Writing Lesson 13 – Digging for Goals

Creating Unforgettable Characters, Part 3

Dig up a goal to motivate your characters into action. They will have depth and your story will come alive. Delve into each character’s personality and ask about the hidden fears, secrets, and the values. Find out what makes them tick.

  • Interview the characters you’ve created. Ask about their external goals first. What is their desire? What do they want in life? Example: Would he seek wealth at any cost? Does she wish for a home and a family? Is his dream to be the first man on Mars? Does your villain long to crush his former boss?

If you’ve followed my other lessons, you’ve gone past the external appearance. You created physical traits and gave each character personality traits in previous lessons. Digging deep into their hearts will help the reader relate to your characters.

  • List an external goal for each of your characters—the thing they want most in life.

For example, I created a shy, nervous artist in the last lesson. Let’s say her ‘external goal’ is to sell her paintings. That simple goal is an important part of the story but it is only one layer of her personality. There may be a gold mine of information hidden beneath her desire.

  • Dig deeper and discover the ‘internal goals’ in your characters. What is she honestly seeking in life? What is her greatest fear? Are there things in her life she needs to change? What keeps her from reaching the external goal? Is her goal what is best for her and those she loves? Is she hiding secrets? Do these affect her or her loved ones? Example: Tracy may say she wants to sell her paintings. What she truly wants is acceptance, because she believes she isn’t worthy of love.
  • List some of the ‘internal’ things you discover about your characters as you get to know them.
  • Look at some of your favorite books and identify the internal and external goals of the characters.

We’ll talk about these goals and adding conflicts that expand the character’s personality in our next lesson.

About Melinda Evaul

Melinda Evaul is a North Carolina native transplanted to Tennessee. Her contemporary Christian romances give readers a unique view of rural life in both states. Not afraid to tackle tough questions, she writes about people who grow spiritually through the difficulties life tosses in their paths.
Read more about Melinda.

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