Jude Hardin

Author, Drummer, Turtle Whisperer

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Location: United States

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Splitting The Scene, Part Three: Goals

You're driving along in your automobile and, suddenly...

You need to find a bathroom. Fast! Do you remember the sense of urgency you felt? At that moment, nothing else mattered. Your goal was to find a toilet, the nearest one.

Well, let's hope that fine Corinthian leather is still...fine.

Your characters should have some sort of goal in every scene, something they pursue relentlessly. Will your character achieve that goal?

To keep the story tense, and to keep your reader turning pages, Carolyn Wheat, author of How To Write Killer Fiction (an excellent reference, btw), suggests answering that question with "yes, but..." or "no, and furthermore...."

In the opening scene of One In The Corner, my WIP, Nicholas Colt is broke and planning to eat some fish he caught for breakfast. A potential client appears and he is presented with the opportunity to make enough money to keep him going for a while. His goal: Close the deal. Does he succeed? Yes, but he feels compelled to undercut his usual rate, thinking the client might bail at $100 an hour. He hustles her into paying a thousand dollars up front, thinking he has enough information to easily solve the case.

But Colt's financial concerns are secondary, really. He cares deeply about the girl's welfare, and will do whatever it takes to find her and bring her home safe. In scene #3 Colt stakes out Mark Toohey's apartment. Runaway Brittney Ryan and Mark Toohey were known to have spent a lot of time together, so Colt hopes to find Brittney with him. Does he succeed? No, and furthermore he learns that Brittney is now employed by a pimp named Duck. Now Colt has to track down the pimp. New scene, new goal. See how it works?

In every scene, your character must care about something and relentlessly pursue it. Kind of like you were about that bathroom. :)

As the story progresses, the goals become more and more difficult, finally leading to the major story goal and the climax. Will your hero or heroine ultimately succeed?

If you want to sell books, they will. At least on some level. We do want to sell books, don't we?

What are some of your characters' goals? Do they reach them right away, or are they met with increasingly difficult obstacles along the way?

While we're at it, what are your personal goals as a writer? Are you more concerned with literary merit or with sales? Both? Do you relentlessly seek publication and validation from the world, or are you happy to write for personal satisfaction? Tell me your dreams.


Blogger Erica Orloff said...

Hey Jude:
When I talk to high schools about my YAs, I tell kids that every good novel asks an essential "what if" question. That's the one I use to propel . . . and you're right. Move it along, move it along.

My personal goals are pretty basic. I support a family of six as a full-time novelist, without having to take any side work and with a nice lifestyle. I don't need to be a zillionaire . . . but I like having this career very much. Beyond that, because I do write across genres (Liza Conrad for teens; Erica Orloff for most of the rest), I get to explore my different passions. And beyond THAT, I do write some things that I have no idea if they will ever sell, but I just like working on them, and that's enough for right now.

7:59 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Hate to disagree with you, Erica, but I think your personal goals are way more than basic. :)

"Amazing" was the word I had in mind.

8:04 AM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

Well . . . OK. I have my father's drive. :-) BUT, I guess by basic, I mean it's not an accumulation of "things" that I desire, or fame, or to be a household name or face, but just to be able to do what I do, happily, and support those I love.

11:21 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

I agree, Erica. I'm not really into things either. I just want to be relatively comfortable and make a living doing something I enjoy.

*And in the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.*
--Paul McCartney

3:31 PM  

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