5 Criteria For Creating Successful Story Goals

In last week’s blog entry, I discussed the importance of Great characters to carry the plot for your short story by creating story goals. So, it logically follows that this week, I would focus on a few ways you can use to create successful story goals and keep your readers glued to the page.

5 Criteria For Creating Successful Story Goals

From the extensive reading I’ve done over the past two years, I found these five things will work to ensure your Story Goal will allow your MC to drive the plot.

1.  Possession Of ____________

Your protagonist must try to gain possession of something – an object, a person, or information.

2.  Relief From ____________

Your protagonist must try to gain relief from something tangible – a threat, an object, a person, an animal, or a condition such as oppression or persecution, and relief from something emotional – fear, pain, sadness, despair.

3.  Terrible Consequences If ____________

Your protagonist must face terrible consequences if he fails to achieve his story goal.

4.  A Worthy Motivation For ____________

Your protagonist must have a true motivation for pursuing his goal. These could include duty, freedom, love, honor, justice, dignity, integrity, redemption, self-respect, and survival.

5.  Face Tremendous Odds

Your protagonist must face tremendous odds. It should appear impossible for your protagonist to achieve this goal.

One way to create a great story is through the creation of a central character or MC with strong motivation. Using this motivation, you can build a plot that will carry the story to the end and fulfill your readers’ need for an outcome they can believe.

‘A central character wants something, goes after it despite opposition, perhaps including his own doubts, and so arrives at a win, lose, or draw.’

~John Gardner~

How do you know if your story goal is good enough to support your short story?

In evaluating your MC’s motivation, you should ask yourself if the story goal expresses strong needs for the character to obtain.

Is the storyline defined by one of the following?

Does your MC need to?

  • To get something physical.
  • To cause something physical.
  • To escape something physical.
  • To resolve something physical.
  • To survive something physical.

The Bottom Line:

If your story goal is physical, and if it meets these five criteria, you will have a solid plotting foundation for your story.

Join me next Monday when we will look at another aspect of creating a GREAT short story.

~Mustang Patty~

Every Good Story has A GREAT Character

With the announcement about the upcoming Anthology of Short Stories for Indie Authors, I find myself thinking about what it takes to put together a story. In the case of the short story, the writer is forced to create a hero who is three-dimensional. The success of the story rests firmly on the shoulders of your MC.

In an earlier post, I talked about how stories are character-driven. As such, each story centers around your main character. In a short story, it is critical for you, as a writer, to understand what motivates your MC.

As authors, we want our characters to be believable and, more importantly, to make sense in a fictional universe. The best way we can accomplish this is to understand how our MC relates to the world. How would they react given any situation? (There IS a purpose behind completing Character Questionnaires.)

I write mostly legal thrillers, and I know my readers will want to know ‘the why’ behind why the characters in any story committed their crimes.

It is the motivation that I build the story around. Occasionally, there seems to be no right or logical reason for the actions. But as the story develops and we learn more about the hero and their life, things become clear.

Remember that fiction is truthful more than actual life. In the real world, people can do random things without reason, but in a story, your characters should have a purpose.

Your readers read fiction because it is not like real life. They want a story that makes sense.

So, what Is Motivation?

According to Oxford Dictionaries, it is: ‘A reason or reasons for acting or behaving in a particular way.’

As F. Scott Fitzgerald said, ‘Character is plot, plot is character.’

If you understand what motivates your characters, it is much easier to create a plot for your story.

With great motivations, your characters will take action. It is the action that leads to conflictconsequences, and sacrifices. It is these things that will keep readers invested in the story and care about your character. The ability to overcome these obstacles and learn about their strengths and weaknesses leads to character development. Readers love this.

And if the reader loves it, they will keep reading, turning the pages, and remembering the author who brought them real emotion.

Your character needs to be compelling. Give your MC a mission, and they will drive the story. Your character’s mission is the backbone of the plot.

The mission acts as a heartbeat in your short story. With each thud, your MC works to achieve success. You can hear the blips on the EKG as the character moves in logical steps from the beginning, through the middle, and finds the climax of the story.

A lot of things can be a goal or a mission. But in this case, it is imperative to remember that motivations only work if they matter and if the character has something to win or lose. As an author, you need to understand what the consequences are for your hero if they fail to meet these goals.

Therefore, motivations need to be complicated and irrational, but they need to be believable.

I think the best motivations are those that have both physical and emotional elements. Think of the addict (physical) who needs to get clean to be happier (emotional.)

To help you to jump start your short story, I have a list of the kinds of motivations I think will help you develop a strong story line.

  1. Plotting revenge.
  2. Surviving a disaster.
  3. Surviving a disease.
  4. Surviving a breakup.
  5. Saving the world/town/community.
  6. Saving a loved one.
  7. Saving themselves.
  8. Saving a relationship.
  9. Building a better world.
  10. Pursuing a love interest.

