When the goal is reached

Your main character cannot reach their goal until the 90% mark in the story. For screenwriters, this rule is non-negotiable. For novelists, it’s a little fuzzy, but I would argue that “a little” means you have maybe 5% padding on either side of this mark. Why? If the whole point of your plot is for character A to reach goal B, once they either do so or give up on doing so, the plot is over. People will stay with you for some tears and wrap-up, but not much more.

For example, I read a book recently where the main character met her goal at the 50% mark. Yep. Halfway. You want to know what happened then? I lost interest in the book. I kept going since I’d already invested a lot of time in this character, but I had zero engagement in the story. I was no longer desperate to pick it up and when I did, all I heard was  blah blah blah. I wanted it done. Like now.

Think about this when you are revising. If your ending lacks lustre or feels too rushed, maybe your goal has been reached too early or too late.

End note: If your response to this is, “but after she meets the goal, she has to go get XYZ”, then guess what? Your goal is actually XYZ!

Category: On Writing