Writing Tips – Character Goals

Further to my entry of a few weeks ago, Is it Hot in Here?, I’ve been working on my characters and story.  As cherryreads commented, they are intertwined, which makes it more complicated. Today I came across some helpful writing advice.

In How to Write a Romance Novel: The Keys to Conflict, romance editor Jennifer Lawler notes that both characters need an internal goal and an external goal. For example, the hero might want to prove himself to his father (internal goal), and do it by tearing down some houses and building a shopping mall (external goal). The heroine might want the security of the familiar (internal goal), and therefore never wants to sell the family home (external goal). It is the external goals that bring the couple into conflict, and make it hard for them to achieve their internal goals. It is the resolution of the internal goals, through character growth and ideally through the relationship, that allows the couple to resolve the external goal. The hero realizes he is living in the past by trying to please his long dead father, and he should concentrate on pleasing the lovely woman in the present. The heroine realizes that security of the familiar can come from people, not buildings. And they live happily ever after.

My story has external goals and conflict. My couple have different goals for a piece of land. (It’s the only thing that matters.) What they lack is sufficient internal goals to make that external goal important. So I need to establish those, and then figure out how the relationship can resolve them. That should give me character, story, and development of both.

I’ve also decided to up the stakes. Originally she owned some land, and he wanted to buy it. Instead, I think I’ll have her about to lose it, and him ordered to facilitate the repossession, or lose his job. Something like that.

I’ve probably read about internal and external goals before. Several other writing sites mention it. I have also recently acquired a set of books on writing, courtesy of a generous friend, and I’m sure it’s in those. I must check them for other tips, rather than spend weeks puzzling until my puzzler is sore.

In other online wandering, I found good practical and entertaining suggestions at  http://howtowritearomancenovel.com/. Writer Margaret Moore has some advice on her site, as well as a reminder that when you are frustrated with writing, review what you are trying to accomplish.  That’s good advice for frustration with anything in your life. Is this job/relationship/hobby/trip helping me meet my life goals?

Back to work…what internal goals are my couple trying to satisfy with this piece of land?