Two Types Of Character Goals

A character goal is what a character wants. She should want it so badly that your readers feel her need in their guts.

The Point of View (POV) goal is what the POV character of a scene wants.

Whether you write from a single POV for the entire novel or from multiple points of view, it’s important to know what the POV character is trying to achieve in each scene.

Internal and External Goals

An external goal is the goal a character shows the world.

In a fantasy novel, that might be to find a magic object. The reader and other characters in the novel are aware of the goal. The antagonist(s) will try to make the character fail.

An internal goal is a character goal that the other characters in the scene are not aware of.

For example, a character may have a goal of stealing a jewel from a desk drawer. The other characters in the scene may think the character’s goal is to sit at the desk and calculate the latest revenue figures for their business.

The reader may or may not know about the internal goal, but as a writer, you must keep track of this.

To give a scene depth, have an internal and external goal for the POV character for each scene.

Failing To Reach A Goal

Once you know the POV goal for a scene, you can start thinking about all the ways the character will fail at achieving the goal, what obstacles you put in the way, and how the character will feel about failing or achieving the goal.

This will add tension and conflict to your scenes.

Scene Goal Versus Novel Goal

Your protagonist must have an overall goal for the novel, but she will also have a goal for each scene where she is the POV character.

You may find the POV goal for a scene is the same as the character’s goal for the novel, or you may find the character has a different goal for a scene. In the second case, make sure the scene goal is related to the plot.

For example, in a murder mystery, the protagonist’s goal for the novel is to solve the murder. In a specific scene, her goal may be to uncover a clue, hide something from the antagonist, or something a simple as trying to get a few hours of desperately needed sleep.

Driving the story forward

By giving your POV character a goal in every scene, you’re also giving your readers something to cheer for or cheer against. This will keep your readers engaged in your story and turning the pages.


Fictionary helps you keep track of internal and external goals. You can list the goals right beside a scene, or you can see the goals listed together in the Story map report.

Here is an example of my work in progress, Evolution, from within Fictionary. The protagonist, Jaz Cooper has two goals in the first scene.

She’s struggling with how to spend her time. This external goal is shown to the reader early in the scene (highlighted in blue).

Her internal goal, which the reader doesn’t know about, is her struggle against suicide. As the writer, I know this is her goal, and it influences what I write.

Why not try the free 10-day trial of Fictionary and see if can help you turn your first draft into a story readers love?


Two Questions For Choosing A Point Of View Character and Style

When writing a series, choosing both the point of view characters and point of view style are HUGE decisions an author must make.

AVALANCHE is the third book in the Stone Mountain Mystery Series and was released in June 2016. When I first started writing the series, I thought I was writing a standalone novel. Of course my characters took over, and now I have a series.

Early on, I decided to write in close third person from multiple points of view. Little did I know, that once I made that decision, I would have to stick to that for the rest of the series.

The second question in Top 3 Story Editing Questions For Fiction Writers was “Who has the point of view?”

Here are two questions to ask yourself when you begin your novel. And when you ask these questions of yourself, don’t assume you’ll be writing a standalone novel. You just never know.

1. Do you plan to switch POV characters?

If you’re going to have multiple POVs in your novel, it’s important to let your reader know this early on in the story.

It could be jarring for a reader to get half way through a novel, and the POV is ripped from underneath their feet and a new character steps in.

Changing POVs in the first few chapters will warn the reader this is your style, and hopefully, they’ll enjoy your book more. They’ll expect different characters to have their say, to drive the novel, and to provide surprises. They won’t get so attached to one POV character that they can’t bear the change and toss the novel aside.

2. What POV type will you choose?

When you choose the type of point of view to write from, consider what it will take to be consistent for an entire novel or several novels.

  • If you chose first person, do you stay in first person? Do you reference anything the first person character can’t possibly know?
  • For third person, are you writing third person, third person limited, or omniscient? Once you make the choice, it’s important to be consistent and only change the style if you make a conscious decision to do so.

For the second book in your series, follow the same POV pattern you used in the first. Your readers will expect a similar style and voice in the second and following books.

Books I’ve Read and Recommend on POV

The Power of Point of View by Alicia Rasley

Characters and Viewpoint by Orson Scott Card

Characters, Emotions and Viewpoint by Nancy Kress

How Fictionary Can Help You With POV Characters

If you’ve written your draft from multiple points of view, Fictionary will help you make sure you’re making the best use of the POV characters.

