In this and the following articles, we’ll discover the importance of Goals, Plot Outlines and the Structure of your novel. Today we’ll begin with your Story’s Goal.  What is a story’s goal you may ask?

I did. I couldn’t get my head around what was meant as a ‘goal’ within a story. Can’t I just write and decide later? Yes, you can, and we’ll discuss the merits of knowing your story’s goal, and how it can affect your characters.

You will learn how to outline the arc of your narrative, and what questions need to be asked to move the story on. 


To enable a story to expand, it requires a goal or problem. The growth of the story is how that goal is achieved or how the problem is solved. And is the first and most important element of any plot. The element, in turn, is the organising idea around which the entire plot of your novel will be based.

Without this target, your plot will become just a random series of events with no meaning or purpose – one that will leave the reader wondering, “What was the point of that story.” And you really don’t want that to happen.

With a clear goal, your reader has an understanding that allows an appreciation and of the relevance of each event in the story. It encourages your reader to become emotionally involved in your novel and to care about the outcome and makes the story more meaningful to them.

What is a Story Goal/Target?

Essentially, the story goal is “what the story is about.” It is also a target, aim, objective or a “heading towards.”

However, we need to clarify that a little more, as a story can be about different things, depending on what your main characters want? What problem is he/she trying to solve, and why?

There are many kinds of targets. For instance, you can have an external goal:

  • Doing something, discovering something, resolving a situation, bringing about a desired future, or getting something to change direction.

There are also internal goals:

  • Changing an attitude or opinion, solving an aspect of one’s nature, getting someone else to change, becoming a different person, or taking on a new role.

The simplest way to explain a story goal is what your main character wants to achieve.  To realise the goal, the question to ask, is to identify the story’s primary purpose?

Then ask yourself what are your characters:

  • Ambitions?
  • Desires?
  • Targets?
  • Aspirations?

And what do they what at the end?

The Story’s Goal Affects or Involves Other Characters.

You may get confused when choosing your story goal because the protagonist ( the main character) can have any number of goals or problems in the story. What distinguishes the story’s goal from any other goal is that the story’s goal involves many characters besides the protagonist. In fact, almost every character in your novel will have a stake in whether the story goal is achieved.

For Example:

A young woman discovers her Great Grandmother on the ancestry website.

Her goal is to find out more about her Great Grandmother and to uncover the mystery of a family scandal.

We don’t know about any other characters yet except the young woman and her Great. Grandmother, and possibly a Great Grandfather.  Let’s presume her parents, or other family members don’t want her to find out what happened. – Their goals will be to prevent her from finding anything further about her ancestor. Or maybe it’s as simple as they just don’t want her to leave home and travel halfway around the world on her mission. They are concerned for her; their goal is keeping her safe.

She would then have another goal on top of the main one –to find out the reason why they don’t want her to discover the secret or to travel. Does the young woman have a love interest? What does he want? What problem is he trying to solve? Why does her love interest try to thwart her attempts at achieving her story goal?


Once you have chosen your story’s goal and decided on your characters’ primary objective – take some time to consider how that goal will be important to other characters in your novel. (Previous example)

Are the people in your main characters’ world all struggling with the same kind of issues, for which they must either find or fail to find their own solution? Or are their hopes pinned on the success or failure of the protagonist?

There are so many questions to be answered?

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