Saturday, September 1, 2012

What characters really want

Two writers posted recently on making sure to address our characters' deeper needs, not just the external conflict in a story:

Laurel at Laurel's Leaves: "The story-worthy problem adds emotional stakes to your work, so that what happens to your characters and the decisions they make actually changes them deeply."

Laurie Halse Anderson at Madwoman in the Forest: "It’s pretty hard, if not impossible, to complete a novel without knowing what your character wants out of her life."

I encourage you to click over and read the posts. This concept is something I definitely pay attention to. I usually don't know my character's deeper needs or emotional quest early in the drafting process; something is driving him or her, but it takes me a while to recognize it. Once I know that deeper need, it becomes much easier to know where the story should peak, where it should end, which scenes truly belong, and how the subplots can link in to the main plot.

Also, for your amusement, check out Melinda Cordell's "Why I Haven't Written Anything" at The Storyteller's Inkpot. A sample:
"Distraction: Then write a bunch of random Tweets about your chickens!
Me: No, I need to stay off the internet and use my time constructively.
Distraction: Ha ha! Now that's funny!"

I definitely encourage reading the whole thing, because it gets into the critical voices in our heads, and the ways they can sabotage us, but it's funny, too.

10 comments:

  1. Core needs. I read a book about them once. Made me think of my own deeper needs. The need to create. The need for change. Everyone has them, including our character, but yeah, sometimes it takes getting to know the character well before those needs are revealed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You wouldn't believe how many drafts I can go through before I can identify them. Or maybe you would.

      Delete
  2. As I read those two posts about character development, I thought of lyrics to the Coldplay song..."When you get what you want but not what you need..." When I write, I try to think of why characters want the things they want, and that usually leads me to the core of what their deeper needs are.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It can be tough. I suppose I always know on some level what they need (otherwise I wouldn't be able to write the story at all), but I have a hard time articulating it. Once I can articulate it, it helps me make certain decisions about theme and plot.

      Delete
  3. Thanks for the links! Those are really good posts.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks for the linkage! Hope you had a nice Labor day!

    ReplyDelete