Once you begin to think about these types of story goals, your mind can come up with more and more. Remember that you can make these motivations positive or negative, depending on your character.

Every good story has a GREAT character. These heroes have the strong motivation that allows you to build a plot that will take you from the beginning to the end of your story.

Stay tuned for more tips and techniques on building a great story. I’m very excited to see the submission of other writer’s short stories.

Come join me on the journey!

For more information about the 2020 Indie Author Short Story Anthology, go to: http://www.adamscreativesolutions.com

What makes a good short story?


Over the next few months, I will be featuring ideas about writing the Short Story. As some of you know, I’m working with Adams Creative Solutions on the 2020 Indie Author Short Story Anthology.

We are hoping to gather forty short stories from authors that range from 500 to 5000 words. The criteria to submit YOUR SHORT STORY is all spelled out on:

www.adamscreativesolutions.com

The owners of Adams Creative Solutions are sponsoring the production of the Anthology.

I guess the first thing to discuss is HOW LONG is a SHORT STORY?

According to most of the online articles and short story writing classes I’ve taken, the short story ranges from 1000 to 7500 words.

A short story is a love affair; a novel is a marriage. A short story is a photograph; a novel is a film.       ~Lorrie Moore~

What is a Short Story?

The best and most straightforward way to describe a short story is:

  • It’s short
  • It has an impact and a meaning
  • It should be memorable

Maybe a better description of the short story is to call it an anecdote or relating an incident. The short story allows the writer to use direct language to get your Protagonist from Point A to Point B.

In essence, the short story has a few key characteristics:

  • A single main character (Protagonist)
  • A simple plot structure
  • A Clear Beginning, middle, climax, and end

There aren’t usually sub-plots, and the secondary characters are one-dimensional. Within the limited word count, you only have time to build ONE character. This multi-dimensional character will change during the story.

So, the main character at the beginning of the story should not be entirely the same person at the end. Something happens at the core level.  Something around them OR within them changes. Your main character gains insight or changes direction. The Protagonist grows or weakens because of the dramatic event at the center of your story.

So, that’s all for today. I’ll be back next week with the top reasons to write short stories. The most important is for YOU to be included in the 2020 Indie Author Short Story Anthology.

Until then, enjoy your writing adventure,

~Mustang Patty~

2020 Short Story Anthology


Anthology Details

There is a $40 Entrance Fee

to cover costs of Editing, Proofreading, and Formatting

(some scholarship funds are available to qualified entrants)

The purpose of this Anthology is to give Authors of Short Stories a Place to publish their work.

All submissions due by May 31, 2020

One-half of the entrance fee is due with submission of your short story, and the balance will be due on August 31, 2020


The book is limited to a maximum of 40 Short Stories between 500 and 5000 words

Authors are permitted to enter a TOTAL of TWO stories. (The Second story’s entry fee will be $20)

Please JOIN the Facebook Group

‘2020 Indie Authors’ Short Story Anthology’

for all updates


Message Mustang Patty on FB, OR Email Admin@adamscreativesolutions.com

with

additional ???s

Calling All Short-Story Authors!

For more information, Email patty@mustangpatty1029.com

Would you like to get your BEST short story put into an Anthology of Facebook writers?

My Partner company,

‘Adams Creative Solutions,’

is putting together an Anthology of Short Stories.

Submissions are open to the writers and groups

I’m a part of as ‘Mustang Patty Talks.’

Do you want to be a Writer?

I think it’s safe to say that if you follow my blog or belong to any of the Facebook groups I’m a part of, then you want to know more about the writing process.

According to national statistics, approximately 89% of the populace wants to write a book—they are sure they have something to say. The sad statistic is that only 1% of the original 89% will actually write a book. The numbers decrease when you look at a second book ever being written.

Why?

There are people who do not realize that writing is hard work. It takes a great deal of determination to bring the words from your imagination to the blank page. Not only is it hard work, but there is also a learning curve.

The learning curve I’m talking about is what it takes to turn your thoughts into thoughts that other people can understand. Communication of your ideas is key, but it does take learning the skills of writing.

Today, I have a blueprint of how you can learn to write or improve your writing skills.

First of all, pick up a good Style Guide. There are several around, but I think ‘Elements of Style 2017,’ is the easiest to start with. It uses the same principles as ‘Element of Style’ by William Strunk and E. B. White, but it includes some of the recent changes to the writing style.

Next, look for an online writing course. There are a ton of them available online, and they vary in cost and what you need to do. (I have found a few free ones, but you don’t always get good feedback on your writing.)

Subscribe to Grammarly. I’m not saying you should install Grammarly and use it and never learn the rules of the writing highway. No—use Grammarly as a tool. There are both free and paid subscriptions.

Organize your work. If you use a computer, create a file for everything you write. Back it up with a thumb drive. One of the most horrible things to happen to a writer is the loss of their work.

