April 7, 2020

Protagonist Goals: 4 Keys to Character Development

The reader must feel the danger!
© Barbara V. Evers, All rights reserved.
Intriguing character development requires the establishment of clear goals that compel your character to act.

This often becomes the foundation of your story's conflict. Your protagonist pursues a goal that probably goes against his nature.

Do you have a full and nuanced goal established for your protagonist or something generalized? If you can't state it, your story might meander to and fro, going nowhere.

You should know this goal, be able to state it in a few sentences, and your reader should feel the tug of it, too.

What Goes Into a Character Goal?

In the corporate world, people create SMART goals (Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Relevant, Time-based). Establishing a SMART goal helps them stay focused on their priorities instead of getting lost in the weeds of interruptions and non-essential tasks.

In creative writing, characters need SPUN goals (Specific, Powerful, Urgent, Needs-Based). This goal will drive them to act against all odds. If you feel like you know their goal, check to see if it fits the SPUN requirements. In many cases, you might be missing some of these elements, or the goal is too generalized.

Let's look at each aspect of SPUN.


A goal must be specific or we don't know where we're going or how to get there. Same for your characters. What does she want? Maybe your character wants to find a killer. Besides the obvious reason that she wants to stop murders in general, why does she want to catch this specific killer?


To continue the killer example above, is the need to catch the killer powerful? Is it personal? Why is your character the one who needs to find the killer? Maybe the murders remind him of something that happened in his childhood. Or they ignite a protective instinct for certain people such as children, the elderly, etc. Identify that protective instinct and it's impact in this situation. You need to state the powerful reason driving him to find this killer. BUT, this reason needs to be powerful enough to make him act against his own interests. He has to step outside of his comfort zones.


If the need to catch the killer doesn't create some urgency in your character, then you need to crank up the stakes. What happens if she doesn't catch this killer soon? She needs to feel the ticking clock, the deadline that can't be missed. Your reader needs to hang onto the edge of their seat with her as she tries to track down this killer before ... ?

  • Before the next victim dies?
  • Before a close family member becomes the next one?
  • Before the killer comes after your character?
  • Before ?

N=A Need Your Character Wants

We know your protagonist wants to locate the killer, but what else does he need? Maybe he's been reprimanded for messing up his last investigation and assigned to desk duty. He wants to regain honor and respect from his peers, so he ignores the order to stay off the case. Why would he do that? Maybe, he secretly loves the next suspected victim. What will finding the killer give him that he wants so bad it's become a driving force?

Cover All of the Bases

For example:

Our protagonist, Joe, wants to catch the killer targeting kids on the South side of town where he grew up. When he was nine, his best friend was murdered on the streets and the killer never found. These murders are similar. But, Joe let his emotions get in the way of a major investigation recently, and the killer walked due to his mistakes. He's been assigned a regular beat for now. He wants to repair his reputation and find the murderer of his childhood friend. He'll lose his job if they find out he's working on this. He might let his emotions get in the way of another investigation, too, letting another killer walk free.

If you write a character who has a specific, powerful, and urgent need to achieve this goal while gaining something missing in his life, you have a character with the framework for an intriguing story. Make sure you develop these four keys, so your reader feels the need to meet this goal, too. That will keep them reading and unwilling to put your book down.

Other Characters

Don't forget, your antagonist and other characters need a SPUN goal, too. Many of your characters' pursuits may be at odds with the protagonist's goal.  That's good. It complicates the protagonist's efforts to achieve her goal.

I used a thriller/murder theme to explain this, but SPUN applies to all fiction, and possibly narrative fiction. The stakes don't have to be someone dies, but those stakes need to be something "dangerous" for your protagonist.

Use the four keys to set your protagonist's solid goal, and your character development becomes much easier.

