhaps this whole weight loss example isn’t a good one. LOL!
The point is, what makes a compelling story isn’t just having our character reach their goals (no matter the amount of obstacles), but also for them to discover that what they think they want isn’t necessarily what they truly need.
Does that make sense?
I’ll probably write a deeper blog about this later on, after this writer’s challenge is over… and one where I have a little more time to sit and really explain what I mean.
In the meantime, stick with me until tomorrow, when I will talk about the weather. ROFL!