Events that inspire a goal

If you've done the lesson on Emotional Cause and Effect, you'll remember the emotion-behaviour loop.

In terms of that loop, goals are a kind of thought.

For example, can you see a goal emerging from Jam's thoughts in this snippet?

Her hand was stinging, and the blood had started dripping off her palm and onto her shirt. Jam got up quickly and left the studio, closing the door firmly behind her. She paused for a moment, wondering if she should have cleaned up the mess she'd made in there first, but the dampness spreading on her shirt reminded her how bad it would be if her parents came home to find her literally covered in blood. She needed to patch up this wound immediately so she could clean the studio before her blood dried completely into the floors—she'd never be able to hide it from Bitter then.

  • Trigger: Jam is bleeding.
  • Behaviour: She reacts immediately, leaving the studio and closing the door. But then she stops to think.
  • Thought: She realises she has a problem; she needs to clean up the blood. But she can't do that while she's still bleeding.
  • Goal: Still thinking, she decides that she needs to get herself patched up immediately and then clean the studio ASAP.

We can see that in this instance, the goal arises out of an external event that forces the character to respond.

Here are a couple of examples that show events inspiring a character's goal:

The driver dropped him off at the Middletown Rd station around the corner from the Burger King. Deshawn shimmied out of the back, goose in his arms, and bumped the door closed with his hip. He'd been looking at his phone the whole way, trying to figure out the best place to go. There were plenty of vets, but this did not seem like your everyday vet situation, so he'd decided on a specialist wild bird clinic right on Central Park, assuming he could get that far. The bus lady had said trains didn't care what you brought on, so he was going to test that on the 6 Southbound.

The sky cleared, the sun baked, and the fire crossed the first trigger point. Monica started packing her gear while she radioed Jarret. This is going to go bad she thought. The air's too dry, the wind's too fast. If it changes direction, we're all gone. She had to get off this position, but first she had to make sure Jarret knew she was relocating.

To write your own variation:

  • Think of an event that would trigger immediate action from your character.
  • Describe their train of thought about the current situation.
  • Then follow that train of thought to a resulting goal.
Describe a character forming a goal in response to a trigger.

If you know the emotion-behaviour concept from the Emotion lessons, then you remember that loops cause other loops in an ongoing chain.

Does that mean that goals trigger other goals?