View Full Version : When Your Characters' Goals Get Lost Due to Focusing on the Plot

September 1st, 2020, 04:48 PM
I just finished a draft of my current WIP, and was going to submit it to an editor a few days ago. However, I felt that the characterization was too weak and the plot was too rushed. I reread the beginning of the draft and came across some goals my characters had that I got completely forgotten about later. So, I am going to let the manuscript rest for a few weeks or so and work on the synopsis for my next project. I am using a different approach for that, so it doesn't take too long.
Anyway, for my current WIP, I've already brainstormed some ideas to enhance the characterization as well as the plot. A few ideas include an extra POV or two, some new scenes and expansion on certain scenes and pacing as necessary, and adding scenes that really could work and be needed. Of course, I won't use too many different POV's. Just a few in addition to the MC's POV. Obviously, most chapters will be from the MC's POV.
Has anyone ever experienced this issue where characters' goals get lost and forgotten about due to the writer (you or somebody else) focusing more on the plot? Also, would you recommend against working toward editor deadlines since it can risk making the manuscripts sloppy and clearly rushed?

September 1st, 2020, 07:35 PM
Edited...I think I didn't know what I was talking about...:distracted:

September 2nd, 2020, 01:06 AM
Then change it. Change the character, change the goals or change the manuscript. Do whatever it takes to make it work.

September 2nd, 2020, 01:20 AM
I just wrote down revision ideas and will return to the manuscript in a few weeks. In the meantime, I will work on my next story.

September 2nd, 2020, 05:18 AM
I think its best that if a character has a goal, its best for that goal to be related to the plot. Otherwise, it risks becoming pointless filler. If their desires and goals have nothing to do with the plot, then what are they even doing in the story? Maybe find a way to bridge the gaps between what the characters are after and the plot points.

September 2nd, 2020, 01:26 PM
That is a very good point.

David K. Thomasson
October 12th, 2020, 04:14 PM
Has anyone ever experienced this issue where characters' goals get lost and forgotten about due to the writer ... focusing more on the plot?
I think this problem arises from a fundamental confusion about the relation between characters and plot. A plot is a series of events -- actions taken by the characters. Why do they take these actions? In pursuit of their goals. The events that constitute the plot are (or should be) dictated by the characters' goals.

A useful mnemonic is DOA:

D (desire): A character wants something, has some goal.
O (obstacle): When he pursues that goal, he encounters problems, obstacles.
A (action): The character acts to overcome the obstacles and reach his goal.

D: Rocky just wants to "go the distance" with Apollo Creed.
O: He's out of shape. He thinks he's a bum, a nobody.
A: He gets over his anger at Mick and trains with him. He starts dating Adrian, who believes in him and tells him he isn't a bum and a nobody.

If you keep these relations in mind, you won't think about plot (A) as separate from characters' goals (D) and the obstacles (O) they must confront.

October 12th, 2020, 08:10 PM
The plot should flow from the wants of the characters. This shouldn't be an either/or question.

October 12th, 2020, 08:57 PM
If the characters aren't driving the plot, then something is wrong. If the character motivations aren't being addressed, something is wrong. If the character arc doesn't get wrapped up by the end, something is wrong. Character and plot are not two different things. They need to mesh to have a decent story.

October 12th, 2020, 09:08 PM
Yeah. It's best to not fall into the "the plot knows where you live" trap (not that I haven't fallen into it as well).

EDIT: you can always try the "here are some characters and predicaments. Let's see what they do," approach.