Give me a "G"

Last month we discussed the M in the GMC equation. This month let’s take a closer look at goals. Every character needs them. And in romance they generally need both internal and external goals. I hate to say they MUST have both because there is always an exception to the rule, so let’s just say that it’s in your best interest to have both.

Goals – what are they? Basically what your character wants. Often writers will have their characters goals be to maintain the status quo – this isn’t necessarily wrong, but is it strong enough to maintain an entire book? And won’t it be a futile goal when our heroine learns in chapter one that the status quo is gone. I’ve seen this a lot in contest entries, specifically with historicals where our heroine is expected to marry and she simply wants to remain the rebellious girl she’s always been. Riding her horses with her hair whipping in the wind and tending her garden or writing her novels or whatever it is she wants to maintain. So if we take a closer look at this we see that our heroine wants independence to do what she wants, but freedom isn’t a tactile thing and while this might work for our internal goal for our external goal we should strive for something more concrete.

What about that garden she loves? What if she’s been working on cross-breeding roses since she was a young girl and if she marries she’ll have to leave her precious garden and resign herself to a life of parties and needlepoint. This will never do. So our heroine doesn’t just want to maintain the status quo, more specifically, she wants to complete her cross-breeding of her roses. This is concrete and a worthy goal.

What about our heroine from last month who wanted to buy those pink shoes? More than likely this heroine doesn’t consciously think, “I want those shoes because Grandma had some just like them and she loved me and if I own them then I’ll feel that love again.” That would be awkward and clunky and let’s face it, if your heroine is that in touch with her emotional needs, then she’s probably has no internal conflict at all. So instead she thinks she wants those shoes simply because they remind her of her grandmother and she remembers always liking them. But as readers we know that while this is a tactile goal, what our heroine really wants is for someone to love her and give her security. That’s her internal goal and she’s going about satisfying it in the wrong way. This is a common mistake for our characters and one that usually takes an entire book to figure out.

The trick for creating strong and believable goals is to make them specific to your character and their situation. If you can plug any goal in then you haven’t done your job.

Robyn Ratliff has been a member of RWA since 1996. She currently serves as President and Webmaster to her RWA Chapter, San Antonio Romance Authors. She writes historicals set in Victorian England and is currently dividing her time between writing her next book and Agent Quest.

Copyright © 2007. Robyn DeHart. All Rights Reserved.

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