Goal, motivation, or conflict should be a critical element of every scene we write. Goal serves to present what your character wants. Motivation serves to explain why your character wants what she wants. Conflict serves to reveal what is keeping your character from getting what she wants.
Every scene must have one of these three elements plus two additional elements of your choosing. For example, you may write your first scene to present your protagonist’s goal but also to introduce her. You may write a later scene to reveal that your hero has lied to your heroine (conflict). You may write yet another scene to show that your heroine must find her missing brother in order to keep her sanity (motivation).
When writing your scenes, remember to include one of these three elements–goal, motivation, or conflict–in every scene. As you do, you will end up with powerful scenes that move your story forward.
For more information on writing scenes, check out Debra Dixon’s Goal, Motivation & Conflict .
Copyright 2014 by Dr. MaryAnn Diorio. All rights reserved.
I’ve been reading a fascinating book called Wired for Story by Lisa Cron. The book discusses the way the brain responds to story. While Ms. Cron approaches her work from an evolutionary standpoint, her research can easily be approached from a Biblical worldview.
Bottomline, God wired us for story. The whole of human history is a story–His Story–as we believers recognize. Moreover, God created the human heart to respond to story. Hence, the powerful parables of Jesus.
Given these truths, how can we write our stories in such a way that they align with the way God created our brains to function? Here are a few key points that Ms. Cron calls “cognitive secrets” to keep in mind as we write our stories:
- The brain thinks in stories. Therefore, when we write, we must hook our reader from the very first word because the reader wants to know what will happen next.
- The brain is goal-oriented. Therefore, the protagonist we create must have a clear goal.
- The brain thinks in specifics. Therefore, we must use details, not abstracts, in creating our story.
- The brain resists change. Yet, story is about change. And change produces conflict.
- The brain continually makes cause-and-effect relationships. Therefore, our stories must follow a logical pattern of cause and effect.
As you write your next story, keep these points in mind. Your story will be more powerful and effective because it will be aligned with the way God made the human brain to work.
Source Cited: Wired for Story by Lisa Cron. Berkeley, CA: Ten Speed Press, 2012). Print. 262 pages.