Goals that inspire action

On the last page, we read about Jam needing to patch a wound before her parents came home and found her covered in blood. Here's the snippet again:

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.


That passage ends with a goal: to patch her wound.

The next passage begins with Jam's subsequent behaviour trying to achieve her goal:

Aloe kept a comprehensive first aid kit in the house, accordioned shelves of supplies layered inside, and Jam dragged it out from under the bathroom sink. She stanched the bleeding with wadded paper towels, then pulled out alcohol wipes and a pack of butterfly closures. The cut was clean and deeper than she thought a plain Band-Aid could handle, than she would've thought a razor blade could cause. She made the torn edges kiss and held them together with the closures, then put a wide bandage over all of it. That way she could claim it was a scrape from falling off her bike. They wouldn't ask her too many questions. Every time Jam hurt herself around the house, Bitter shook her head ruefully and just said that Aloe's clumsiness had to have ended up somewhere. Jam shoved the kit back into its place and ran to her room, pulling her bloodied shirt off over her head. She pushed it to the bottom of her laundry basket and was pulling on a clean shirt when she heard the front door open.

Dammit, she thought. There wasn't enough time to go back into the studio. Maybe if she kept them downstairs during dinner?


Notice how at the end of this snippet there's a new trigger, which inspires a new goal?

Here are a couple of worked examples that follow on from the previous page:

He bounded up to the platform. The goose was wrapped in his puffer jacket and he could feel its neck muscles every now and then, twisting like a python. At the top of the stairs he ran to a guard leaning by the turnstiles but before he could even ask for permission the guard waved him through saying, "Just tap your MetroCard, my friend."

Deshawn was taken aback by how easy it was, and he proceeded cautiously, thinking maybe the guard had been talking to someone else. But no, his card beeped, the guard kept waving people through, and Deshawn walked onto the southbound platform.

That's when a man's voice shouted behind him, "Hey, that man's stealing a goose!"

Stealing? Deshawn thought. Who would steal a wild goose? He turned and saw, marching toward him, in tan khakis and a vest, another Black birder. The mean already had his phone out and was either recording or streaming the encounter in case Deshawn decided to deny he had a goose in his jacket. Deshawn was relieved. They were on the same side, maybe even allies. Maybe Deshawn could get him to help carry the goose the rest of the way.

She jogged down the slope, skiing for short distances on loose dirt and rocks, catching tree trunks with her axe to slow herself when she was going too fast. The fire was on her left, to her right the air was still clear and she was looking for any sign of the buggy, a glint of a mirror, anything. If I can get the buggy, I can get out of here, she thought. She was testing routes in her mind as she jogged: down the fire trail, cross the creek, along the foot of the ridge, abandon it and climb the rocks. She pushed through some brush and spilled out onto the trail.

The buggy was twenty yards away. The trees behind her snapped and she heard that breathless roar as the fire grew closer. She lumbered to the buggy, and as she threw herself in, the radio crackled. It was Jarret. "We're cut off to the north, does anyone have another route? Can anyone see anything?"

Dammit, she thought. There would be a way, but only if somebody could spot it. She had to find a new position, fast.

Review your variation from the previous page. Remind yourself of your character's goal at the end.

To write your own variation:

  • Follow your character as they act on the goal from the previous snippet.
  • Describe their behaviour and thoughts as they work towards the goal.
  • Introduce a new trigger.
  • Describe the character's response.
  • End with them thinking of a new goal.
Now write a variation in which the character acts on their goal. At the end, introduce a new trigger and a new goal.

In this example, we've looked at one complete loop: trigger > goal > behaviour > new trigger.

What happens if we keep going and follow one loop after another?