Your character doesn’t need to have a million dollar sales goal or desire to scale Mount Everest.
Writers pick goals for their characters instinctively, if not consciously. When you sit down to write a scene, your characters do and say things. What they do and say should have purpose. Their actions and words should move the story forward or cause complications or reversals.
Every story should have a central conflict at the heart of it that is easily summarized in a one-sentence logline.
A strong scene has a central conflict too. That doesn't mean only one thing happens in a scene or that only one character has a goal in each scene. It means the point of view character for each scene has a reason for being there and that he is earning his page time.
Think of a story or scene goal as having a subject, object, verb, and outcome.
The subject is the point of view character.
The verb is the motion toward or away from the object.
- Obtain or get rid of it.
- Hold onto or release it.
- Reach or escape it
- Hide or reveal it.
- Change or keep from changing it.
- Tell or not tell it.
- Evade or capture it.
- Avert or allow it.
- Define or obscure it.
- Prove or disprove it.
- Evaluate or decide it.
- Physical Task
- Mental Task
- The character can succeed in his goal and feel good about it or bad about it.
- The character can achieve his goal only to find out it was the wrong goal.
- The character can achieve his goal and find they have created a bigger problem.
- The character can fail and feel good about it or bad about it.
- The character can fail and realize he was after the wrong goal, so his failure was really a success.
If you can complete one sentence for your entire story, you have a solid logline.
Character (subject) wants to (verb) the (object) and (outcome).
You can visit http://www.dianahurwitz.com to download free scene-building worksheets.
For more information on scene goals, pick up a copy of Story Building Blocks II: Crafting Believable Conflict.