In this episode Kristina Stanley from Fictionary sits down with JoEllen Nordström and talk about the point of view goal, and their internal role.

Discover how to use the POV Goal Internal of a fiction story and share how you can improve your writing now.


Internal Goal


In the previous episode of the 38 Story Element series, we talked about the point of view character goal and by that we mean the external goal. And this is the goal that the character wants. So in a murder mystery they want to solve the murder. So it’s what’s driving the main thought forward.

An internal goal has to do with the weakness, major weakness the character has. And this weakness should hinder the character and is something they must overcome to reach the overriding goal of the story. And without an internal goal along with an external goal a character may seem flat.

So if the reader understands early on in the story that the character has a weakness they’re going to be expecting that it’s going to change. And it can go either way. It’s going to get worse or it’s going to get better. But it shouldn’t really stay the same. So when you’re starting your revisions and you’ve just asked yourself, ‘okay who’s the point of view character?’ ‘What’s the point of your character’s external goal?’.

Now you need to start digging a little bit deeper and figure out what is the internal goal. It’s something they have to overcome that’s really hindering them as they go through the story.

So how are we going to use this? How do we put this into instant use within our book here? Because we’ve been looking at their point of view, but now this is hidden. So how do we deal with that?

This is where you really need to show a reader. If we have a character who is agoraphobic and so they’re afraid to leave their house. You know the opening scene can be their external goal like they desperately need to get out of the house to do something.

Then the internal goal is to figure out how they’re going to do it. And that shows the weakness that they can’t quite get out of the house. A beautifully written book about this called: “A woman in the window” but it’s basically a woman who can’t leave the house. And the opening scene is that, she’s watching people on her street and she wants to go but she can’t and so right away the author has not told the reader that this is the problem.

They’ve shown it in the opening scene or in an early scene in the book. So early on it’s going to come out that there is this weakness and that goal can stay consistent over the entire story.

An external goal can change every scene so as the plot moves forward the character needs to achieve some more goals. However, in their internal goal they need to figure it all out through the story. Sometimes, they might not even know they have this issue but it’s shown to the reader. Then at the midpoint, they’re going to start and strive to overcome it. And by plot point two, it’s going to be clear whether you know they’re gonna make it or not make it.

If we’re gonna use this or advise an editor/writer, how exactly can you know what kind of advice can we give a writer on how to be aware of this and to deal with it as their writing versus coming back and trying to solve that?

The way to do it after the fact from an editor is to keep notes on a personal basis. Early on if it’s not clear what the internal flaw is, that’s going to drive the internal goal. And you can think of the internal goal as it’s a need. It’s something that the character needs to have in order to make their life better. There’s no option for them, if they’re going to move forward.

An editor’s role is to look at each scene and guess as you read through it. That is the internal goal.

Sometimes, by the time the editor got to the end of the story saying, ‘nope that wasn’t it at all. It was something else’. Here’s some ways that you can rewrite the opening scenes to make it a little more clear that the internal flaw which drives the internal goal is in the character. And you can help the writer bring it out earlier in the story. And it’s important to bring it out early in the story, because first of all characters have to have flaws or they’re boring.

Readers love to cheer for a character. And you can only cheer for a character if you think there’s something holding them back from actually reaching their goals. We always root for that underdog. We always want to make them happen. So again we need to go through and look at that and figure it out where it is. And make sure that we’re outlining that not only in this story but in our future stories.

I hope this is helping everyone see the point of view and how having those insights helps us create more conflict, more struggle, and more interest in the story.

This is one of the hardest elements for writers to do. This is where an editor can really help a writer add depth to their story. The editor can coach the writer to go back through and add this back through throughout the story during the revisions. That again is part of creating this fantastic point of view. We’ve got our goals, we’ve got our internal goals, we’ve got our conflict, we’ve got a resolution, so as we go through creating all of that interest that we need to keep our story great.

Also, make sure that our readers understand. Oftentimes, we think we get into the story and we don’t see as a new reader what exactly they’re picking up on or what they might be missing.


WATCH NEXT EPISODE: The Goal Related to Plot – EPISODE #05



Enter your email to subscribe to our newsletter, get free advice and connect with other authors.
I am an author of:  
My email:  

Helping you publish!

Helping writers
become published authors!

Fiction Editing

Start Here

Nonfiction Editing

Start Here

Academic Editing

Start Here