March 30, 2020

Happy 10th Anniversary to An Eclectic Muse

Today is 

An Eclectic Muse's 


I can't believe it, but the proof is in my first post, dated March 30, 2010:

Getting Started With This Blog Thing

In 2010, a lot of people didn't know about blogs, so my first post tried to explain the concept. I, also, talked about my plans for this channel.

A lot has changed in that plan over the years, but I'm still here and churning out information related to writing.

People all over the world read my blog. This amazes me, but my stats tell me that my readers come from:

  • United States
  • Russia
  • France
  • Germany
  • Ukraine
  • Canada
  • Czechia
  • Unknown Region
  • United Kingdom
  • China

Not sure where that unknown region is, but this is my audience. Maybe it's aliens from outer space!

Those stats also indicate most of you find me through Facebook or Google.

What are the most popular posts?

I thought you'd never ask.  My top three posts are as eclectic as this blog's title. Starting with the most popular, they are:

I reviewed my tags and discovered that after writing and fiction, my most prolific tags are:

How has this blog changed?

During my first year of blogging, I tried to use the blog for multiple purposes. Over time, research indicated that successful blogs have a main purpose, so I shifted to a writing focus. I, also, started a second blog on faith at that time. Currently I post in both blogs each week and write posts for other blogs.

Under the new focus, I use this as a platform to teach about writing, to publicize other writers' works, and to explore my own writing journey. In the early years, I even participated in a few contests and made the short-list for a speculative fiction contest called The Rule of 3. My final story appeared in this post:

Raker's Return to Renaissance

I still love that story, and the novelization of it is on my TBW (to be written) list.

I couldn't do it without you!

Thank you to everyone who ever chose to visit this blog, comment, or share it. You keep me going when it's hard to decide what to write about.

Happy 10th Anniversary!

March 25, 2020

Social Distancing Lemonade: How Our Writing Group Did It

My granddaughter's artwork
When life gives you lemons...

We can look at this social distancing experience as lemons. I have had my lemon moments in the past week. Just read last week's post! But we're adapting. One of my writing life adaptations happened Monday night. Well, the culmination of it occurred Monday night. I spent Friday through Monday getting ready for it.


Our writing critique group. I run the local chapter for the South Carolina Writers' Association. We meet two times a month. In. Person. We look forward to this time of sharing and giving feedback on each other's work. Determined to not let that disappear, I began exploring options to hold our meetings online.

And found Zoom.

I participated in a Zoom meeting with 150 other people a few days before I began looking for an online option. This platform works amazingly well. You can:

  • See everyone who chooses to be seen
  • Mute or unmute participants
  • Mute or unmute video options
  • Share files on screen
  • Use a chat box for information beyond the scope of what's happening in the meeting
  • Access it will little issues or problems

Overall, it was a huge win for us. Most importantly, we were able to connect with our writing tribe. We had fourteen people in attendance, some who haven't been able to attend in some time due to caregiver responsibilities. With a bit of think-ahead strategy and planning, it came off without many hitches.

If you're interested in trying it out, here's a short video that instructs people how to access it from a tablet, smartphone, PC, or a Mac. A shout out to Chip Reaves at Bigger Brains* who saw the need for something quick and created this video.

How To Join a Zoom Meeting

I'm not going to say our first run was perfect. My computer froze at one point, but I'm working on a solution before our next meeting. The response from the group has been incredible. Some of our members admit to being Luddites, but it worked in the end. See what they had to say:

  • Good meeting.  Zoom seems to be the way to go.
  • I thought overall it was a success. Looking forward to the next one.
  • Overall, my thoughts are positive.  This can work!  
  • Things went really well last night. Much better than I had imagined. 

So how are you handling your group, in-person meetings? What's working for you? Please share them in the comments of this post so others can find something that works for them.

How are you making Social Distancing Lemonade?

*FYI, I'm one of Bigger Brains trainers, and we currently have
several training videos for free on YouTube, including 
our popular Microsoft Teams Essentials training
 and my complete library of Excel 2010 classes.