Tactical Tuesday: Advice or Self-Editing | Pelican Book Group Official Blog
When self-editing, an author must check each scene to assure that their point-of-view character is properly motivated–striving toward a seemingly unattainable goal, or if the goal seems attainable, it needs to be taken out of the grasp of your character. Without an overriding desire, whether your heroine is Ms. America and searching for world peace or John, the hero introduced in last week’s blog, they do not have a story worth telling.

The goal, and the motivation to seek those goals, aren’t devices mentioned in the first paragraph of a manuscript then forgotten until the last chapter. Goal and motivation must be at the forefront of each scene you write, whether those goals are obvious to your character or not.

In last week’s example, we set our stage, providing the reader with transition (time), location, and sensory details. Now, let’s look at what motivates John, what will carry the reader along with him on his journey, as the author builds the story one scene at a time:

Two days after the funeral, John stood at his father’s desk,reviewing the old man’s Trust. John let the document slip from his fingers. The ticking grandfather clock, ironically left to his father by his grandfather, broke the unbearable silence as John stared out the window at the lush gardens of the mansion.

The heavy oak door of his father’s office creaked open.

John rubbed tired eyes and turned at his mother’s touch on his arm. “Why?” He cleared emotion from his throat.

Mother ran her hand along the edge of the desk. “I don’t know.”

John picked up the Trust once again and held it out to her. “I lived my life to one day run the company, and it’s gone. My life’s work.”

“John, he didn’t leave you penniless. He left you stock in the corporation. You have a seat on the board.”John shook his head.

“And I’m supposed to appreciate it. Fourteen to sixteen hours a day, seven days a week, and I get a token of his appreciation.”

“He thought you had lessons to learn, but he loved you. He was proud of you.”

“Funny way of showing it, Mother.” He turned to her, his gaze narrowed. “And don’t think for a moment I won’t get my company back.”


John is now motivated by the fact his father didn’t leave him what he considers part of his inheritance. His goal is to win it back at all costs.

If this scene had been about John looking at his father’s Trust, relieved he didn’t have to take over the family business, there would be nothing to build upon, no reason for this scene. End of story. Now, we know what John wants and what will propel him and the reader forward, but still, there’s something missing from our scene.

Next week, we’ll look at developing conflict.

Until then,

Happy editing!

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