When thinking about which character should have the POV in each scene, ask yourself:

  1. Who is in the scene and who is just mentioned?
  2. Who is the best choice for the POV character for the scene?
  3. What is the POV character’s goal for the scene?

Who Is In The Scene?

In Fictionary, you can visualize who is in each scene and who is mentioned. Seeing your character names will help you decide if you’ve chosen the best POV character for the scene.

Who did you choose for a POV character and what is the goal?

Here is an example of how to answer these 3 questions using my novel DESCENT. The characters in the scene are shown above. The point of view character is Kalin Thompson (she’s also the protagonist), and her goal is to search the ski-tuning room.

Evaluate each scene to ensure the reader will understand the answers to the 3 questions. You can show, tell, or imply the answers. It’s up to you to find the right balance. The more important the event, the more you should show the reader what’s happening. The less important events can be told quickly, so the reader can move on to the good stuff.

Balance The Point Of View Characters

To help you visualize the balance of your POV characters, Fictionary shows you how many POV scenes each character has, the order they have the POV, and the percentage of POV scenes compared to other characters.

Below you can see Kalin Thompson has the most POV scenes (good because she’s the protagonist), Ben has the next (also good because he’s her love interest) and so on. The initials on the bottom show you the order. The green means a character has had 3 scenes in a row where he/she is the POV character.

Fictionary is a proud sponsor of the National Novel Writing Month Now What Months.

To encourage you to finish your novel and get published, we’ve partnered with FriesenPress and are hosting a contest together.

Grand Prize

One lifetime Fictionary subscription and a $1999 FriesenPress Publishing Package.

Additional Prizes

$200 annual Fictionary subscription for 3 lucky writers!

Check out the details and enter the contest.

Winners are chosen at random. No purchase necessary.

Entrants accepted until February 18th, 2018.

Romancing Your Novel With A Big-Picture Edit

In honor of the Get Social Blog Hop, I’d like to cover editing a romance novel. You can find other blogs on the hop are here.


Some of you may know, my upcoming book is a mystery, but it’s different from the Stone Mountain Series in that it has more romance in it.

There are many areas to cover when you’re editing your first draft, and today I’ll cover four Key Elements of Fiction important to romance novels.

Screen Shot 2017-06-03 at 9.33.09 AM Point of View

Screen Shot 2017-06-03 at 9.33.09 AM Characters on Stage

Screen Shot 2017-06-03 at 9.33.09 AM Spice (Conflict and Tension)

Screen Shot 2017-06-03 at 9.33.09 AM Purpose of each Scene

Even in real life, romance takes effort. The same is true for creating a romance novel that sizzles.

Screen Shot 2017-06-03 at 9.33.09 AMPoint of View


Point of View (POV) is the perspective the story is told from. It is generally accepted that each scene is written from the point of view of one character.

In a romance novel, you have to make choices on who the POV character will be. It can be mostly the hero, mostly the heroine, or an equal balance between the two. By using both points of view, you’ll be showing the feelings and thoughts from both characters.

The Feedback tool for writers illustrates how many scenes each POV character has and what order they appear in. In Look The Other Way, Shannon (heroine) has the POV for 47 scenes, and Jake (hero) has the POV for 37 scenes. The graph along the bottom shows the order of the point of view, allowing me to make sure I’m switching between the hero and heroine regularly.

POV Characters

Screen Shot 2017-06-03 at 9.33.09 AMCharacters on Stage


There can only be romance if both the hero and heroine are in a scene together. Keep track of how many scenes you have where only one is in the scene versus scenes where both characters are onstage. The Feedback app does this for you.

Below, Jake and Shannon are both in the scene along with another character Debi Hall. Kendra is Jake’s cousin and is only mentioned in the scene. The scene is from Jake’s point of view, so the reader will see and hear things from his view point only. The reader won’t know what Shannon thinks or feels unless Jake comments on it or thinks about it or Shannon says something.

Character in Scene LTOW

Screen Shot 2017-06-03 at 9.33.09 AMSpice


To keep the story exciting there must be conflict and tension between the hero and heroine. If you’re writing a happy-ending romance, the hero and heroine will resolve the conflict and tension by the end of the story and live happily ever after.

The two can be working toward the same goal, but maybe they go about it differently and that causes the tension.  This resolution must not happen until the end. Each scene until the end must have conflict or tension or both.

