Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Chapter Anatomy: The Goal

Day 2 of my Chapter breakdown! Day 1, Scene Setting, can be found HERE.

scene sequel breakdown

Wikipedia defines the Goal as:

A goal or objective is a desired result a person or a system envisions, plans and commits to achieve—a personal or organizational desired end-point in some sort of assumed development. Many people endeavor to reach goals within a finite time by setting deadlines.

It is roughly similar to purpose or aim, the anticipated result which guides reaction, or an end, which is an object, either a physical object or an abstract object, that has intrinsic value.

scene sequel structure

As writers, our goal is to what? Finish the novel.

Our main characters have one big goal throughout the overall ARC, too. Defeat the Big Bad. Wash hair. Get that man to shave his chest. You get the idea.

Even the chicken has a goal. To get to the other side.

But we’re not talking about the big picture. Everybody wants to talk about the big picture! Let’s go smaller. Get down in the trenches. Dig deep.

Every chapter consists of one or more scenes. How much thought have you put into making sure each one of those scenes contains a GOAL? We’ve all read that book—you know the one—where you read that chapter and you’re practically screaming at the author, What’s the point!!! If you really think about it, study that chapter, you may find that it lacks structure. With no goal, there’s no motivation. If the mc isn’t motivated to go anywhere, they’re not coming across any conflict. See what I did there? GMC, and I’m not talking about the truck.

Goals in each scene don’t have to be big. They can be any size you want them to be as long as you have a motive for that goal and plan to stop your mc from achieving it. That’s YOUR goal.

The goal must be stated in some way. No, you don’t have to have your character say it outright. Just make sure it’s clear. For example, in the first two lines of dialogue in my urban fantasy, Natalie’s goal is inserted in a roundabout way, but it’s there. Take a look.

“Come with me, Natalie,” Travis whispered over my lips.

A chuckle welled from deep in my chest. “Spending a weekend with your parents at some fancy-shmancy barbeque slash retirement party isn’t my idea of an awesome time.”

The goal in this scene is to NOT go to the barbeque with Travis. As the dialogue continues, it’s to get him on the road without letting him talk her into it.

The next goal takes place in the same chapter. Chapter 1, scene 2.

Night descended behind the large picture window at the back of the dark living room. Through it, I watched moonlight shimmer over gentle ripples in the windswept pool. Each peak and dip should have added to the calm I strived for. The peace of mind. Any other night it would have . . . .

Goal: To relax and forget about her troubles.

So you see? They don’t have to be huge, but they have to be there. One per scene, and at least one per chapter. Let me repeat that for those in the back. PER SCENE, PER CHAPTER.

So your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to take out that fancy manuscript and start checking for goals. Just start with that for now. Don’t overwhelm yourself b/c there’s a lot more to cover after this.


  1. YESSSSS! Goals are what make a novel go 'round. :)Without goals the actions are meaningless. If Joe Bob is running around town trying to buy a gun, yet I don't know why, it's pointless action. EVERYTHING WE DO HAS REASON. Our characters are no different.

    XOXO...Glad you're blogging more,I like visiting. LOL...As if I don't talk to you every day ;)

  2. *waves from the back* Hi. I'm late. And this is awesome. ^_^


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