Plot – changing external goals

Your hero or heroine’s external goal should NOT change during the course of the story.

Say at the beginning of your story, Sally decides to unmask a smuggling ring. If she accomplishes it by chapter fifteen and then decides to discover who her real father is, that is a changed external goal.

Your character’s external goal should remain the same for the entire story. If things suddenly change at a particular point and the character moves into a different direction for the rest of the book, maybe that particular point is where your story ought to start, and the events beforehand are just backstory.

Also beware of more subtly changed external goals. Say Sally decides to unmask a drug smuggling ring. She finds out who’s behind it by chapter fifteen, and then starts investigating someone else who’s using drugs to capture children from the middle school as addicts and additional sellers. Her goal has subtly changed from investigating the ring to investigating drug use in the middle school. It’s still a changed external goal.

Solving something like that is easy—change her original external goal.

Have her discover drug use in the middle school and determine to uncover the people responsible for introducing the drugs to the children. She uncovers the mafia men bringing the drugs in, and she uncovers the one seller who’s selling it to the middle school kids.

Look at your story. Does your character’s goal change?