In the last Writing Tips post, I talked about character goals in fiction. Of course, a novel is rarely sustained by one goal. More often, it’s either a succession of goals for one hero or a goal for every leading character, when we have more than one. I usually have one lead character, sometimes two, but my protagonists tend to have more than one goal, even in short stories.
In my novel EAGLE AN GARDE (which won the 2015 EPIC eBook Award in the Fantasy category), the hero Darin has several goals, increasingly difficult as the story progresses.
- He wants to regain his ability to fight after a severe wound.
- He wants to help a young witch to escape religious fanatics.
- He wants to save the elven traders at a fair from bullies.
- He wants to thwart a sinister kingdom-wide plot against magic.
His goals often overlap in time but upgrade in meaning. In the first one, his only beneficiary is himself. In the second, one young witch. In the third, a group of elves. In the last, the entire kingdom. This escalation in the goals’ intensity is paramount to keep the tension high, but it’s not the only way to keep a story interesting.
Sometimes the heroine’s several goals intertwine, and sometimes they contradict each other, creating an inner conflict and forcing her to choose. In my short story THE ANSWER IS YES, the heroine’s initial goal is to build a peaceful life with her lover. He is a thief, and she wants him to stop his criminal activities. She wants a secure family. Then something happens, and she must change her goal, upgrade it. She can’t have a peaceful family life with him anymore. To save his life, she has to abandon him for a road unknown. How would she choose? To learn, read the story here.