5 Questions about Characters’ Desires

What does your character want more than anything else? Sharpen and deepen the desires of your major characters, and your story will be richer.

5 Questions to Ask Your Characters

I want to win a race!
I want to win a race!
  1. Character Goal
    What do you want? Or not want? Need? Or not Need?
    This question lays out the character’s goal for the entire story. What is the character trying to achieve as s/he faces the challenges of this story?
  2. Changing Goals
    Does the character’s desires change as the story progresses?
    One paradigm for stories says that the character’s goal should change halfway through a story. Think of the “Lion King,” where Simba’s goal at first is to have a good time, and later, to take his place as leader of the pride. Changing goals represent character growth. It could also represent a changing from External Goals (can I win the trophy for this race) to Internal Goals (can I run with integrity, no doping, no cheating, etc.).
  3. Obstacles to Goal
    What prevents the character from obtaining his/her desire?
    Strong obstacles, including strong villains, makes for a more exciting plot. Create a series of increasingly difficult obstacles.
  4. Sacrifices for Goal
    What must the character give up to obtain his/her desire?
    This isn’t present in every story, but it’s something to consider. What must a character give up, in order to obtain this thing. Freedom, some privelege, money, integrity?
  5. Satisfied or Disappointed
    What will the character feel when they obtain his/her desire?
    Ultimately, will the character be satisfied if s/he obtains his/her desire? There are 4 options:

    • Character achieves Goal/Goal satisfies (happiest ending);
    • Character achieves goal/Goal does not satisfy (tragedy);
    • Character fails to achieve Goal/Failure satisfies (still a happy ending, possible character growth because character now understands why it was a bad goal to begin with);
    • Character does not achieve Goal/ Failure does not satisfy (tragedy)

Think hard about your character’s goals because it affects the plot, the outcome, and the overall tone of your story.

Read more in 15 Days to a Stronger Character

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