See you next time!

Phew! Another big lesson with lots of writing!

But we learned a lot, too:

  • Characters have wants, goals and motivations.
  • Wants can be tangible and intangible—things and experiences.
  • Goals are defined by intention—a want becomes a goal when a character intends to take action.
  • Goals are also defined by challenge, precision, and control—a goal is something you can define, have some influence over, and provides some level of challenge.
  • Reaching or failing at a goal triggers new goals and new behaviour.
  • In emotion-behaviour loop terms, goals are a kind of thought.
  • Goals and motivations can be nested inside each other—you can keep asking 'why' to find deeper layers.
  • Motivation is why a character wants what they want, or does what they do.
  • We can state what characters want and why.
  • We can also describe what characters want in such an evocative way that the reader feels why they want it.
  • This last approach works because motivation and emotion are fundamentally linkedgoals serve some deeper emotional need.
  • If you keep asking why, you can dig down through layers of goals to find the bedrock emotional motivation.
  • Goals can be in conflict— either because two characters have opposing goals, or because one character is struggling with a dilemma.
  • If one character loses the contest of goals, they may have to yield to another character.
  • Happily, characters can also cooperate towards aligned goals.

Stop and focus on a character. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What do they want in this moment?
  • Why do they want it?
  • What happens if you keep asking why? How many layers of goal and motivation can you find?
  • How do you feel about their motivation? Do you empathise? Do you believe it?
  • Does the character have any other goals?
  • Are any goals in conflict? Is the conflict between characters or within a character?

You'll see everything in this lesson start tumbling out.

Look at the people around you and ask yourself:

  • What do they want?
  • Why do they want it?
  • What kind of emotional need does their goal fulfill?
  • What are they doing to achieve their goal?
  • What kind of conflict do they experience, and how do they respond?

Where did the snippets come from?

Rocket Boys cover

Rocket Boys, by Homer Hickman

Three years in the life of Homer Hickam, from the moment he sees the Sputnik satellite overhead in West Virginia to his successful launch of a prizewinning rocket.

Cover of The House on Mango Street

The House on Mango Street, by Sandra Cisneros

A portrait of a Latina girl growing up in Chicago who longs to escape from the oppressive and controlling men in her community and be free to live her own life. Beautiful, poetic, moving.

Cover of The Book Thief

The Book Thief, by Markus Zusak

A poetic epic set during the rise of the Nazis and the horrors of the Second World War, told from the point of view of Death, about a girl who loves books so much she steals them when she can.

Cover of Written in the Stars

Written in the Stars, by Aieesha Said

The story of an American Pakistani girl whose parents catch her with an American boyfriend and then take her to Pakistan where they force her to a marry a complete stranger.

Pet cover

Pet, by Akwaeke Emezi

A world in which monsters have been banished, but a terrifying creature emerges from a bloody painting and draws a child into a hunt for... something even worse.

Cover of Forged by Fire

Forged by Fire, by Sharon M. Draper

The story of a teenage boy who struggles to escape a cycle of family violence and poverty. Full of escalating drama.

Cover of Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia

Growing Up Aboriginal in Australia, edited by Anita Heiss

A collection of personal stories from Aboriginal Australians of all ages and backgrounds, about the shared struggles and joys of being First Nations in a colonial state, and the diversity of individual experience. 

Tom Sawyer cover

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer feature truancy, scams, piracy, murder, grave-robbing, romance, and buried treasure. An American classic.

Cover of I Am Malala

I am Malala, by Malala Yousafzai

The story of girl shot by the Taliban for standing up for education, her survival, and how she became an international symbol of peaceful protest and the youngest person ever to win a Nobel Peace Prize.

That's it! See you next time! 👋