The first element to include in your plot outline is the Story Goal, which we covered in detail in the previous article, The Key to a Solid Plot: Choosing a Story Goal. To summarize, the plot of any story is a sequence of events that revolve around an attempt to solve a problem or attain a goal. The Story Goal is, generally speaking, what your protagonist wants to achieve or the problem he/she wants to resolve. It is also the goal/problem that involves or affects most, if not all the other characters in the story. It is “what the story is all about.”
There are many ways we could involve other characters in this goal. For instance, we could give our protagonist …
… a mother who wants her to be happier.
… friends and colleagues at her company who are also unmarried and lonely (so that her success might inspire them).
… a jealous ex-boyfriend who tries to sabotage her love life.
… an elderly, lonely spinster of an aunt who doesn’t want the protagonist to make the same mistake she did.
… a happy young family who give her an example of what she has missed.
We could even make the company where the protagonist works in danger of failing because it doesn’t appreciate the importance of family. It could be losing good employees to other companies that do.
In other words, after we have chosen a Story Goal, we will build a world around our protagonist that includes many perspectives on the problem and makes the goal important to everyone in that world. That’s why choosing the Story Goal is the most important first step in building a plot outline.
If you haven’t chosen a goal for your novel yet, do so now. Make a list of potential goals that fits the idea you are working on. Then choose one goal to base your plot outline on.