There are online tools like Evernote and Scrivener, to help you. While Evernote is a note-taking guide, Scrivener is used for the creative writing process. It includes built-in formats to plan your plot, character, theme, and a lot more.

Lastly, look into the writing organizations available to you. Use Google Search and hunt for the one you feel would fit your needs.

The more you build your writing world, the more you will feel like a ‘writer.’

I hope this helps some of you who are ‘stuck’ in place and wondering where to go.

Until next time,

~Mustang Patty~


Older Blogs:

Decided to move my site to WordPress

Started a new challenge from a mentor: 1000 words a day for 28 days

Writing every day isn’t anything new to me. It is, however, something new that I’m actually going to keep track of how much I write. Sure, some days I will work on my blog and some days I will work on my latest project – but how much do I actually write. I think on the days I’m editing, I may not write too many new words, but my mind is thinking about the writing. I will probably turn this challenge into something like NaNo because I don’t see me just journaling to hear myself write.

Okay, that sounded stupid.

But for today, let’s work on a blog entry.

So, you’ve finished a project, and you celebrate with your happy dance, and you post all over Facebook about what a great writer you are. You beg for permissions to post links to your latest accomplishment and you feel great for all of a day – maybe.

How do you get started on your next project? Are you stuck for days trying to come up with a new idea, or are you one of those lucky people who always has an idea?

I remember way back I’m talking way back when I first started writing. I was about twelve, and I asked my English teacher if she could give me any suggestions about the writing life. (I imagined being a best-selling author by the time I was twenty.)

So, Mrs. Whatever-her-name-was gave me my first pieces of writing advice.

First and foremost, write EVERY day.

Second, start a file of story ideas. This file will be used whenever something strikes you. It can be anything you feel comfortable storing those random ideas you have during the day. So, I asked my mother to buy me some 3 x 5 cards and a little metal box to keep them in. I carried no less than five cards with me wherever I went.

The habit of writing those story ideas paid off for most of the writing I did in high school and the creative writing classes in college. The idea stayed with me, and while the little metal box full of cards gave way to file folders and using the sticky note feature on my phone. (I absolutely love that – I can write an idea down whenever I want, and no one thinks it weird that I’m on my phone – whereas I think some people found it odd that a twelve-year-old would suddenly take a 3 x 5 card out of their pocket and scribble something down.)

In case you’re wondering why I’m going on and on about this process, you may or may not know that I just finished a big project. I took my rough draft of a novel, written during NaNoWriMo of 2019, and polished, edited, and formatted it. I ‘hit publish’ last week.

Now, I feel lost.

So, I’m doing my best to find the idea that will get me fired up and writing furiously every day.

I just pulled out the box where I keep 3 x 5 cards. The box is no longer metal or small. It is about a foot long, and the cards do not have just a simple idea, but a developed idea and a kernel of where to start.

I’m stumbling because I need to write the third book of my trilogy, but I’m wary of those characters right now. I have a novel idea that I’ve been developing for years and while it would be a good project to start, it is research-intensive and going to be much longer than anything I’ve written previously.

Oh, and I have an idea for a non-fiction book about writing. My blogs from the last two years can easily be turned into chapters, and I think it will be fun. But, I’m not sure I want to take that on right now.

See my dilemma?

Of course, I could develop a new idea – right?

I recently read the book, The Idea, by Erik Bork. He uses seven elements to test your idea. The point of the book is for you to test your idea before the writing process begins. You have to admit; it is disheartening to work on a project and then realize the story doesn’t really go anywhere. (I do think the time isn’t wasted—you’ve learned more about what works, and what doesn’t.)

Basically, Bork’s method of evaluation the idea is based on the acronym, ‘PROBLEM.’

Punishing:

Will the problem your MC faces take you through scene by scene for the length of the book until he/she solves the problem? Or is it too easy to solve to carry a book, screenplay, etc.?

Relatable:     

If readers can’t relate to the story, they will desert your book after the first few chapters, or worse, leave it where they found it. No Bueno.

Original:

We all know most storylines are a new version of the basic stories we’ve read over and over. But does your story have a new twist?

Believable:   

Your readers need to believe in the world you’ve created. From science fiction, fantasy, and even stories set in the real world.

Life-Altering:           

Will reading your story give the reader some new insight?

Entertaining:

Let’s face it – readers need to be involved and want to keep turning the page. If you aren’t keeping them entertained, the book gets put down or taken off their eBook list.

Meaningful:

Do your readers come away with something to hold onto? Some concepts, ideas, OR a story they will keep close to their heart.

Bork also suggests that before you start the project, bounce your idea around with some people. Your friends, family, and folks who think your writing is awesome are good places to start, but then you need to find a peer group. (I personally find Facebook groups to be a good place—but you need to be aware that someone may steal your idea, so tread lightly.)

Well, I’ve written over 1000 words for the day, so I’ll stop here. But I know I’ve already stirred things up for me to find the next idea. The next project. The next six to eight months of my life.

until next time,

~Mustang Patty~