Jill Weatherholt

Writing Stories of Love, Faith and Happy Endings While Enjoying the Journey

Going for Goals

41 Comments

trampoline_

It was the summer of 1973. The goal was to make it into The Guinness World Book of Records. Early one morning my best friend and I climbed on to her trampoline and started to jump. This was going to be the summer we broke the record for the longest time jumping on a trampoline. Four hours later, with the sun directly overhead, our mouths were dry and our legs tired, but we kept jumping.

In the eyes of two 8 year-old girls, getting into the record books was a worthy goal. As I create a protagonist, his goals must be worthy. I want the reader to relate to the goal and see it as essential to the character’s physical or emotional well-being. This is vital to the story because a character without a goal is a character without a story. Goals get the character moving and they will keep my story moving.

Recently I found a short story I wrote a couple of years ago. It was bad. I couldn’t find any concrete goals within the story. It was a series of frivolous scenes and a weak plot line. I didn’t know where the character was going, and I wrote the story.

This main character needed a goal; something he wanted to gain or something he wanted to avoid. He could want to find love, but he doesn’t want to give up his freedom. He may want to find the killer, but he has to avoid getting himself killed. Whatever the goal, it could have been triggered by a phone call, the loss of a job, a letter, or longing to find his past love. The possibilities were endless, but I didn’t do any of those things. His actions had no meaning and he was on a journey to nowhere.

Including goals will tighten my plot line and make my story more believable. The reader will continue to read because the protagonist is focused on the problem he’s trying to solve. He’s not sitting around chatting about the weather. A big part of why I believe and root for the protagonist is because of their goals. Even the most interesting and quirky character will fall flat without them.

After hours of jumping, my friend and I realized we too, were on a journey to nowhere. Our dream of breaking a record wasn’t going to happen. We were tired and thirsty. Our new goal was to get into the air conditioned house and drink some Kool-Aide. As our goal changed, our motivation was lost, but that was okay, because summer vacation is a time for fun.

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Author: Jill Weatherholt

My name is Jill Weatherholt and I’m a writer. I have a full-time job, but at night and on the weekend, I pursue my passion, writing. I write modern stories about love, friendship and forgiveness. I started this blog as a way to share my journey toward publication and to create a community for other new writers. Raised in the Washington, DC area, I’ve lived in Charlotte, North Carolina since 2004. I hold a degree in Psychology from George Mason University and a Certification in Paralegal Studies from Duke University. My first book, SECOND CHANCE ROMANCE, published by Harlequin Love Inspired released on February 21, 2017 and is available on Amazon and Barnes and Noble.com. I was the first place winner in the Dream Quest One Short Story Contest in the Winter 2014-2015 competition. In 2014, I placed second in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest. I was also a top ten finalist in Southern Writers Magazine Short Story Contest in 2012 and 2013. I’m a 2010 and 2012 winner of the NaNoWriMo Contest. I love to connect readers, visit me at jillweatherholt.com

41 thoughts on “Going for Goals

  1. More great writing reminders tied to a fun, memorable story. Our backyard neighbors have a trampoline, and they always let our kids use it whenever they wanted. When they moved away last fall, they left the trampoline, but the new neighbors don’t let the kids jump. Now they want a trampoline in our yard. I told them as soon as we get rid of the swing set. 🙂 Happy first day of summer.

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    • Happy first day of summer to you too, Gwen! Boo to the neighbors who won’t let the kids use their trampoline, but perhaps they don’t want to be responsible if someone gets hurt. I flew off my friend’s trampoline a few times; that was before safety nets. Luckily, I always landed on my feet. 🙂 Have a great weekend!

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  2. You make such great points, Jill. My husband is a planner by trade and is constantly reminding our kids about planning and goal setting. It’s funny because I am from an island (Puerto Rico) where you go with the flow and just wait and see what happens from one day to the next. Que sera sera. 🙂 But, like you say, it’s important when writing a story, to have a goal or have your character have a goal. I love the story about the trampoline. How carefree those days were, huh? To jump on a trampoline for hours and then have KoolAid. Ahhhhhhhh. 🙂

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    • Yes, those were carefree days, Maria! I’m sure you had many days like that as a child in Puerto Rico, hanging out at the beach…nice! I can still remember how good that air-conditioning felt after getting off that trampoline. Have a great weekend!

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  3. We all know how important goal-setting is in real life, but as you point out, a story is a dud unless out characters have goals, too. And speaking as a South Florida resident, retreating to an air-conditioned space is a noble goal in the summer! 😉

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    • LOL! I lived in South Florida for a while and you’re right, Candace, getting into an air-conditioned place is an excellent goal. In regards to my horrible story, you would have had a field day with your red pen! Happy weekend!

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  4. That’s such a crummy feeling to read something of your own and know it’s bad. But look at all you’ve learned since then. That’s a great feeling! Thanks for a great post!

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  5. Jill, you are a treasure box filled with writing jewels! Thank you for the great tips. Your trampoline story is fun:-)

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    • What a beautifully worded compliment, Elaine ~ thank you so much. It was fun recalling those days on the trampoline. Thankfully I survived those years without injury. My mom was always worrying when I got on it, especially after I learned how to do a flip. 🙂 I know you have a fun weekend in store ~ enjoy!

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  6. Right on Jill! Gotta have goals in life and in fantasy, as Candace pointed out. Thanks for the reminder as I need to put some of my own goals down on paper, sooner rather than later.

