29 April 2008

DREAMS VERSUS GOALS

I received this question from Livvy a long, long time ago, and am only now answering. My apologies, Livvy. I'll get to your other questions soon......

Hi Martha,

While rereading your book for inspiration, I came across a few points that I would like some clarification on.

The Overall Story Goal; The Protagonist's Personal Goal; and the Protagonist's Dream.

So what is the difference between a Protagonist's personal goal and Dream?

The grand question is if a Dream is not attainable and goals are,
then how can the long-term story goal be more of a dream than a goal? Don't we want to have a story goal that is eventually attainable at the end of the story resulting from the character's internal & physical journey?

If we utilize a "Dream" as "THE STORY GOAL" and the only way to attain it is with a little magic, wouldn't that be more like "deus ex machina"? A writing device that cheats a reader out of a more realistic and natural occurance of events?

Would it make more sense to refer a protagonist's dream as his/her desire instead?? which can be separate from the story goal and not always attainable. So when this desire/dream is attainable, it gets attained or resolved at the resolution, since the climax is reserved for resolving the Major Story Goal.

I look foreward to hearing back from you soon and anyone else who would like to contribute to this posting, to clear this up for me.

Thanks in advance!

My answer:

Excellent analysis, Livvy! Very well put.

Yes, the character's personal goal and the overall story goal needs to be attainable by the character. The character may need help, but he or she must be the initiator of the ultimate action that creates the fulfillment of the story goal at the Climax. This is true even for children's books and young adult novels. The child or teen in the story may need the help of an adult or the police or a teacher or whomever, but the teen or child must initiate the action and/or the call for help.

Often, the story goal that begins the story changes because of the action that happens at the End of the Beginning (the first 1/4 of the page count for the book) and catapults the protagonist into the very heart of the story world -- The Middle (1/2 of the page count).

One technique to creating depth in a story is to create lots of goals throughout the story -- a romantic goal, a mystery goal, a personal goal, a political goal, a dramatic action goal, etc. Goal setting, as I have said before, is easier for Dramatic Action-driven and left-brained writers, and more difficult for Character-driven and right-brained writers. Goals ground the story and allow the reader or movie-goer to know what is at stake for the character and thus root for their success, mourn for their failure.

I recently finished Cara Black's, Murder in Montmartre. In this mystery, Aimee's overall story goal is to prove her friend did not kill her partner and thus absolve her of the crime. Aimee also has a personal goal and that is to solve a mystery about her father. Both of these goals help keep her at the task at hand even when the stakes are at their highest and the most dangerous.

Dreams or desires add yet another layer. Since dreams generally rely on the help of others or a bit of magic, they can create an added twist at the end of the story. For instance, most writers I work with have the specific goal of finishing their WIP (work-in-progress). Beyond that, most first-time writers dream of securing an agent. Published writers with an agent often dream of one of the following: to win the Pulitzer Prize, appear on Oprah, and/or be listed on the New York Times best seller list.

These writers' dreams are usually beyond the writer's direct control. The writer writes the very best product they are capable of writing. They send out queries. But, as in creating any deep connection, the agent figures into the equation. If they have just signed on a new writer, chances are they won't sign on another new writer right away. If they have a stack of manuscripts a mile-high waiting on their desks, they look for excuses to reject. If they have a full list of writers, they may not be willing to add yet another. And so on.......

At the beginning of Black's murder mystery, she shows Aimee's boyfriend breaking up with her. Throughout the story we feel Aimee's loneliness and how much she misses her beau and longs for love. Thus, when she unexpectedly finds a man who excites her passion, the story takes on added depth and excitement. By Aimee finding love and achieving her dream, an added element is created = the reader is excited about the next book in the series coming out in order to learn if the two lovers last as a couple, or not.

What is your character's story goal? What is her dream? How they work together or against each other in the story overall???

23 April 2008

Guest Blogging

Tomorrow, Thursday, 4/24th, I'm guest blogging at The Graveyard Shift, Lee Lofland's blog. Lee Lofland is a retired police detective and the author of Police Procedures & Investigations: A Guide for Writers. Please stop by and say hello.

E is for Excellence



Plot Whisperer for Writers and Readers has just won its second award! Dorlana from Supernatural Fairy Tales presented the honors. Please accept my humble gratitude, Dorlana. Thank you!

The Rules: By accepting this Excellent Blog Award, you agree to award it to 10 more people whose blogs you find Excellent Award worthy. You can give it to as many people as you want but please award at least 10. You deserve this! Feel free to recognize blogs that have already received this award. (Just copy the graphic.)

Daily Coyote
Graveyard Shift
Nature Shows and Dreams
Vespa Vagabond
Becky Levine
Susan Writes

That's it for now. I'll add the others when more time opens up.

Thanks again Dorlana.

10 April 2008

Keeping Your Plot Organized

Many of the writers I work with are intensely right-brained, highly creative, chronically disorganized dreamers. These writers seem to gravitate toward me because they crave focus, accountability, and organization.

One particularly theoretical writer and imaginative thinker has trouble separating himself from the science and creation of his story's unusual world. This writer is in the zone, haunted by the story. However, rather than get down to the business of writing the story, he resorts to researching and planning and planning and researching the overall series.

In our first session, I pull him out of his head and back into his body by redirecting his attention back to his story, the characters, the writing of the moment-by-moment action on the page. I sense his initial blurry vision when he attempts to refocus his attention on how one scene causes the next scene causes the next scene.

He's spent the past three years on the first 50 pages of the first book in his planned series. Granted, he has done extensive research. Still, when he finally does focus on his story, he's stuck.

I strongly believe in supporting writers to write an entire draft all the way through, no matter how rough or awful, to the Climax without going back to the beginning. To that end, I recommended this writer to print out the first 50 pages he's perfected over the years and the other 50 pages of rough draft he's written. Put the hard copy of the first 100 pages of his proposed 400 page book into a binder. Every time he finishes a chapter, which to fit his desired deadline works out to 6 pages 5 days a week, he is to print what he's done and put that in the binder, too.

Once the chapter is in the binder, he is not allowed to read it again until he finishes his entire rough draft. If he needs to make notes to himself or refer back to a scene, he relies on the Scene Tracker he fills out for each chapter.

This way, when he finally does reach his deadline, he will read his entire story with fresh eyes.

Even better, if he adheres to the plan, he'll quit going back over and over and over what he's already written, and instead, get his rough draft written.

Do you perfect as you go or knock out a rough draft first? How long does it take you to write a rough draft? Any tricks to keep yourself going forward and prevent yourself from continually going back to the beginning?

Thanks........ Writer to writer...........