Skip to main content

Going nowhere

“A book in which a character lacks solid story goals is a book that’s not going to work.”
I have struggled quite a lot with my current book, the third in the Two-Natured London series. The motives of my characters have caused me great trouble. The reason for it stems from my writing style. Im a ‘pantser’, I make things up as I write. However, this time round I had outlined the characters and thought out their motives, but as the story evolved the characters evolved too. Their motives changed, which forced me to rewrite the first half of the book.

But the book still lacks the special quality that will bring it alive. I couldn’t figure out what it was, but a timely blog post by K. M. Weiland rescued me. Incidentally, if you haven’t read her posts, do. She gives excellent writing advice to beginners and more experienced writers alike. The opening quote is from the post too.

Her post is about one of the most common writing mistakes: Characters who lack solid story goals. She differentiates three types of story goals:
  1. Scene goals
  2. Life goals
  3. Plot goals
She also brings up reasons why your story might lack strong goals:
  1. You entered the story without an ending in mind 
  2. You want to make sure you have enough material left over for a sequel
  3. You’re fascinated by your character’s daily life
You can find more detailed account on her blog.

Reading her post, I instantly realised that lack of goals was my problem too, more specifically lack of life goals. There are plot and scene goals aplenty. Partly this is because I had changed the motives of my characters. I had lost the sight of where they were going or wanted to go. My hero used to have a clear goal. He even stated it aloud, saying something like “my goal in life is…”, but that got deleted when his motivations changed.

My heroine, however, kind of lacked a life goal from the beginning. She has a negative goal though. She wants to avoid her mother’s fate. But she is not striving for anything, she has no plans. I think it has to do with her being a vampire. In my Two-Natured London universe, vampires are very long-lived and she is only a century old. It’s difficult to imagine what sort of goals a person might have when they practically have an eternity to live. So – rather logically, I think – a vampire doesn’t have any goals, she doesn’t need them. She is in no hurry to make plans.

My book doesn’t cover an eternity, however. It barely covers a couple of days. It needs clear goals that will make sense within its span. That will be easy to fix though, and hopefully it will bring that spark to my book too. So all is not lost.

I’ll leave you with another quote from Weiland’s post: 
“Without solid plot goals, there just simply isn’t going to be much of a plot.” 
Let that be your lesson for today.


Popular posts from this blog

My #worldcon75 experience

Here’s the long overdue report from my day at the WorldCon 75, my first ever time attending. The event was held on August 9-13 in my home country, Finland, so it was a once in a life-time chance to experience it with a minimum trouble. I originally thought to attend the entire five days, but life intervened in the form of work, and so I could only attend on Saturday. I tried to make the most of it by planning a full day.

I arrived at the conference centre about fifteen minutes after the doors opened at nine in the morning, and the queue was already at least fifty metres long. It caused me a few palpitations until I figured it was the line for people who hadn’t purchased their day passes in advance. I had, so I just walked past, trying not to look gleeful. Half an hour later I felt bad for all those people when it was announced that the day was sold out, which left most of them outside. The queue for pre-purchased passes was three persons long, the shortest line for me the entire day. I…

Reading recap: August

August was my worst reading month so far and I only managed to finish two books. I have no excuses other than that I was busy working. I did start two more books, but I didn’t manage to finish them in August. And even though I read eight books in July, I’m now two books behind the schedule in my reading challenge of fifty-five books. I’ll have to step up. As has been my habit throughout the year, one book was from my reading list and the other wasn’t.
First book was Ride the Storm by Karen Chance, the long-awaited next chapter in her Cassandra Palmer urban fantasy series of time-travelling Pythia and her entourage of vampires, demons and mages. One vampire and one mage in particular. As always, it was a wild romp through space and time – at times a bit too wild. The first part of the book was constant tumbling from crisis to battle and back with no breathers or plot development in between, as if the author was afraid that the reader will get bored if something earth-shattering isn’t co…

Working with the editor: a case study

Editing has been on my mind lately, as I’ve been preparing Tracy Hayes, P.I. with the Eye for publishing. As a happy coincidence, Delilah S. Dawson had a lengthytweet chain about the topic too, prompted by her annoyance with aspiring authors unwilling to make changes that editors suggest to their books. Her response, in short, was that no author escapes the changes, so you’d better get used to them from the start. Her notes are useful to read in full.

She was speaking from the point of view of a traditionally published author who has more than one set of editors making suggestions and demands, all of which strive to make the book as good as possible. She doesn’t claim it’s easy to let other people to have their say, but that it’s necessary.
Listening to one’s editor is even more crucial for self-publishing authors, as we lack the gatekeepers of traditional publishing. If you’re lucky, you find one who understands your writing, and who isn’t afraid to tell you how you can improve it. If …