Perhaps you are wondering why I have set aside an entire month to finding and cultivating your novel idea. Perhaps you’re thinking, I already have my idea, so I don’t need to do anything this first month. WRONG.
In my opinion, this is the most crucial time during the entire novel writing process. If you do not start off strong, your story will lose steam partway through. It’s not enough just to come up with an idea, you need to have the RIGHT idea.
This week I’m going to talk about the driving force behind your story, and that’s the protagonist’s objective or motivation. I had a conversation with a friend of mine who was so excited to tell me about all these exciting plot points that she had come up with and after she was done I said to her, “That’s great! But what’s your character’s objective?”
And, alas, she had no answer.
What IS a character objective? An objective is what your character WANTS. It’s the driving force behind them, the thing that makes them get up in the morning and exclaim, “I’m going to finish this quest if it’s the last thing that I do!” This driving force can usually be broken down into some pretty simple categories: Love, Revenge, Power or Sex.
Love is simple enough to understand, they could be trying to win the heart of their one true love or maybe trying to find a cure for an illness for their dying brother. Whatever the case, it all boils down to their intense love for another character who is suffering or in danger and this person has taken it upon themselves to save them, come what may. An example of this is Percy Jackson from Percy Jackson and the Lightening Thief or Belle from Beauty and the Beast.
Revenge, in my opinion, is also simple to understand. Your character was wronged and now he is setting out to make things right or to find justice for himself. Perhaps his family was murdered, or he was scammed out of all his money and now he’s homeless and seeking revenge. Again, whatever the case, he is determined to keep going. It lights a fire in his belly. An example of this is Kaz from Six of Crows or Victor Vale from Vicious.
Power. This one is trickier. It can also mean influence, social standing, respect, etc. Maybe they are planning to assassinate the sitting monarch and their goal is to be the next King. Careful with this one, you need to make sure that your character’s ambition is strong enough to justify the lengths that they’ll go to achieve their end game. An example of this is Lira from To Kill a Kingdom or even Gansey from The Raven Boys.
The last category is Sex. This is not LOVE; this is LUST or INFATUATION. It’s an obsessive lustfulness of another that drives their actions. I would place Bella (Twilight) firmly in this category. She and Edward’s relationship might have developed into love later in the series but in the first book, and maybe even the second, her reckless actions were based off a lustful magnetism for Edward. In the first Falling Kingdom’s book, Magnus’s actions are driven by lust as well.
Now, take their core motivation and spread it out into a one sentence objective or goal.
Example: Gansey from The Raven Boys- Find Glendower.
Percy Jackson - Save his Mother.
Lira from To Kill a Kingdom- Kill the prince and take his heart.
It’s so important for your character to have a strong core motivation and a clear objective otherwise they are nothing more than a plastic sack blowing in the wind. After you figure out that out you can explore the smaller tasks or obstacles that need to be achieved before they reach their overall goal. In order to save his mother Percy must infiltrate the underworld, find the lightening bolt, convince Hades to free his mother, convince Zeus to not destroy the world, etc.
What do you think? Does your protagonist fit into one of these categories? What other categories to do you think should be added to the list? Do you have a clear overall objective in mind for your character?