Sunday, 30 May 2010

Have I got it right?

Plotting and characterisation merge together in some strange ways. Lately I’ve been thinking about editing, which means I’ve been wondering if my wip has a clear story goal. Does my protagonist’s problem turn into a goal or a quest, and is it interesting? Is it dangerous? Can he achieve it easily, or with great difficulty? Does it matter, in the scheme of things – in the world of the book, will anything change if he succeeds? Or if he fails?
I think I’m OK on story goal. Then there are scene goals.
Scene goals are trickier by far, in my view. It is easy to fill chapters with goals that seem important, but don’t cause the Protagonist (P) much grief. But if I swing the other way, then I’ll have goals that are so unrealistic as to be laughable. The goals need to be somewhere in the middle. Daring, stretching the P, but not beyond possibility.

Scene goals can be clear and bright in the author’s mind, but may never actually reach the page; or they reach it in such a diluted, understated way that the reader misses them completely. This is particularly true of the unimportant goals. Overreaching scene goals tend to send the reader off into gales of laughter. They get noticed, but not in the way you or I want.

Or there may be so many small scene goals in the same chapter, or following so closely one after the other that confusion sets in and the poor reader raises eyes to heaven and quietly puts the book back on the shelf.

Another problem is that the scene goal, or story goal, in this case, may be fine, but doesn’t match up to the P’s character. Rather like asking a chick-it heroine in kitten heels to suddenly start behaving like a female James Bond and save the world. It may be a good plot, but would be much more believable with an ex-SAS type, or similar, as hero/ine.
And always there’s the dreaded risk that scene goal(s) and the situation may be so clich├ęd that the book is simply flat and uninteresting.
Right. I’ve read through the above three times. Now, if I get it all right, I should have a winner on my hands. Oh, that I should be so lucky!

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