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.