Write Better Fiction: When A POV Doesn’t Reach A Goal

Today on Write Better Fiction we’ll cover What happens if the POV doesn’t achieve her scene goal. Write Better Fiction is a process to help you critique your own manuscript and give yourself feedback. This will help you improve your novel, so you’re ready to submit it to an editor. 

If you’ve been reading this series, you know I’m describing a spreadsheet I created to evaluate each scene of a novel. I use this spreadsheet after a solid draft to evaluate each scene and revise it as needed.

This week I’ll over POV goal failure.

To shorten the heading in the spreadsheet, I’ve called the column “Outcome if POV Fails.” I know this means what happens if POV doesn’t achieve his goal.

This question is sometimes hard to answer. If the question is hard to answer, the goal may not relate to the overall plot. If nothing happens because the character fails to achieve the goal, then what’s the point of the goal.

The answer doesn’t have to be earth shattering.

In DESCENT, Kalin’s internal goal is to be good at her job. If she fails, she might get fired, be reprimanded or lose her confidence at work.

In the opening scene, her external goal is to go skiing. This has a more subtle relationship to the plot. The goal is there to show Kalin is adventurous and athletic. When Ben tells he she can’t go skiing because the conditions are too dangerous, her trait of not listening to others is revealed. This goal is about character development.

For an obvious example, say a character’s scene goal is to reveal to the police she’s discovered fraud at work. She fails to reach the police in time, and she becomes a suspect in the fraud. You can easily tell what happens when she fails to reach her goal.

The answer strength should vary throughout the novel. The will help with pacing and keep the reader engaged.

If every scene has an obvious goal and and obvious failure, the reader will get bored with the repetition.

Sometime the character will achieve their goal. This is okay too. The idea is to create tension in the scene with the possibility the character might fail. They don’t have to fail, for the tension to be effective.

Your challenge this week is to use the columns for internal and external character goal that you set in POV GOAL AND PLOT and ask yourself what happens if the character doesn’t achieve that goal.

I critiqued DESCENT and BLAZE using the techniques I’m sharing in Write Better Fiction, and I believe this helped me sign with a publisher.

Please me know in the comments below if you found this exercise challenging. Did it help you write a tenser scene?

Thanks for reading…

Descent & Blaze


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