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  7. I love a good goal for a character in a story and you’re so right, Jill – without a goal there is really nowhere to go 😉

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  8. It is fun to have some good goals for your character and then throw in a bunch of obstacles, just to keep them on their toes. 🙂 I hope you have a great weekend, Dianne! I’m so happy you had special time with your family.

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  9. Ditto for me re Dianne’s comment… Lovely family!

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  10. Another beautiful post Jill. Fun filled and yet so educational. We all learn with time and experience. Learning is a lifetime process . I think your writing is just perfect, it does not lack anything. I love the photo. Thanks for sharing such a fun filled and lovely post with us. Looking forward to the next one.

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    • I always look forward to your thoughtful comments, Samina ~ thank you. I’m glad you enjoyed the post. When we stop learning, we stop living. By the way, I have an article you might be interested in reading. If you’d like, you can e-mail your e-mail address to jweatherholt@gmail.com and I’ll forward it along. Have a great weekend!

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  11. Such a great anecdote. And I can totally see the appeal of getting in the Guinness Book of Records. But I see your point. Characters need compelling goals. These goals are the invisible line that pulls a reader through the book as the character works to meet the goals or and is thwarted in the attempt. I need to remember this!!!

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    • Thanks, L. Marie! Yes, making it into the Guinness Book of Records was a goal during my childhood. I once tried to break the pogo-stick record. That was a little too difficult for an 8 year old. 🙂 Yes, goals are good in our real lives as well as in the lives of our made-up characters. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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  12. Hi Jill! Yes, writing a compelling story is complex and the number one priority we have is to give our protagonists purpose. The trick after that is creating those obstacles to overcome, allowing them to grow. I always love your analogies…using examples from your childhood. How are you progressing on your current WIP?

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    • Hi Jolyse! Thanks for the compliment, I appreciate it. It’s always fun for me to reminisce about those carefree days and turn it into a post. You’re absolutely right, our characters do need to grow, otherwise you’re setting your readers up for disappointment.

      Ahhhh, the current WIP…..I’m getting ready to do a complete rewrite, which will involve combining two of my NaNoWriMo projects into one story. I like the characters from one and the plot line of the other. It will be a lot of work, but I think the end result will be worth it. How’s yours coming along? Are you ready to submit?

      Your daughter is doing a wonderful job as a guest on your blog. I’m looking forward to reading, and seeing more from her trip to Italy! Enjoy your weekend!

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      • Yes, you have quite an endeavor in front of you, but you can do it! My short novel is out on submission, while I’m working on a 90K novel for the summer along with the next short novel that follows the first already sent out. Busy, busy, busy! 🙂

        We’re on vacation this week, so I’ll be posting a photo montage later today. Rylie will be back again next week with more about Italy. Happy you like it.

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      • Thanks! Wow! You are busy, Jolyse. I’m glad to hear you’re getting some r&r this week, it’s certainly well deserved. Best of luck with your current submission. Keep me posted!

        I’ll look forward to Rylie’s post next week and your photos! Enjoy your vacation!

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  13. Yes, your characters need a reason for “jumping” into the plot! When I look at my old writings, I can see that sometimes characters made it, in just because I liked the character! They need to have a reason.

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    • Now that you mention it, I think I’ve done the same thing. You’re right, there needs to be a reason for them to be in your story. Thanks for stopping by a taking the time to comment. Enjoy the rest of your weekend!

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  14. Sound advice, Jill. My writing tutor is always telling us about the character’s journey, how every sentence must move the story on, and the best stories are those with flawed protagonists who want something they can’t have but end up getting it via a maze of incidents. She calles it the story arc. Makes sense, I think.

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  15. Your trampoline story reminds me of a time Heidi and I jump roped for hours straight. We would try different tricks and see how long we could go without messing up, but whenever one of us messed up we would pass off the jump rope. The next day we were so sore we could barely walk. 🙂

    Definitely having a goal makes a character more relatable, and ot helps to move the plot along, and it is good when the foal changes with the growth of the character.

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    • I bet you were sore! I remember doing some pretty cool moves with the jump rope when I was a kid. These days, I just stick to jumping 101. 🙂

      Good point, Kati. Our characters goals do need to change throughout the story; just like our goals change throughout our life.

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  16. I like what I see as one of the morals of this story — that, to know what you genuinely want, it’s important to be willing to try out various possibilities (such as setting a trampoline record) so that you can get a sense of how it actually feels to do the activity you’ve been fantasizing about and determine whether the reality lives up to the internal hype in the mind.

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    • In my experience, most things never live up to the internal hype. For me, the moral of the trampoline story was never attempt to break a trampoline record during the hottest time of the summer. Thanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment, Chris.

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  17. Jill, this is the best post I’ve ever read about developing specific, compelling goals for a protagonist. It truly is.
    You took a wonderful going-for-the-record trampoline memory and used it as a powerful example. Every writer should read
    this and take notes!
    And some how, I’m also confident that your antagonist has powerful goals, too, and when they come in conflict with the protagonist’s goals, you have an amazing battle!
    This is terrific!

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    • You are too kind, Marylin. Thank you so much for the compliment! I really appreciate it. I’ve read so many books with weak character goals, I strive to keep my protagonist and antagonist goals strong.

      By the way, your recent post, Preparing for the Best, was pretty awesome too!

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  18. Great post. I think early on it’s normal to write scenes without a goal. Sometimes I’d be developing a character or just playing in my story world. Later, that scene would get cut or would be reworked so that it advanced the plot and did character development. I hope you play around more with that short story. I bet you want turn it into something fantastic now that you see what the problem was. 🙂

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