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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

March Madness, Part 2--Keeping An Eye On The Prize

On Monday, I discussed the importance of a coach staying in control of his players. Let's say he's managed to do so, and he's led his team right into the NCAA tournament. Now what? The coach must keep his players focused on achieving their goals. They have come into the tournament with the clearly defined external goal of winning the National Championship, right? My guess is, though, that they also each have their own set of internal goals. It's these goals that make them stronger players. As authors, we have to give our characters both external and internal goals. In my opinion, the external goals are easy. You put your characters in a story with a solid premise, and you already have the external goal. The internal goals, on the other hand, are much more difficult to develop. I spent a great deal of time during my rewrites strengthening my protagonist's internal goals. They weren't non-existent before, but they were weak and lacked depth. I think my time was well worth it. Have you spent as much time developing your characters' internal goals as you have the external ones? Yes, you say? I thought I had too, but I was wrong. Take another look. It can't hurt. In fact, it might make the difference in getting your team to the next round. Stop back by Friday for a discussion on another part of the character formula: motivation.

30 comments:

Paul Greci said...

Thanks, Susan. I'm working on internal motivation right now, during my revision. I think you are right. It can't hurt to take another look!

destrella said...

Great analogy! :O)

Stina Lindenblatt said...

You're right, it's so easy to lose sight of your mc's internal motivation when you're focused on the external conflict. It's a good idea to go through each scene with that specifically in mind.

Weronika Janczuk said...

Susan, as always, I follow all your posts - this one is wonderful! I agree with destrella: super good analogy!

Thanks!

Heather Sunseri said...

Funny question for me today. I found when writing my synopsis that I was much more clear on my character's internal goals than I was her external goal. let's just say, my synopsis opened my eyes to some issues that needed to be better defined/developed in my manuscript.

I'm liking your posts this week. i'm a huge UK fan, so March Madness is pretty big in my area!

Dominique said...

This is a tricky question for my WIP. Curse you for making me think.

My MC and a lot of the other characters have a similar internal motivator in a lot of the scenes: Make it through the day without being arrested, and get your friends through in a similar manner. She has a few others, but that one stays in the foreground through much of the story.

Now, I'm going to have to think if I should be bringing the other motivations more to the fore. Why are you so clever and thought-inducing?

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

It takes a lot of time but is completely worth it! Thanks for this reminder!

Angie Muresan said...

I agree with this and I'm currently working on the internal goals of my characters.

Tamika: said...

Great points Susan! I can say for sure I need to strengthen my internal goals. I know what they are as the writer, but conveying has not been done well.

In all honesty I'm still learning their internal motivations myself. *Sigh*

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L. T. Host said...

Great. Give me something else to think about, why don't you?

:) Good post... and definitely food for thought-- in a good way!

T. Anne said...

This is a great post. I really need to pause my WIP and evaluate the motivations of each character. It is what drives the story and I want my story line to remain strong, even though I feel it flailing a bit.

Patti said...

I'm probably like you. I focus too much on external goals. Great post, something for me to think about. I think I might go back to the almost dead horse and beat it one more time.

Karen said...

I have to go back and reread, but I think I have the opposite problem. I think I might focus too much on internal goals and not show enough external conflict, etc.

Good post! Great topic to think about!

Melissa said...

Yes, I absolutely need to take another look at my characters' internal goals. I know I have them, but my real focus now is to just finish the first draft. Once I'm on to revisions, then I can add the layers that will make them hopefully stand out.

K.M. Weiland said...

Great post. In my current rewrite, I've been revamping my character's inner goals - and now suddenly he's popping off the page. Having lots of fun!

Elana Johnson said...

Sometimes I think internal goals are actually easier. For me. But you're right. A mix is needed to make the character believable and 3-dimensional.

Carolyn V. said...

I wrote some goals for each of my characters in my WIP. I can't believe how quickly the story came together, because I knew why they would react. It was great! Thanks for the reminder Susan! =)

Erica said...

Oh yeah, the iternal goals *head smack* I have trouble with those too - I'm sure I'm missing something. It's that dang character development again - I gotta get better at it!

Great post ;o)

MG Higgins said...

Great tip, Susan. I'm gong to add it to my "to do" list for deepening my WIP.

#167 Dad said...

Thanks, Susan. I was just thinking back to my days in acting class. We used to talk a lot about internal and external motivation. Interesting.

Susan Fields said...

I totally agree - the internal goals are so much harder to develop than the external goals, but so necessary! Good advice - I will go back and take another look.

Solvang Sherrie said...

That inner journey is so much harder to write, but it adds so much to the story. Lucky for me, I have a critique partner who is SO good at helping identify and deepen those themes. I'm so glad to have her help.

Stephanie Thornton said...

Hmmm... I've never thought about it, but I think you're right. External goals are easy-peasy, but internal ones are more difficult, especially if you don't know your characters that well.

Jody Hedlund said...

I agree! Our characters have to have goals, motivations, and conflicts (GMC). I initially try to outline my characters internal and external GMC's for various plotlines. It helps add depth to the story for sure!

Mary Campbell said...

Now that I think about it, I'm not sure about their internal goals. I need to ponder this.

Jennifer Shirk said...

YES!! Internal goals are THE hardest. In fact, I had to go and re-examine mine last week because I just wasn't feeling their "issues" enough. :)

Kathy said...

Thanks for giving me something to think about.

David F. Weisman said...

I'm going to take another look, but I think I have, even though I didn't divide up the goals that way.

Jade said...

I think with my new WiP, I have although I'm only on the 1st draft so it will need work.

Internal goals are hard and I do struggle with them.

Thanks for another great post.