Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Do You Know What Your Characters Want? Part 2


Okay, so last time we talked about figuring out your character's desire. Hopefully you've all thought through your story and have been able to discern what it is your hero or heroine really wants, because if you don't know, it generally makes for some saggy story middles.

Let's talk now about a few more things to consider when it comes to character desire. 

First, you need to go through each of your main POV characters and make sure you know the desire of each one. (They don't have to mesh. In fact, opposing desires from various characters is a great way to introduce some conflict into your story.) Then look at each scene in your story and make sure your character is acting in accordance with that desire. If your character seems flat, look at their actions. Generally flat characters arise because the author didn't take the time to really figure out the character and what they wanted. Vacillating characters are not only annoying, but hard to relate to, and thus may appear contrived on the page. 

Second, once you've determined each characters' driving ambition you have to figure out when to introduce it in the story. Do they come into the story knowing what they want? Or does something happen to them at the beginning of the story to spur them along their chosen path, like Kino in the The Pearl

Thirdly, does your character's desire change part way through the story? A distinct possibility as your character grows and matures.

Some of the best story lines arise from characters whose desire is born through circumstances thrust upon them. Take Luke Skywalker, for instance. He didn't want to leave his home to save the universe, but when his uncle and aunt are killed, his path is immediately altered and suddenly he WANTS to do what he can to stop the madness.

Mitch McDeer, in John Grisham's The Firm, first wanted nothing more than to get into the law firm, but once inside he soon discovers that his desire has changed and he now wants out. This desire is thrust upon him due to the actions of others.

Any questions for me about character desire? Added thoughts? 

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4 comments:

  1. Good post. I love the depth that arises from the different levels of character desire: his overarching goal, his scene goal, sometimes even just his goal of walking over the fridge for ketchup!

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  2. I've yet to commit to a character long enough to really let him develop and allow him to take me by the hand and lead me to see his desires and goals.

    What am I waiting for!!???

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  3. Great examples. Luke Skywalker is changed in an instant. It's good to think about the other POV's too... I need to do this myself ;o)

    Thanks, great post!

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  4. You've shared two terrific lessons, Lynnette! Thanks!

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