By Steven Savage
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When we write stories, we write about people, what they do, and why. In many cases, you can boil down a character to "doing this in the hope of achieving this result via this method."

In short, the characters have stakes for which they are striving/aiming/headed for. That seems obvious, but it's important to consider them in character design - because the stakes they strive for are part of who they are, and where they come from - in short, part of your world.

So, we're going to take a look at setting character goals appropriately, writing them so the audience relates, and keeping them from turning your continuity upside-down.


Overall, seem simple to write - you take a look at the character's background and situation and figure out who they are, what they want, and how they're getting there. But, as always, the devil is in the details:

A good examination of goals and their whys and hows will really help you develop a character. Eventually, viathe timeline-driven writing I mentioned, you can virtually "turn your characters loose" and they practically write themselves. I'm happy to say this is a method I use, and it makes writing more fun, productive, and natural.

However, seeking goals has effects, which brings us too . . .


Character goals change over time, as does their ability to achieve or not achieve them. A goal may be impossible and the character has to cope, a goal may require several stages - or a goal may be replaced by another. Keep this in mind when writing, and your character will come to life . . .

. . . and so will your world.

One thing often forgotten in writing is that characters affect their settings. When a goal changes, a character may need to do things to reach it - which affects the world. A stolen magical weapon will not be brushed off, the need to spend time in training means other things happen, and so forth.

In short, goals and reaching them have impact on your world. The story doesn’t necessarily end when a goal is reached - as their may be new crises, new goals, some even created by the character's actions.

Of course, not all goals seem to lead to thrilling cliffhanger seat-of-your pants action - nor should they. That's another case where . . .


Not everyone is going to relate to the goals in your stories, to character motivations. That can lead to the simple crisis of "who cares?"

The answer, of course, is the characters.

As a writer, you need to work on drawing people into the character’s motivations. Let them understand, let them relate - or let things be mysterious so they want to unravel the mystery and then understand. Even the smallest personal issue can be pretty important if people are inside the character’s head, living their lives with them.

Don't give into the temptation to "Raise the Stakes" in your story to get the reader's intention, as that leads to . . .


(OK, the joke is lame, but I wanted to keep things from getting to heavy.)

One temptation to get readers to pay attention, or to make the story seem to matter, is to raise the stakes of the storyline. Make things more dangerous, make crises bigger, etc. That may get peoples attention, but it makes a terribly unrealistic story.

I've seen this happen several times - in an attempt to make a story seem interesting or relevant, authors raise the stakes. Soon, your story inflates to overblown activities, crises, and actions, and your world isn't what it was - it's now an attempt to keep people focused.

There are several common ways to "jack up the stakes":

Altering a consistent world just to get attention is a quick way to ruin what you're doing.


Character goals come from your setting and influence it - but don't alter them just to get people to pay attention. Write so they relate and understand.


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