April 05, 2008

Act I - Goals

Last post, I mentioned that when the writer works within a framework or structure, he or she has the ability to knowingly or intentionally break the rules. If, as a writer, you don’t have a set of rules or guidelines to play with, then you won’t know when you’re breaking the rules.

How, then, do you figure it out?

Press on…

Take Act I and focus in on what needs to be accomplished before we hit Plot Point I and dive into Act II. What are your goals for Act I? What do you want the reader to experience? When Act I is over, what is it you want the reader to think, feel, and understand?

Here are some possibilities:
  • Goal #1 - The Main Character: the reader understands and begins to associate with the main character (including the key obstacles that he or she needs to overcome).
  • Goal #2 – The Foundation: the story’s premise and plot are developed.
  • Goal #3 – Engagement: The reader is fully engaged in the story and can’t put it down.
These goals give us focus and hold us accountable. We now know what we want to accomplish in Act I. We can measure it. Take your goals and infuse them into your structure. Can you break some of the structural rules and still accomplish your goals? Try it. See if it works. Measure it.

Goals are important. They define how we will interact with the fictional world around us. The next time you sit down in front of the keyboard or notepad, write out your goals and intentions for Act I. Try it!

Did I miss any critical goals for Act I? Do you have a different set of goals when you begin to put words on a page? Let me know!


Anonymous said...


I saw your blog through a Facebook link and thought I would take a look. I've scanned through some of the posts, and it's great advice. Sad to say, advice I've already learned! I've read a lot of books on how to write, so I know the info you are giving is still helpful to new writers. I'm going to be sure and bookmark your blog and spread it around to my other writing friends!

Is there any chance I could do a link swap with you? I am a moderator for the writing forum Young Writers Society. We have a blog which is another part of the site. What would you think of swapping? I'd have to speak with the admin to get your link up, but I'm sure he would be fine with it. I'd love to share your site with young writers out there! It looks like just the kind of thing they need.

I'd love to hear back from you some time! I also look forward to keeping an eye on your blog! There may be something here I need help with.


J Sherer said...

Please do forward the blog to anyone and everyone who can benefit from it. Also, please don't hesitate to add more information to the blog! If you have insights or further information, comment on it! I would love to hear your insights. I see this blog as not just an opportunity for me to talk about what I've learned, but also for others to share their feedback and insights!

Thanks for commenting. I will definitely link to the Young Writers Society! Thanks!

Chels said...

I'm at the point in my writing where it's slowing down. I will sit here sometimes not knowing what to write or where to begin. I know my initial goal, but I just don't know how to get there. Any advice?

J Sherer said...

It depends a little bit on where you are and exactly what problem you're experiencing. I think there are two types of "writer's block." The first kind is basically that your story is floundering. It requires that you think long and hard about what your story about and how to get from Point A to Point B. It's "what" story you're telling. The second kind is more of a "creative wall." This can be related to structure, but it also involves trying to find the right words, creating better characters, and getting the right tone. It's "how" you're telling the story.

I'm not exactly sure where you're at, but ask yourself the following questions:
1) What (or whose) story am I trying to tell?
2) Where is my character now and where does he/she need to be by the time this story is over?
3) Do I know the "critical path" that my character will take to get from Point A to Point B?

Here are some things you can try in order to help you with the above:
1) Think of the end of your story. Picture the setting, picture the character. How is he/she different? Now, take that and go, "Okay, how did he/she get here?" Thinking that way can help trigger plot points in your mind.
2) Really define the story you're trying to tell, and then shave off all the extras that don't matter. Knowing your "core story" is critical.

Hopefully that helps. Try these things out and let me know if it works. If it doesn't give me some more specifics of the story.

Anybody else out there have any ideas?