Goals and Obstacles in every scene – Rule #18 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever


I’m dissecting the article Hunting Down the Pleonasm, by Allen Guthrie, using it as a cattle prod to search for little nasties in my manuscript.  Yep, you can join in the fun, too.  Let’s take a looksee at topic #18

18: Give your characters clear goals. Always. Every scene. And provide obstacles to those goals. Always. Every scene. If the POV character in a scene does not have a goal, provide one or cut the scene. If there is no obstacle, add one or cut the scene.

I have talked about this with almost every beta partner I ever had.  Why?  Because my first few beta partners spoke to me about this, and when I started listening, things started coming together for me.

This is where we start having to ax out “Little Darlings” – those scenes where two characters have a nice conversation, but NOTHING ACTUALLY HAPPENS.

Make sure every scene has conflict, and if it doesn’t chop it out.  If it is important to you, you can always post it as an “extra” on your website.  [Smile]


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8 responses to “Goals and Obstacles in every scene – Rule #18 of 32 Simple Rules to the Writing the Best Novel Ever

  1. Yes! Without no conflict, there is no reason for the story to advance in any interesting way.

  2. Extra on the website . . . way to solve the problem 🙂

  3. I certainly agree that a book where every scene has a has an incident and reaction will draw the reader along.

    However, I feel it is important to remember when applying this suggestion that a scene split in half by a flash-back/cut-scene/&c. remains one scene, so there can be sections of a work that are not goal and obstacle.

    • Yes, but the flashback should be complimenting the current scene so it feels like part of the scene and not an abstract unassociated idea right?

      • Definitely; but when to use a scene-within-a-scene is another discussion (I have not read Guthrie, so do not know if it is on his list).

        My point was you can, if it is justified by other considerations, have:

        Goal > Encounter Obstacle > (Flashback) > Interact with Obstacle

        Rather than having to have:

        Goal > Encounter Obstacle > Interact with Obstacle > (Flashback) > New Goal > New Obstacle > Interact with Obstacle