1. deadrats

    deadrats Contributor Contributor

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    What does your character want?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by deadrats, Nov 18, 2022.

    They say all characters should want something in a story. How big or small do you make what your characters want? And how much of the story revolves around that want? I'm guessing a story pretty much focuses on what a character wants. I mean that's probably the point of the story, right? But I don't think it always has to be so obvious of a focus. What do you guys think?
     
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  2. ps102

    ps102 Active Member

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    A "want" can be implicit and subconscious, you don't always need to have the character actively pursue something in the story like a relationship or a goal.

    I've been reading the Wandering Witch novels for a while now and the main character (Elaina) doesn't really want anything in particular, she just travels wherever her feet take her, encountering some oddities at times she must deal with.

    Her travels are ultimately aimless, that's the main concept, but I suppose the fact alone that she's traveling is something she "wants" to do. It's not an active goal though, more like a way of life, and if we characterize it as such, then yeah, all characters want something. Else they'd have no agency.

    I can't think of a single story where this isn't the case with this mindset, to want is human nature, because we aren't passive beings. Us wanting is our evolutionary instinct to keep evolving, we're always curious and willing to explore. Just think back to when you were a child, I'm sure you had some very finicky hands.

    Perhaps if you write a story about a robot then you may have a character that wants nothing, and just exists for the whole purpose of service. Maybe others can think of a better answer though, I can't.
     
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  3. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Vonnegut said they should always want something, even if it's a "glass of water." I've riffed off the glass of water a few times. And the inevitable result, having to take a leak. A did a little ditty a few years back about a character in the middle of the Kennedy assassination who has to find a bathroom. He sees the chaos and JFK's head explode but doesn't care... need bathroom, now!

    The point is that big or small, the character's motivation is tied directly into what they want. And it's what readers root for or against. This one wants to save the world... good! This one wants to destroy the world... bad! This one wants a stable relationship with a loving partner... yayy, something to root for! This one wants to murder the jocks that bullied him in high school... not my playbook, but I get where they're coming from!

    Some wants are more subtle than others, but you don't have much to write about if the character doesn't have a goal.
     
  4. J.T. Woody

    J.T. Woody The Ole Frazzle-Dazzle Contributor

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    i'm trying to figure this out for my current WIP....
    I knew exactly what she wanted in the last book: Family and Belonging (which puts her in pretty desperate situations like almost selling her soul to a sorcerer, for example), among other things.

    well.... now she has those things in a "be careful what you wish for" kind of way.
    So now i have to figure out another want of hers. I think i'm on the cusp of it.... but it gets overshadowed by the wants of by 2nd MC. Its not strong enough to pull its own weight.


    but yeah, even the characters in my short stories have wants. I feel like the "want" drives the story and is the focus in some capacity.
     
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  5. Sir Reginald Pinkleton

    Sir Reginald Pinkleton Member

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    The chap I'm writing just now wants a few things.

    He wants to solve the case he's working on, naturally.

    He wants to make sure nobody else gets hurt.

    He wants to help his friend get over the difficulties she's going through.

    He wants something that happened long ago to have not happened.

    By the time I'm finished he'll want rather a lot of other things, and realised that he always wanted a few more, too.

    He sounds like a fairly standard cliché, boiled down to just that, but I hope that I can make him a distinctive individual, even if his wants are a touch old hat.
     
  6. w. bogart

    w. bogart Member

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    Characters have different types of wants, internal and external. These often conflict.
    Susie wants to be happy, internal. She thinks that cute guy, Johnny, will make her happy, external. She doesn't realize Johnny is an abusive ass. So if she gets her external want, her internal want will conflict.
     
  7. Alcove Audio

    Alcove Audio Senior Member

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    The characters in my current WIP just want the war to be over so they can go home. But will they have been changed so much that it's no longer an option?
     
    Last edited: Nov 19, 2022
  8. w. bogart

    w. bogart Member

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    That sounds like an internal want of going back to the known and comfortable life they once had. Externally the see the end of the war as a way to accomplish that internal goal. While they may get the external, they can't get the internal since they will have changed too much, and must learn a new way to fit in, like they once did.
     
  9. SilverWolf0101

    SilverWolf0101 Active Member

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    The want doesn't have to be obvious, sometimes your character doesn't even have to know what they want.
    In one of my stories, the character wanted their life to change which resulted in a "be careful what you wish for" situation. Now that their life has changed, they have a new want of being able to return home. And that is the want they focus on most. The reason they travel and do the things they do. It is the main focus of their journey until they start meeting other characters. As they grow closer to these characters, they subconsciously want the best for these other characters. They want them to be happy. But that want, could cost the main character their own desire. In the end, the character realizes the thing they've wanted all along, was there the entire time. They just had to realize it.

    Btw, it's okay if a character's wants constantly change throughout the story. Even if its for the smallest "want". Some of the most compelling scenes start from a simple "want".
     
  10. keysersoze

    keysersoze Senior Member

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    My characters' wants are too explicit and too exposed. Like you say, they must not be that apparent. But my characters hold a placard saying this is what I want. A annoying situation. But I don't know what to do about it.
     
  11. Louanne Learning

    Louanne Learning Active Member

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    Characters want what all people want: happiness, respect, money, peace, joy, balance, fulfillment, confidence and a piece of chocolate cake.
     
  12. JLT

    JLT Contributor Contributor

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    I remember that. He brought that up in his writing courses, and said that one of the best stories he'd ever read came from a student who wrote about a woman who was in some sort of situation where she was in front of an audience or a camera or something, and really, really, really needed to scratch her nose.
     
  13. Homer Potvin

    Homer Potvin A tombstone hand and a graveyard mind Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Vonnegut was great at writing obliquely. He would have large premises with lots of things happening, but he like to kind of come at the characters sideways.
     

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