Your Character’s Goal In a Scene: State It

Chapter one

In our novel-writing Challenge, we discussed writing in scenes, and I gave you an exercise for Day 10.

Here it is:

Exercise: Write a Scene

If this is your first novel, chances are that you’re completely unaware of scenes. You can go back and revise what you’ve written later, in your second draft. (Never revise when you’re writing a your first draft — keep moving forward.)

Today, write a scene. Choose the location (a bar, the top of a mountain, a cabin in a boat, a gym…). Choose your scene’s characters. Each character has a goal, however, we’re experiencing the scene via your viewpoint character, so we only know what his goal is. Develop conflict. (Every scene has conflict.) Conflict arises when a character wants something, and there are obstacles in his way.

By the end of the scene, your viewpoint character has failed to reach his goal.

A scene is always followed by a sequel. The sequel is written from the point of view of the character in the previous scene. He’s thinking about what went on in the scene. He’s also making plans for the future.

We said that in your scenes, your viewpoint character’s goal must be stated.

I’ve been reading through the first draft of one of my novels, and it’s discouraging to see how often I’ve omitted having the POV (point of view) character blatantly state her goal. When the character does state her goal, the scene is stronger for it.

This is a prime example of writer’s blindness, and it’s why writers need editors: we think what’s in our head is on the page. Often it isn’t.

Before I write a scene, I make a note in my novel journal on the character’s goal. I also write down a list of conflicts and obstacles, and what the outcome of the scene will be. And yet, at least 40 per cent of the time in my first draft, I omit having the character state the goal.

There are various ways you can have your POV state his goal:

* Say it aloud to one of the other characters;

* Think it;

* Lie about it.

Just make sure that the character’s goal for the scene is clear within the first few sentences. Stating the goal upfront will make the scene sharper — your character says what he wants, the others in the scene won’t allow him to have it.

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Angela Booth is a top copywriter, multi-published author, and writing teacher. She offers many guides, courses and classes to help writers to enhance their skills on her websites. She also provides inspiration and motivation for writers on her writing blogs. Angela has been writing successfully since the late 1970s, and was online in the 1980s, long before the birth of the Web. Her business books have been widely published.