There’s a lot of writing advice that tells you to find your characters’ goals. If you can work out what drives them in their lives, you can use those goals to drive the story.
Most of this advice will tell that your character should have two goals: internal and external. The alcoholic detective’s external need is to find the killer while his internal need is to get over the loss of his wife, which is what drives him to drink. The young student at the school for magic needs to combat evil (external goal) while also trying to win the approval of her peers (internal goal).
Having both an internal and an external goal adds depth to your character. This is what makes them seem more real, more three-dimensional (as the textbooks say).
But characters’ goals change throughout the story. And they usually have many smaller goal to achieve on their way to the final battle. In Star Wars, for example, Luke Skywalker first wants to leave Tattooine, then he has to find Leia, then get off the Death Star, become a Jedi, and only then can he destroy the Death Star.
There is, however, one thing driving the character to meet all those goals, whether they’re internal or external. What really drives characters to achieve their goals are their values, their idea of what is most important in their life. The things that really matter to them. These never change throughout the story, regardless of the goals the characters pursue. Identifying your characters values will help you make sure your character is motivated throughout the story and acts consistently every time. [Read more…]