Feedback enables you to see what conflict and tension are in each scene. You can see if the tension and conflict are in line with the purpose of scene. Just make sure you have either conflict or tension in every scene. You don’t have to have both.

Here you’re getting a sneak peek at my work in progress, Evolution.

Conflict Tension

Screen Shot 2017-06-03 at 9.33.09 AMPurpose of Each Scene


The romance genre requires a special look at the purpose of each scene. In a mystery, the sole purpose of a scene may be to drop a clue or a red herring into a scene. But in a romance novel, the purpose of a scene may revolve around character development, driving the romance forward, or driving the romance backward.

Here are some of the key scenes you’ll need.

  • Introduce heroine and set up her world
  • Introduce hero and set up his world
  • Inciting incident – something happens in their world that will cause them to meet.
  • First kiss
  • Plot point one – the hero and heroine face something difficult
  • Middle – the characters can’t turn back to the story. They may also decide they are not right for each other.
  • First quarrel
  • Plot point two – their relationship is at its worst
  • Finally get together
  • Resolution

In the following, which is the Feedback insight into Purpose of Scene for my work in progress Evolution, you can see in the first 9 scenes, the hero and heroine meet, there is tension between them and they have their “first kiss.” You can also see 44% of the scenes in this novel are moving the story forward.  This means there is more than romance in the story and the hero and heroine have a goal they are desperate to achieve.

Feedback will help you keep track of the romance and its progression as you self-edit your novel.

Purpose of Scene Romance

More Self-Editing Advice

BIG-PICTURE EditingIf you’re looking for more help on self-editing download the free eBook, BIG-PICTURE Editing And The Key Elements Of Fiction and learn how big-picture editing is all about evaluating the major components of your story. We call these components the Key Elements Of Fiction.  Our eBook shows you how to use the key elements of fiction to evaluate your story and become your own big-picture editor.

Interested In An Automated Approach To Big-Picture Self-Editing?

Feedback Innovations (which I happen to be the CEO of) is building the Feedback app.

Feedback is the first web app to help fiction writers evaluate their own work with a focus on story, not words.

With Feedback, you can focus on plot, character, and setting. You can evaluate on a scene-by-scene basis or on overall novel structure. Feedback will show you the most important structural elements to work on first.

Feedback will guide you through the rewriting process by asking you questions specific to your manuscript, enabling you to evaluate your own story.

Feedback helps you visualize your manuscript. Forget about yellow stickies or white boards. Feedback will draw character arcs, provide reports on scene evaluation, and show your rewriting progress.

Happy editing and thanks for reading…

Write Better Fiction: Point Of View

Today on Write Better Fiction we’ll cover Point Of View. 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.

What is Point of View?

I use the Point Of View (POV) in many of my spreadsheet columns and have been asked to describe what POV is.

POV is the perspective the story is told from. There are three main types of POV.

  • Omniscient
  • First Person
  • Third Person

There is also second person, but this doesn’t seem to be used much in commercial fiction, so I won’t spend any time on it.

OMNISCIENT is when the narrator of the story knows all. The narrator can get into the head of any character to drive the story forward.

An excellent of a novel written in omniscient POV is the Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown. One way to determine this is to notice that the narrator provides information that the characters are unaware of.

FIRST PERSON means the narrator is speaking directly to the reader. This comes in the form of ‘I’.

Janet Evanovich writes the Stephanie Plum novels in first person. Often, near the beginning, she’ll write something like: My name is Stephanie Plum. I work as a bond enforcer…

THIRD PERSON is written from the he said / she said narration.

Of course, I have to mention my novels for third person point of view narration. I wrote  DESCENTBLAZE,  and AVALANCHE in third person. I like to change points of view and get into the heads of more than one character, so this style suits me.

My favorite book on point of view is The Power Of Point Of View: Make Your Story Come To Life by Alicia Rasley. If you want an in-depth description of all the points of view and their variations, this is a great book to read.

Please let me know in the comments below if you have any thoughts on POV. What form do you write in and why?

Thanks for reading…

Write Better Fiction: Is Your Scene Anchored?

Today on Write Better Fiction we’ll cover Is Your Scene Anchored? 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.

One could argue that asking yourself if your scene is anchored should fall under setting or under plot.

I’ve included scene anchoring under plot because it’s more than setting, and I think it leads well into the next topics we’ll cover, which are hook, development and climax of a scene.

AnchorSo what does it mean to anchor a scene?

