Characters With Goals (Secrets Of Narrative Drive), by Sarah Mussi
I’ve been posting on the topic of the secrets of narrative drive for a while now – and you may be thinking that you now know everything there is to know about it, and I can’t possibly have anything else to say – but that’s where you’d be wrong. There’s as much to come all over again. But before we press on let’s take stock of what I’ve covered so far:
1. Create a collision course for your protagonist and your antagonist
2. Relegate ‘literary genius’ to second place
3. Create a promise that something is going to happen
4. Make sure that something matters very much to your characters
5. Be wicked and mean to your hero
So what’s next?
In this post I’m going to share with you …
Secrets of Narrative Drive
Secret Number 6
drum roll… tada!
For a character to succeed against the odds and overcome their nemesis they must have a goal.
I mentioned in post one that I believe if the protagonist and the antagonist are after conflicting goals and on a collision course, then we have drama-worth-waiting-for in the making. After that I haven’t said much about goals in general.
Narratives are often the personal journeys of human beings and there is nothing more fascinating than people – especially a person with a powerful longing. So to root for a character and to be curious about what will happen to them, then to turn the pages to find out is a natural human instinct. It shows we believe in our characters and we want them to succeed. Of course, for a character to succeed they must have a goal. A character’s goal can change in a story but their ‘wanting’ must remain. Caring about what a character wants and whether they will get it is what will stop readers from putting your novel down.
How you can use this secret?
- Create a character who has a clear goal – not just an internal longing but something demonstrable like winning the tri-wizarding cup – i.e. a dramatic goal.
- Visualise a scene where your protagonist either achieves this goal or loses it.
- Focus every action of your protagonist on achieving this goal
If you can do this, you are well on the way to keeping readers turning the pages.