Character Goals: The 4 Gears that Drive Your Story

Guest post by author J. Scott Savage

Several years ago, I was working on the second book of a mystery series. The plot revolved around a man who appeared to be murdered over and over. My main character, a young reporter, was drawn into a series of scenes where she witnessed the man die in an explosion, a fire, and by falling off a balcony.

The main character was one I had used before and knew well, the plot felt interesting, the settings were sufficiently creepy. But the story just wasn’t working. I went over and over the same twenty pages, wondering what I was doing wrong, when, all at once, the problem became clear.

We were several chapters into the story and, while my reporter had witnessed several exciting events, she wasn’t doing anything about them. The MC was reacting, not acting, and as a result there was nothing for the reader to root for. As soon as I put her into action trying to solve the crimes, everything clicked into place.