I've been doing some manuscript critiques lately. (See my rates and recommendations here).
I often wind up discussing plot in terms of Goal – Motivation – Conflict.
What do they want to achieve? (Goal)
Why is it important? (Motivation)
· Why is it difficult? (Conflict) It should be very difficult (as appropriate for the age of characters and readers)!
The motivation determines the stakes. Stakes don’t need to be physical; good stakes may be the risk of losing friends, family, love, dignity, reputation, livelihood… but you need a penalty for failure! To keep the plot active and dramatic, make sure all three parts (Goal-Motivation-Conflict) are clear in every scene. The reader knows what the character wants, why it's important to them, and why it will be difficult to get.
And goals are not wishes.
A wish may be passive. “I hope this thing happens.” A goal is a wish turned into action. “I will do this thing to try to get this result.” I hope I will make new friends is a wish. I will do X in order to make new friends is a goal.
Remember, its Goal-Motivation-Conflict, not Wish-Motivation-Conflict.
I delve into this and much more in my online, self-paced Advanced Plotting course.
Advanced Plotting—Keep Those Pages Turning: Learn advanced techniques that will make a decent plot dynamic. Start with a “grab you by the throat” opening, pack the plot full, maximize your pacing, and use cliffhanger chapter endings to drive the story forward. .
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