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EDIT ME — Goal, Motivation, Conflict

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Goal, Motivation, Conflict? WTH is that?

It’s the essence of your book. When I edit, I look for these things. If I don’t find them already present in the text, I suggest them. If they are written in, I try to strengthen them.

What are they?


This is the character’s goal, not yours. (smiley face) Max could want to own a strip club. Kayla might have a lifelong dream to become a pole dancer. Booyah! A book is born.

In all seriousness, the goal must be easily identified by the reader. Goals can’t be hidden by some deep meaning no one will ever get. Sometimes smacking the reader on the head with the goal is best — Mandy needed to get married by the end of the month or she was doomed to be a 40-year-old spinster!

Goals drive your readers to cheer for the character. Goals propel your book forward. And here’s an eye-opener:

Your main characters (and villain if you have one) must have goals. The heroine can’t just be mashed potatoes to the hero’s steaky self. She needs to have a goal too or she’s just fluffy white stuff.

Goals can be internal or external. Personally I work better with external: get the horses to auction on the other side of the state during a blizzard, open the Chamber of Secrets and find out what’s petrifying students.

False Goals might be something the character believes he is working toward, when a brand new goal blindsides him. While the cowboy drives the horses to auction in a blizzard, he comes across a woman alone on the prairie who has no idea who she is. BAM! New goal.


Motivation drives the character to the goal. It can only strengthen the goal, which makes readers cheer more. Also, your character may have more than one goal. With this said, there might be internal and external motivations as well. The cowboy is driven to find the lost woman’s family because that’s what his gut tells him to do–not because she asked him to help her.

Motivations might also change throughout the story, which only gives you more stuff to write about. Win-win.


Conflict is defined as…

1. A state of open, often prolonged fighting; a battle or war.
2. A state of disharmony between incompatible or antithetical persons, ideas, or interests; a clash.
3. Psychology A psychic struggle, often unconscious, resulting from the opposition or simultaneous functioning of mutually exclusive impulses, desires, or tendencies.
4. Opposition between characters or forces in a work of drama or fiction, especially opposition that motivates or shapes the action of the plot.
intr.v. (kn-flkt) con·flict·ed, con·flict·ing, con·flicts

1. To be in or come into opposition; differ.
2. Archaic To engage in warfare.
(compliments of FreeDictionary.com)
This means you get to torture your characters. Throw conflicts at them. The hero puts the heroine on the horse, and she gallops off without him, stealing his horse.
A conflict is something that stands in the way of the character reaching his goal. Again, internal and external. Cowboy is conflicted about finding lost woman’s family because he needs to get these horses to auction. Then he doesn’t want to find her real identity at all because he wants to keep her. Maybe they also run into horse thieves or get hung up by a sheriff and detained for stealing horses they didn’t really steal.
See how we’re building a book without even trying?
Goal, motivation, and conflict are your friends. Use them, people!

Thanks for reading!


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