Your Story’s One Main Aim

Good morning and welcome to this week’s writing tip. I hope you are well and enjoying the slightly longer mornings and evenings – spring is surely nearly here!

Today’s writing tip is vital for the pace of your story.

Why doesn’t Cinderella, as well as wanting to go to the ball, also need to save a rare flower, search for a long-lost auntie and lose weight?

Because protagonists should have one main aim.

Child at the beach

This aim can be anything: to save the rainforest, destroy the weapons, find the treasure, get to safety, discover the identity of the thief, bring the prodigal home, reach the moon, win the football game… but there should only be ONE main aim.

Along the way your characters may battle beasts, bullies, thieves, hurricanes, dragons, aliens and face all manner of difficulties… but all the struggles should be because they are fighting to reach their one goal.

Here’s the problem: if your characters go through situations that have nothing to do with the main aim, you risk diluting your story, reducing tension, and making your story long-winded (and boring… noooooo!).

You need to decide: What is my protagonist’s main aim?

When you have decided what the goal is, think of this aim as a thread running through the story. Anything that does not hang on this thread needs to be cut (you can always save ideas for the sequel! :-)).

Does this make sense?

The Cinderella story works because there is one aim – for her to win the prince’s heart. Everything in the story is there so she can achieve that aim.

One MAIN story loop is enough for each story. You can have side plots, but they still need to feed in to the main aim. And if you’re writing for younger children, keep it simple – stick to the one main aim.

In the beginning you open it, at the end you close it. And the middle is the struggle to reach it.

Does this makes sense? Why not pause for a moment and think back to the last story you read, or film you watched. What was the protagonist’s main aim? Was everything in the story working towards the character/s reaching this aim?

Eastbourne Christian Resources Centre Special GuestAny comments or queries, please don’t hesitate to contact me. I always love to hear from you!

See you next week,


P.S. I am running a FREE writing workshop at the Eastbourne Christian Bookshop next Saturday morning (8th Feb), as part of their 50th anniversary celebrations. If you’d like to go, you need to book with them. If you’re anywhere near, do come – it would be wonderful to meet you!

On the same day, in the afternoon I will be speaking at the Hand in Hand Children’s Ministry Conference, also in Eastbourne. The title of my session is Exploring and discussing faith at home though children’s books. Sharing our faith with our children is a priority, but it’s not always easy. In this session we’ll be looking at three easy ways to use books to start discussions. I will be giving out a free goodie bag of books for every attendee, so come along if you can!

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