Setting Goals for Characters

by RS on March 8, 2010

Becky Levine has an interesting post on tension, and she writes of setting goals for the characters. She says:

We make it clear what they want, or–at the very least–what they’ve assumed will happen. And we create obstacles. Big obstacles that arc over the scene, and mini-obstacles that hit the characters like scatter-shot, all through the scene. Some of those obstacles come from other characters, some from the environment, and some from the character actually going for the goal. An obstacle can be challenging, painful, irritating or laugh-out loud funny.

One of the main criticisms, apart from not making one of the characters as well-developed as the MC, is that it lacks tension. Most of the tension comes with the MC struggling with her doubts, but how do I extend that so it creates more head-knocking with the other characters? This week’s exercise is to create a list of goals for each character.

I realize this is rather elementary and I should have done it way back when, but when I started Julius I had an idea and just wrote. I was a pantser. Now I see the benefits of planning, outlining and structuring. There is, though, a part of me that wants to buck this exercise in organization and just write. I want to finish! Alas if I stick to my old ways I’ll never finish. So I’m doing a George Costanza. Remember when George decided to the opposite he normally does and how good his life turned out (at least for a few episodes)? Instead of letting the characters do what they want, it’s time for me to take control and plan some predestination. After all, I’m writing it. I am their God.

And on that note, time to play God.

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