Brainstorn Your Novel Using Goal, Motivation, and Conflict

Feb 03, 2023

As a writer, it can be difficult to come up with new ideas for your novel. But by understanding the power of Goal-Motivation-Conflict, you'll be able to create an engaging story that'll leave your readers wanting more. Let us help you generate an outline that will ignite your story! In our post, Brainstorn Your Novel Using Goal, Motivation, and Conflict​ we illustrate how characters who have ambitions with purposeful motives and are committed to overcoming impediments in their quest for success can captivate readers.

An interesting plot is one where the stakes are high; failing to reach objectives carries tremendous consequences. 

  • What is your character’s Goal? (What does he want?)
  • What is this character’s Motivation? (Why does he want it?)
  • What is the Conflict your character will face? (What is stopping him from getting it?)

Crafting relatable characters in your novel requires Goals, Motivation, and Conflict that are clearly communicated on both a macro and micro level. As you progress through the story arc of each chapter and scene, this trio ensures that your protagonist moves forward with purpose. Through the power of Goal-Motivation-Conflict working together as one interdependent system, readers will be invested in your character's journey from beginning to end.



When you're beginning a new story, the first step is to get creative and ask yourself: What will your protagonist's journey entail?

What is your character’s Goal? (What does he/she want?)

 To make your character's journey compelling, it is essential to consider why they are embarking on this quest and who or what will attempt to thwart their progress. Motivation and opposition must be accurately portrayed in order for the story to be captivating.

Story-worthy goals are ones that bring tension and drama to the plotline, not whimsical desires or wishes. Therefore, if your character's ambition is something like becoming a ballerina but it has no bearing on the story conflict nor any person attempting to thwart them from achieving their goal, then this simply isn't suitable for inclusion in your narrative.

If the protagonist's ultimate aim is to become a ballerina, and they are prevented from doing this due to an opponent who takes away their financial support or resources needed for success, then it could lead them on a journey of finding employment in order to raise money, re-establish connections through society functions and devise a plan to ultimately defeat their foe.

Does this goal drive the story forward from beginning to end?

If your protagonist's goal is not ambitious enough, the story might falter or drift off track. Your character ought to have a magnificent ambition they want to accomplish and it should be broken down into manageable actions that will bring them closer to their ultimate objective.




Once you've identified the character's goal, it is essential to ask yourself: What drives this character to achieve their ambition?

What is this character’s Motivation? (Why does he/she want it?)

Motivation is a critical factor in helping readers understand and sympath

If you're crafting a 'who-dunnit novel,' it's critical to provide motivation for why your main character is driven into action. Suppose their boss has been murdered, what would compel them to seek out and expose the murderer? As an author, consider what could be at stake or meaningful enough that they are willing to put in the effort necessary to track down this killer. Without something of value on the line, readers won't have any reason to invest in this story.

Brainstorm 20 different reasons why your character should care. Why is it important that your character achieve this goal?

The character senses that the murderer has a hidden agenda to derail their shared project, and he is petrified of becoming the perpetrator's next target.

Could it be that the protagonist and their boss shared an intimate relationship, so now they fear a killer is after anyone who gets close to them? What could possibly drive someone to such lengths of violence?

Keep asking – why?

Could it be that something from the character's past is influencing this present situation?

It is essential to view the story from all perspectives, including that of the antagonist. Why do they feel compelled to stand in the way of your protagonist and their ambitions? Does it stem from something buried deep within them or could there be a connection between them and our hero? Such questions may help you craft an even more compelling narrative with multifaceted characters.

Does the motivation for your characters' goals resonate enough? Is it paramount that they succeed, or will failure result in dire consequences? Make sure to emphasize why attaining their objectives are so vital!

Without meaningful conflict, your storyline can quickly become dull and unengaging for readers. Your characters must have consequential motives driving their actions to keep the reader engaged and interested in the story.

