If you Google “purpose”, you will see other people have done the same: what is the meaning of purpose in English, purpose in the bible, what is the plural of purpose, what is the purpose of marriage (not procreation, if you were interested), the list goes on. Unfortunately Justin Bieber’s Purpose tour also appears, because Google’s censoring filters for offensive content aren’t perfect.
Purpose is a big issue in most aspects of life. As humans, it’s an innate goal to find our own purpose on Earth. The main question we ask of life itself is, “why are we here?”
Purpose in story writing
Before anything gets too philosophical I want to state this is relevant to story writing, because if stories are anything, they are to question:
- What makes us human
- Shared experiences of being human (even if those experiences are extraordinary, like fighting dragons or learning magic)
- What makes us alike and what makes us individual
- What it means to be human
Much like real people, the characters in our stories must also question these things via the story they are in, or the story itself should in whatever form that happens.
How to write with purpose
Anything without a purpose is pointless and doesn’t tend to last long – people, ideas, inventions, characters.
Every writer is well versed in the old advice, “Every scene should be to build character or progress plot.” But I’d argue even if a scene doesn’t do this, if it does progress a character to their ultimate goal, then it has purpose. If you think a scene is important, if you can give it an important reason why it’s there, then it can stay. A scene that is in just to make you sound clever, or just to sound pretty, probably shouldn’t exist.
But you’re the writer and you have final say, remember that.
Proactive, not reactive, characters
Boring story: Your characters have loads of things happen to them, they react, plot advances.
Great story: Your characters make decisions, whether good, questionable or bad, and deal with the consequences of those actions.
Things happening to your characters passively is not interesting. Even if their decisions aren’t always the selfless, angelic actions you’d expect a saint to make it creates a better story. Making questionable choices, bad decisions, lapses in judgement and being flawed characters – that’s what is interesting.
The point is that active characters are more interesting to read about and.
Really interrogate your work when you’re planning it, when you’re writing it, and finally when you’re editing it. Make sure you know what the reason each scene, each conversation, each decision is in your story and whether it is worthy of being there. Your gut instinct will help greatly with this, too. Allow your characters to make decisions that drive the story, even questionable ones, and you’ll find yourself with a better plot and more interesting characters.
In conclusion, much like your beloved characters, every action you make should also be towards your ultimate goal – of being a successful writer.