Sanity Snippet #4

Every good novel has at least one protagonist, and every protagonist has a goal. Use H.R. D’Costa’s (Aka HRD) SMART technique to make sure your protagonist’s story objective is powerful enough to go the distance and keep your audience reading.

SMART is an acronym. Here’s how HRD desribes each component:

S – Specific (it’s concrete, not amorphous or abstract)

M – Measureable (it has a clear indicator of success or failure)

A – Actionable (even a brief description immediately conjures a few of the action steps needed to accomplish it)

R – Realistic (it’s credible for your hero to achieve it)

T – Time-bound (it must be accomplished by a certain deadline)

Keep in mind that other story characters also have goals. Use SMART to discover what your antagonist is trying to accomplish. Sometimes, you can start here and work backwards to discover your protagonist’s goal.

Here’s how I describe Lee Harding’s SMART goal in my current work in progress: S (he wants Ray Archer brought to justice for the kidnapping and murder of Kyle Bennett, Lee’s childhood friend who disappeared half-a-century ago); M (either Ray will be arrested or he won’t); A (there are multiple things Lee can do to investigate Kyle’s disappearance and Ray’s involvement); R (Lee is an attorney, thus he, along with allies such as a private investigator and the District Attorney, can marshall the skills and resources needed); and T (Lee arrives in Boaz in late November and has until February (the beginning of Spring semester at Yale Law School) to accomplish his goal).

It’s time to write. Use HRD’s SMART technique to discover your protagonist’s goal. Fifteen minutes invested in focused free-writing might stimulate your creative juicies. Start your session by asking yourself, “what question is my protagonist trying to answer?” Or, “what problem is he trying to solve?” After your time is over, write your protagonist’s SMART goal.

Photo by Olya Kobruseva on

Author: Richard L. Fricks

Former CPA, attorney, and lifelong wanderer. I'm now a full-time skeptic and part-time novelist. The rest of my time I spend biking, gardening, meditating, photographing, reading, writing, and encouraging others to adopt The Pencil Driven Life.

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