On an earlier post, I talked about the importance of your characters having a strong motivation for what they do. The fantastic book and movie, “The Princess Bride” provided a rich history of its characters’ motivation.
All characters need a goal, and “The Princess Bride” is no exception. Let’s explore further:
The importance of character goals
The goal is the “what” of your character’s journey through the story. It’s a need, an object or desired outcome. Goals can be anything, no matter how unbelievable to the reader, as long as the reader buys into the concept that the character believes in it. The reader must be convinced the protagonist and antagonist will lose everything if they don’t obtain it.
External goals are concrete and simple
- Kill the six-fingered man
- Rescue Buttercup from Vizzini, Fezzik and Inigo
Internal goals are needed for emotional satisfaction
- Inigo is blindly loyal to Vizzini because the hunchback saved him from giving up. If he could not avenge his father, he would stay loyal to Vizzini
- Humperdinck is a noted hunter and kills without remorse, yet he elaborately plans the war with Guilder so he does not appear as a heartless invader but as a mourning husband seeking revenge
Goals can change. The character might not be aware of what he needs at the beginning of the story. As an author, it’s your job to peel back the different layers until his true goal is revealed. Is Inigo’s goal to revenge his father’s death or to make up for not defending him?
Goals must be strong enough to motivate your character to withstand unrelenting conflict. He can’t throw up his hands and walk away. Whatever is driving him pushes him further and further into the abyss of hopelessness. All soon may be lost, but he carries on.
Review the goals of your characters and strengthen them if they seem weak. Be your own Inigo, seeking revenge even though you’ve been stabbed. Pursue your goal to the very end until it’s resolved or you’ve met defeat. There shouldn’t be a half-hearted attempt.
I’ll explore conflict in my next post.