Monday, May 9, 2011

Others' Goals

Last week, I told you about a first chapter I read, and I talked about the danger of having a Scene Stealer Secondary Character at the beginning of your novel.  
To remind you, here’s a plot summary of the first chapter.
The heroine enters an expensive restaurant and sits down at her father’s table.
He complains she is late, which she is not, and proceeds to berate her for various failings, none of which she thinks she has.  They share a prickly conversation full of personal history subtext and anger.
He tells her that his corporation is having financial troubles, and he’s arranged to have a corporate investor meet him on his private estate for the weekend.  He wants his beautiful daughter there to entertain the corporate savior and show a positive side to his personality.
The heroine has her own financial success thanks to her own hard work and acumen, and she has less than charitable feelings for her father who threw her and her mother out so he could marry a trophy wife and have the son he wanted to inherit the business.  She agrees, however, because she’ll get a chance to see her much younger half-brother whom she adores.  
In the next, much shorter scene, the handsome corporate investor, aka the hero, arrives at the estate in his private plane.  Rather than the limo and the designer clothes her father wanted, she shows up in the caretaker’s Land Rover and she is wearing riding clothes.  Despite this, sexual sparks fly, and they share a bit of banter.  They head to a meeting with Daddy Dearest.
What’s the second major error in this first chapter?  The only person with a strong goal in the first chapter is Dearest Daddy.  The heroine refuses to buy into this goal.
At best, one of her goals is to see her little half-brother which is fine on the small scale but hardly strong to carry a chapter, let alone enough to carry a whole novel forward.  
Her second goal is to annoy her father by not helping him gain the funding.  This goal could carry the whole novel forward, but it isn’t a worthy goal and makes her a heroine the reader can’t root for.  If anything, this goal makes her appear remarkably immature and unworthy of either the hero or the reader’s interest.  
The main character must have a worthy goal that the reader can root for.
To see more of my articles on character goals, please click on the label “character goals”  located on the right side of my blog.

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