The Story Goal – The Key To Creating A Solid Plot Structure

The Story Goal – The Key To Creating A Solid Plot Structure

In this post, we discuss the story goal – the key to creating a great plot for your novel.

You have to keep your characters busy if you want to write a novel. You have to give them a crisis, a reason to overcome it, and a way out.

Once you have decided on an appropriate inciting moment caused by a worthy antagonist, you have to decide what your protagonist is going to do about it.

The Story Goal – The Key To Creating A Solid Plot Structure

Your protagonist has to set a concrete goal that he or she believes will solve the crisis. The protagonist’s goal is known as the story goal. This goal is the foundation of your plot.

Your story at its most basic:

Before you start writing, complete this:

My novel is a story about  ______________________  (protagonist’s name)

who wants to ____________________________________  (ultimate physical story goal).

Characters must have a physical story goal.

For the purpose of plotting, you should not choose an abstract goal. You must choose a tangible goal.

Characters always have abstract story goals. We are always on journeys of self-discovery where we worry about our feelings. This is a given, but never let these become more important than physical goals with deadlines.

We are also always our own worst enemies. Don’t choose ‘overcoming yourself’ as a goal.

If you do choose an abstract story goal, your character will spend too much time alone, thinking and boring your readers.

Suggested reading: Do Your Characters Have SMART Story Goals?

Remember that love is not a plot – it is an emotion.

To recap from a previous post on story goals, wanting to find ‘love’ or ‘acceptance’ or ‘justice’ is not enough. When your character is loved, accepted or vindicated after achieving a physical goal, you have a story.

Your Character Needs One (Or More) Of These

To define a physical story goal a character needs:
  1. To get something physical.
  2. To cause something physical.
  3. To escape something physical.
  4. To resolve something physical.
  5. To survive something physical.


  1. If you want to write about a woman who wants to ‘find herself’, make her travel somewhere.
  2. If your lawyer wants justice, give him a client whose life needs to be saved.
  3. If your lonely male character wants love, give him a situation to deal with where he can find the love of his life.

How do you know if your story goal is good enough to support your story? Find out in our next post: 5 Criteria For Creating Successful Story Goals

© Amanda Patterson

If you enjoyed this post, read:

  1. Do Your Characters Have SMART Story Goals?
  2. Proust’s Questionnaire – 35 Questions Every Character Should Answer
  3. 13 Ways To Start A Story

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Posted on: 10th April 2015