The reader needs to know:

  • Who has the point of view
  • Where the character is
  • What the timing of the scene is


We’ve dealt with point of view in detail, so I won’t say much here except you should checkEye whether the reader will know who has the point of view within the first paragraph or at least within the first couple of paragraphs. If not, the reader might find this frustrating. If you write your entire novel from one point of view, like many first person novels, then you don’t need to worry about this.


“Where is your character”“Where is your character” fits under setting. You know where the character is because your wrote the scene, but does your reader? If the reader can’t figure out where the character is within the first couple of paragraphs you may lose them – the reader I mean and not the character. 🙂

There are exceptions to this. If your scene is about a character waking in a dark place and confused about where she is, then it’s okay for the reader to be confused about where she is too. This will add to the tension. The reader does need to understand the lack of setting is done on purpose.


The timing of the scene can mean:Clock

  • Time of day
  • Time passed since last scene
  • A particular date

If several years or several seconds have passed in a characters life, then the reader needs to understand that. If you are jumping back in time or forward in time the reader needs to understand that too. The quicker the reader gets the timing, the quicker they will be drawn into the scene.


The start of a new scene means point of view has changed, the setting has changed, or time has changed, hence every scene needs to be anchored.

Your challenge this week is to ask yourself if every scene in your novel is anchored. Does the reader know who has point of view, where the character is and what time it is?

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 have any suggestions or improvements for anchoring a scene.

Thanks for reading…

Write Better Fiction: Point of View Goal and Plot

Today on Write Better Fiction we’ll cover How the Point of View Scene Goal Relates to Overall Plot. 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. Check the bottom of this post for links to previous Write Better Fiction articles.

The column in the spreadsheet has long title, and if you can think of a better one let me know.

This is column where I analyze both the internal and external goal of the point of view character.

Each scene has a point of view character. This character must have a goal for the scene. If there is no goal, then what is the character doing?

Let’s deal with the external goal first. This is the goal the reader is aware of.

Finding a murderer is Kalin’s main goal throughout DESCENT. She also has goals within each scene where she holds the point of view. In the opening scene her external goal is to go skiing. Her internal goal is to be good at her job.

The reader is shown Kalin wants to go skiing. She doesn’t achieve this goal because a skier falls and is terribly hurt. She has to put her own wants aside and deal with the situation. This is the start of Kalin’s journey of searching for a murderer. At the time she doesn’t know she is witness to a crime, she’s only thinking of taking care of the skier. The external goal of skiing places her on the hill at the time the skier falls.

Kalin’s internal goal is to be good at her job. In the opening scene, she doesn’t know yet this will involve chasing a murderer.

For each scene, think about how the POV character’s goal is related to the plot of the novel. If you don’t know the answer, perhaps the scene isn’t relevant to the story, or perhaps another character should have the POV for that scene.

Your scene may just need some updating. Can you strengthen the character’s goal? Is there a way to add a goal to the scene so it relates to the novel’s plot?

You can also use this column to check for consistency. Let’s say your character is a tea drinker, and you put the character’s scene goal as finding a cup of coffee. That should trigger you’ve made a mistake.

When you’ve finished the spreadsheet for each scene, you should be able to scan this column and find any entries that are weak.

Your challenge this week is to check the previous column for internal and external character goal and determine if that goal relates to the overall plot.

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.

Descent & Blaze

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

Thanks for reading…


Point of View: Describing Characters

When you are writing in a character’s point of view, can you describe that character’s face or part of themselves that they can’t see?

For example, in a scene written in Ian’s point of view, can the following be written?

Ian blushed and his freckles turned orange.

My thoughts . . . Ian might know he’s blushing from the physical sensation, but how could he know his freckles turned orange?

So if you agree that this isn’t the right way to convey the image, then what?

Perhaps I could:

–       Have another a character make fun of the orange freckles.

–       Have another character say, “I know you’re lying. You’re freckles are turning orange.”

Do you have any ideas how to get around this?

Thanks for reading . . .

Keeping Point Of View Consistent

I’ve always thought Point of View (POV) should remain consistent. Maybe not for a whole novel or even for a chapter, but at least within a scene.

I’m reading a mystery novel that changes the POV within a scene. It’s a novel published the traditional way through a well-known publishing company. I find the POV change within a scene distracting and think it takes away from an otherwise good story.

Are the standards changing?

Anyone else have a view on this?

Thanks for reading . . .