Tuesday, May 24, 2011

The Objective Struggle

Endeavor, Strive, Struggle....

As a writer crafts their story from the void of blank pages they maintain narrative cohesion through the basic elements. They keep the piece focused, driven with deep motivations for each of the characters. They gradually escalate the pace to keep the story moving forward. The subplots are interwoven with the story in such a precise manner that the main plot would fold without them. The reader can not resist, they are pulled into the narrative and swept away by its spell. They hurry to the completion of the story but begin to wonder. The spell draws to a close and the audience is released but they soon forget about it. 

What happened?

Far too often a writer will forget one of the most important elements in a story. A point.  An objective.

As the creator perfects their premise they need to have an objective in mind for the premise. The point of a narrative is not only to capture their audience with an elaborate and entrancing spell but to alter the characters within the piece. Every step along the journey, every character caught up in the primary premise and even the premise itself should have an objective.

In the narrative the journey is broken into scenes and chapters, stages along the way that push the characters towards completion. It is here that many will often falter. There are scenes that must be enacted to progress the overall premise but they should each have their own objective. This is also where objectives can become confusing. Introducing a new character or exploring the recently introduced characters can be a piece of this objective but not the entire objective. These stages of the journey can envisioned as primary objectives and sub-objectives. In a mystery this would be a pivotal clue that is discovered while a couple of secondary characters that are pivotal later are introduced would be a sub-objective of a chapter.

Just as every stage of a story is assigned an objective, every character that is introduced must also serve a purpose. Sure there are characters that can be introduced whose objective may seem missing to the audience but if they have a solid objective, then it will be apparent later. Nothing can be more jarring for the audience than being introduced to a character that does not serve a purpose. Now whether these characters support the main characters or have their own agenda is irrelevant. They must have their own objective in the story. An objective can be as simple as adding background details in a piece or as complex as expanding on the details of the primary premise.

The largest error for most writers, most spell-crafters, is failing to address an objective for the primary premise. The creator was a genius spell-crafter capturing the attention of their audience and keeping their attention but when they reach the end of their piece the audience should not be left wondering what was the point of the story. There are many different objectives that can be assigned to a premise but the end result of a narrative is that the character that the audience followed is no longer the same as they were in the beginning of the piece.

As a story is crafted it is necessary for the writer to not only establish the world, characters and premise but to establish the objectives for every element of the piece.

What are your objectives for your characters? Chapters? What about your plot?


Michele Shaw said...

Ugh, the old "failure to deliver." The worst thing about this is making a reader mad. Sometimes they feel duped out of their precious time. We NEVER want that. My overall objective is to tell the story seamlessly. I hate choppy books, so with that in mind, I'm always concerned with transitions and one point leading logically to the next. Another great post, PW!

PW.Creighton said...

Michele, thanks for the comment. That's a great way of putting it, 'choppy books.' It's not necessarily the transitions that catch you so much as answering 'what was the point of that?' If the audience can answer that question for each element there won't be a frustrating finish.

Jacqvern said...

Interesting post :)

Well, tough stuff. A general objective (or goal) for the book and specific objectives for tha chapters and for each scene. Not to say about the characters.

The objective issue is what answers the "WHY" questions, which should be anticipated before the readers ask them.

A table is needed (I use Excel) to establish objectives and follow them up. Are they clearly defined? Do they work? Are they achieved in a satisfactory manner? Etc.

Thank you for the post :)

Natalie C. Markey said...

Great point! I loved what Bob Mayer said in a Warrior Writer Workshop. He advised writing your kernel idea somewhere visible to where you write. I keep mine on a hot pink sticky note taped to the left of my desk. My mess of notes goes on the right... Great topic as always!

PW.Creighton said...

Jacqvern, thank you for the comment! It is a very strong piece of a narrative and far too often writers forget to actually give every element an objective to accomplish.

Natalie, Bob is definitely hitting the nail on the head. I prefer to think of the elements as having a series of objectives. When the objective is reached, when and where. Accomplish the objective and there is no question left unanswered. Thanks for stopping by!

Jill Kemerer said...

Yeah, before each scene I figure out the objective. What is supposed to happen? How will it further the story? Sometimes I have to admit when a scene's objective isn't very strong and beef it up.

PW.Creighton said...

Jill, that's exactly it. It's almost like a pre-flight check list. If it isn't checked off then you may crash. Thank you for the comment!

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