We all aspire to being successful, or dream about one day coming into some kind of abundance, or hope to enjoy good health in our old age, or wish the world could be at peace. But have you ever noticed how dreams, hopes, wishes, desires, or ambitions seem imaginary and, therefore, remain beyond your reach? That’s because they’re vague concepts and by their very nature don’t produce tangible results. Goals, however, can turn your dreams into reality and change your life. A goal has a specific purpose: it refers to a defined outcome that an individual, group or organization wants to achieve within a given timeframe. An effective strategy for goal-setting requires a measurable course of action that specifies each step of the process, together with set deadlines, from start to finish.
Goal-setting for WRITERS
Writers should set long-term goals for their careers that define their intended level of productivity and the financial and emotional success they desire. In addition, they should give some thought to the type of writer they’d like to be based on the type of books they wish to produce. In day-to-day operations, it’s good practice to start each writing project with a big-picture idea and identifiable steps for developing that particular manuscript all the way to the book’s completion. A similar plan should be devised for both the publishing and marketing phases of every work-in-progress.
Goal-setting is also a LITERARY concept
Not only do goals motivate WRITERS to be productive and creative but they inspire the actions of STORY CHARACTERS too.
Over the next six weeks, I’ll be discussing the following goal-setting tips as they relate to both writers AND story characters:
- Ecology - a desired outcome must meet certain conditions to produce a positive result;
- Negations – the desired outcome must be stated in positive terms;
- Sensory evidence – the progress toward a goal must be measurable;
- Control – the goal must be initiated and maintained by the person who wants the outcome;
- Positive intention – the positive results of the situation that’s being changed should be retained to ensure an optimal outcome;
- Context – not all action is appropriate under all circumstances and not all outcomes are wanted in all contexts, so the pros and cons of goals should be considered carefully;
I intend to demonstrate the value of these goal-setting tips in the context of creative writing as it pertains to character development through a review of Lionel’s Shriver’s novel: So Much For That.
Shriver is a prolific novelist whose previous books include Orange Prize-winner We Need to Talk About Kevin and several others. She is widely published as a journalist and often writes book reviews for the New York Times and various other publications. The author is frequently interviewed on TV, radio and in print media. Shriver has lived in Nairobi, Bangkok and Belfast; she currently has homes in London and New York.
Shriver is one of my favorite authors. She’s a gutsy writer who doesn’t hesitate to tackle contentious social issues. Her stories tend to feature dark subject matter and characters who are hard to love. In So Much For That, the author explores the human costs of American health care. The story elucidates the profound transformation of a troubled marriage thanks to illness presenting an unexpected chance for tenderness and renewed intimacy.
Book description: Shep Knacker wants out of the rat race. He has long saved for “The Afterlife”: an idyllic retreat to the Third World where his nest egg can last forever. Traffic jams on the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway will be replaced with “talking, thinking, seeing, and being”—and enough sleep. When he sells his home repair business for a cool million dollars, his dream finally seems within reach. Yet Glynis, his wife of twenty-six years, has concocted endless excuses why it’s never the right time to go. Weary of working as a peon for the jerk who bought his company, Shep announces he’s leaving for a Tanzanian island, with or without her. Just returned from a doctor’s appointment, Glynis has some news of her own: Shep can’t go anywhere because she desperately needs his health insurance. But their policy only partially covers the staggering bills for her treatments, and Shep’s nest egg for The Afterlife soon cracks under the strain.
The book reviews vary from ‘admiring what Shriver has done in the name of a pressing national debate: America’s cruel health care insurance,’ to ‘feeling ill at the ghastly parade of physical ailments and inadequate medical responses.’ I highly recommend this book as a great example of how goals inspire the actions of story characters and how, on the flip side, their actions might lead to the breakdown of their goals.
Follow my blog to learn more about CREATIVE WRITING as well as the dynamics of BEHAVIOR CHANGE and CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT and how to implement these concepts in storytelling. Please watch out for the publication of my creative writing guide (title and publication date TBA soon), which will offer a more comprehensive discussion on Story and Character Development based on a Life Coaching Model.