What does my character want? (Step 1)

Sorry for the delay in posting my thoughts on what my main character wants.  Sometimes life has a way of intervening in our best-laid plans.  In our case, it was the departure of our son, daughter-in-law, and two beloved little grandsons for a two-year tour overseas that has occupied us for most of the past week.  We all live (well, lived) in the same area and got together often for family dinners, so it has been very difficult to bid bon voyage to them as they head off to Ethiopia.  But change is part of all our lives, and my husband and I are now trying to focus on the bright side.  This will be a good experience for them, and perhaps we can even go there to visit.  Thank goodness, too, for Skype and FaceTime!  In all this, I try to think of sharks, who must keep swimming forward or die.  (Not that I liken myself or my family to sharks, but you know what I mean.)  Adapting to change keeps us flexible and alert, not ossified and complacent.

Sigh.  (We really do miss the little grandsons!)

Okay, no use indulging in self-pity — it’s time to lay out what my character wants.  What is her goal (and in this case, the main character is indeed a woman), and what does she feel passionately about?

This ended up taking more time than I’d anticipated, in part because I jumped ahead to Step 2 and began to define my main character’s flaw.  Doing that made me realize that her goal was not really as well-defined as it could be, and I spent more time then thinking about that goal and reworking it.  Now, this goal may well sound a little blah and trite, but keep in mind that it’s just the beginning goal and it can and will change over time as my character reacts to things that happen in the story.  Here goes.

My main character’s goal at the outset of the book is to have a close, mutually supportive family circle that is anchored by a strong relationship with her husband.  She especially wants a warm relationship with her children; she wants them to enjoy her company, to want to spend time with her, to seek her out. This desire stems from her own experience growing up, when she was shuttled back and forth between divorced parents who tended to put more importance on minimizing the time she spent with the other parent than on building a relationship with her.  As a result, she did (and still does) not feel very close to either parent; the constant moving between houses also increased her sense of uprootedness.

In sum, her goal is to create with her children the kind of family bond and shared experiences that she craved but did not have herself.

In the interest of full disclosure, I’ve already viewed a number of Martha’s videos in this series and can say already that my character’s goal will indeed change over time.  And this book is not a book about personal relationships but about something else (who was in the basement room and why?).  So bear with me — as the storyline continues to grow and take shape in my mind, my character’s goal will be an important but not an overwhelming part of the narrative.

The second step is to define my character’s internal flaw:  what is the main flaw that will undermine, even sabotage, her ability to achieve her goal?  And how will she resolve this clash between goal and flaw?  Stay tuned!


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