Friday, August 26, 2011

The Goal of Your Scene

by Scott Rhoades

Last week, I wrote an overview of the structure of a scene. This week, I want to go into a little more detail about the first element of a scene.

Every scene should have a goal. Actually, every scene should have a set of goals that you should consider before you ever set pen to paper, or finger to keyboard, or whatever.

1. Author's Goal: Before you start a scene, you should have some idea what you want to accomplish with your scene. For this goal, consider the reader and how you want her to feel. Will this be a suspenseful scene or a quiet scene? Do you want to introduce a new plot element or character, or resolve something you've started? You can usually tell when an author didn't have a specific goal for the scene, because it rambles and maybe not a lot happens.

2. Scene Goal: The goal of your scene may be closely related to the author's goals, but the perspective is different. Where the author's goal is what you want to accomplish, the scene goal is how the scene furthers the story, what you want the scene to do for the story. This comes down to plot. Maybe your POV character wants to giver her boss a piece of her mind. Maybe she's going to ask for a raise. Maybe you want to move your characters from the Forest of Wylde to the Goopy Swamp. Maybe your character needs to get away from the baddies.

3. Characters' Goals: Each character in the scene has his own personal agenda, and so each character has a goal. Typically, we don't have a lot of trouble thinking of the main character's goal. We might not think about it in enough detail, but at least we know what he wants in general terms. We also know that the antagonist wants to stop the main character from achieving the goal. Sometimes that's as far as we get with Mr. Bad Guy. But why does he want to stop him? Remember, plot is the action, but motivation and emotion are the story. Is the antagonist just evil, so he wants to do bad things? Or is the antagonist basically good, at least from his own perspective, so he wants the same thing the protagonist wants for his own idealistic reasons? If there are other characters in the scene, even minor one, remember that they each have an agenda too, so they each need a goal. If Our Hero stops at a relative's house for a sandwich, the relative has her own life and her own plans. She has to exist for more than making sandwiches for stray relatives. She has her own problems, and approaches the task of making the sandwich from the perspectives brought about by her own issues.

The characters' motivations and perspectives lead you to the next element of the scene, the conflict.

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