When we sat down to discuss I gave her my thoughts and I said, "Her goal seems to be [blank] but I can't picture that. What does it look like if she gets it?" And I explained to her what little I understood about "visible goals" based on a Michael Hauge workshop I'd attended (which is also explained, nicely, here).
Writers hear this over and over. GMC. Goal-Motivation-Conflict. I always think of myself as having trouble with writing conflict, but the more I work at it, the more I have come to believe that what I have trouble with is setting up positive, visible goals for my characters.
Yes, I love internal and angsty. But the internal angsty stuff is hard to make visible and if the reader doesn't have a gauge, it can feel like the story is going on forEVER. So my favorite books take all that internal angsty stuff and wrap it around a visible goal.
The visible goal is something the reader can picture. Like Rocky running the museum steps. His goal is to make it to the top and we see him trying it and failing, but getting closer every time. We want him to make it. We're invested in him getting to the top of those steps.
In one of my favorite recent reads, About Last Night, by Ruthie Knox, the heroine, Cath, is working on an exhibit on the history of hand knitting for the Victoria and Albert Museum. Her background is a litle scattered and her position is a little dicey and she very badly needs to make the exhibit a success to cement her job. That's a visible goal. That was something I could follow. I knew when she getting closer to that goal, and I damn sure knew when she was missing it. And because I cared about Cath and the delicious hero, Nev, I was cheering her on all the way.
In another favorite recent read, The Replacement Wife, by Caitlin Crews, the heroine, Becca, desperately needs money to pay for her sister's education. Now, The Replacement Wife is a Harlequin Presents book, so it's not a story about Becca taking on more jobs to make money so that she can write a check to her sister's school. LOL. But that visible goal is what draws her into the alpha hero's orbit and, again, it's something we can understand and root for, something tangible.
My friend said a light bulb went off when I used the words "visible goal" and she is already tweaking her story to show this.
My question is, why is it always so much easier to see these things in other people's work than it is in my own?
I have no answers here, oh how I wish I did, particularly when it comes to positive visible goals. But I do have something that might help you with that and it comes from my favorite podcast on writing, Storywonk. If you struggle with this like I do, listen to what Lani says about the difference between positive and negative goals.
And if you struggle with it like I do, you'll listen to it over and over and you'll still find yourself writing a heroine with a visible goal that she can't talk about. Which is no help. So now I need to figure out how to give her a visible goal that the reader can follow along with because it's one thing to take the reader on a journey without a map. It's another thing to lead them into a deep dark forest and swipe the flashlight . . .
In this respect, I am like Rocky running those steps. Every book I write, every page I revise, gets me closer to figuring this out.
I have no doubt that one of these days I'll reach the top of those steps.
It's my goal.