Although the stakes don't have to be life or death for your characters when it comes to attaining their goals, failure should certainly result in consequential changes. Your protagonists must do whatever is necessary within their power in order to succeed and avoid such unfavorable outcomes.

What does your character want?

Why does he/she want it?

What in this character’s life or in their past makes this goal so important?

What will happen if the character fails?



Once you've established your character's goal and why they wish to achieve it, the next step is to create Conflict. What stands in the way of them achieving their ambition?

What is this character’s Conflict? (Who/what opposes him/her?)

Conflict should be integral to the story and confront your writer's protagonist on their journey. It can be personified by another character, an event or even an idea that stands in opposition of what the writer’s hero wishes to accomplish.

Conflict is like a roadblock impeding our hero from attaining their ambitions. Without it, there is nothing to propel the story forward and keep readers invested.

Your writer's protagonist will have to overcome their Conflict in order to reach their goal and your writer must ensure that it is a believable struggle, with realistic stakes. Create meaningful opposition that raises questions regarding whether or not they can achieve the desired outcome. What could be the potential consequences of victory or failure?

Take your time to think through the nature of this Conflict and how it affects the protagonist. Will they be able to overcome their struggles, or will the opposition prove insurmountable? The writer's job is to make sure that readers care about the answer and understand why it matters!

With meaningful goal, motivation, and conflict, your writer can craft an engaging story that has readers invested in the protagonist's success. The writer must ask themselves: why should they care?

By delving deep into the motivations of their characters and creating meaningful Conflicts, writers can create stories that have readers eagerly turning pages to find out what happens next!

What is the Conflict your character will face? Who or what opposes your main character and tries to stop him from achieving his goal? And what is this person’s motivation for doing so?

The opposition creates conflict that causes tension and anxiety for your main character (and your readers.) If the motivation and conflict behind your characters actions are not consequential enough, your reader may yawn and put the book down.

If the protagonist of your story fails to reach her goal, there must be a life-altering repercussion. Not just for her, but potentially those in close proximity as well. Just like our own lives, the choices made by one's characters affect everyone around them - and it is ultimately up to you how this manifests in your narrative. Who else will feel the rippling effect if she falters? How can this motivate her further towards success?

How can you leverage the initial conflict of your story to create greater tension? How can you increase the risks or make failure devastatingly more severe? As readers progress, how will this discord escalate from one confrontation after another until a climax is reached?



Going Deeper: Using Goal, Motivation, and Conflict in Scenes

Every time the protagonist appears in a scene, he should come with his own targeted objective that will eventually help him reach his overarching story goal. This is an essential step on the path to achieving your aspirations.


Goal: Every character should be driven to fulfill their scene goals for an essential reason. What's at stake if the protagonist fails in accomplishing this goal? Why is it so vital that they succeed? Establishing these stakes strengthens the story and increases suspense, thus making your work more persuasive.


Conflict: Who will oppose your main character in this scene? Who is trying to cause trouble for your main character and why? How will the opposition try to stop or cause trouble for the main character? List 3 ways the opposition will cause conflict in this scene.


Resolution: Will the main character face disappointment or failure in this scene? If he achieved his scene goal and got what he wanted, he may find there were consequences attached that will now make his life more difficult. If he has failed, he will have to decide what to do next. No matter what, the resolution will force the main character to make a decision. What will be the next action this character decides to take? This will become his next scene goal. His next mini step to try to achieve his overall story goal.

Writing a story with meaningful goal, motivation and conflict is essential for creating an engaging narrative that readers will invest their time in. By understanding the motivations of your characters, crafting consequential conflicts and increasing the stakes as you progress through each scene, writers can create stories that have readers eagerly turning pages to find out what happens next! To help hone these skills further be sure to check out Deb Dixon's book GMC: Goal, Motivation & Conflict - it's an invaluable resource for any writer looking to craft more creative and captivating works. So what are you waiting for? Start writing and take your storytelling abilities to new heights today!


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