Character Talk – Need

Sometimes I get funny looks when I’m out. I assume it’s because I look like I’m daydreaming or I seem to be talking to myself. But I’m not. There are people talking to me, begging me to write their stories, and I’m just digging for information so as to tell their story in the best way possible. Totally not weird to be talking to fictional characters that aren’t developed yet, right?

There are a lot of things to consider when creating characters, among them name, looks, personality, and why they’re even in your story. What purpose do they serve? How do they advance the story? Why is that one obsessed with bow ties? So many questions to think about.

Every character has a need, but sometimes finding that need is difficult. I’m not talking a need like food or water or shelter. I’m talking a need as in a want or a goal or an endgame. Something that every action the character takes leads him or her that much closer to it. For instance, in The Wizard of Oz, all Dorothy wants to do is go home. Does she get to go directly home? No. That would be boring. She has to follow a yellow brick road which causes her to meet all of these crazy characters who help her get to the great city of Oz to see the wizard who can take her home. Seems easy enough, right? But then the wizard orders her to get the Wicked Witch of the West’s broom to prove she is worthy. More crazy adventure ensues. And all this time all poor Dorothy wants to do is go home.

Character need is important. Without it, your character has no motivation to do anything. Can the need change throughout the story? Of course. I wouldn’t suggest a new need on every page, but maybe a change is needed at a turning point. For example, let’s say your character is on the run from some bad dudes. They’re vicious and mean and crazy loco. We could have him running away forever, where his need would be to stay safe. But that gets boring after a while. So we throw a twist in the plot. He gets caught – new need is to escape. Escaping is a much more interesting need than just being safe. Or maybe the bad dudes nab his girlfriend and are holding her hostage. Now we have a dilemma and a choice to make. Does our guy keep running, or does he try to save the girlfriend? New need – the safety of the girlfriend, most likely. Because now he’s running toward the danger, which makes him much more interesting.

So take your time with your character. Talk to them, scream at them, listen to them. Figure out what they need, and find a way to get them to that goal. Your characters will thank you later.