Monday, June 21, 2010

What do you need?

Well, we’re going to talk about needs today – so I think I’m in ‘need’ of some cyberfare. How about donuts? A mix of chocolate, blueberry, and good-ol glazed. Throw in a bowl of fresh strawberries from the farmers market down the street and I think that’s a good start.


We all have them and our characters shouldn’t be any different.

In Diann Mills lectures on characters, she talks a lot about how needs influence your characters and your story.

There are basic needs that we all adjust and define as we develop our characters. And to provide the conflict needed to keep a story going for 50,000 words, your characters must have unmet needs. When our characters have unmet needs, the reader feels an emotional connection. Emotional connection is vital.

Emotion comes out of conflict and conflict is the heart of a good story.
As a writer, if we can develop some unmet needs in our characters, we’ll hopefully build an emotional connection with our readers, as well as a more three-dimensional character.

So, what are some needs to consider as you create your characters?

1. Survival – Is your character’s life in some sort of danger? Is he/she sick? Is there something placing his life in jeopardy?

2. Security – This has to do with the need for emotional and economical stability. Is there anything going on in your story where your hero is close to emotional bankruptcy? Needy in the emotional realm? For example, my heroine’s husband left her for a younger woman. She is emotionally insecure because of it.

3. Sex- The need for physical intimacy. Basically every human wants this. Not necessarily the physical act of sex, but what it represents – closeness.

4. Significance – The need to feel important in the world, perhaps even prove oneself.

5. Self-hood/esteem – need to know who you are, and a need for goals, achievement, and/or recognition.

6. Belonging – The need to be loved. This goes along well with #2 (emotional security). In my wip, my heroine doesn’t have a ‘home’ and despite what she says, she longs for a place to call home. A place to belong.

7. Self-Actualization – the need to live up to one’s fullest potential. Win the goal. For some reason I thought of Eric Liddel, Olympic runner, who knew what he wanted and went for it – both spiritually and physically.

Okay – so it’s a short and simple list, but if you really think about it, these are some complex needs. Can you list one or more needs for you hero or heroine?


Mia said...

I've never thought of my MC as needy, but she wants a lot of the things on that list. I would say the biggest things for her would be survival and belonging... to know she's loved and that she fits in somewhere.

Great list, Pepper! I'll keep this in mind next time I'm trying to figure out my characters ;)

Casey said...

I really liked this list Pepper! And donuts sound goooood, especially the no calarie fair here at the alley. :)

This list would take characters so much deeper, wider and more real to the reader. I am going to have to refer to this again. :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

This is an important concept. Of late I've noticed how easy it is to get caught up in the story line, good dialogue, etc....but without the aspects you mention, the above is meaningless.
Good post.

Pepper said...

Hi Mia, Casey, & Mary,
Thanks for the comments. I found this list very helpful in delving into more detail about my characters - like you said, Casey.

And Mary, I know what you mean. It's so easy to get caught up in the 'big' ideas of the story, that I forget how conflict comes about in these seemingly smaller areas too.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

Oh Pepper, this was good! I think my heroine definitely has a need of survival and belonging. She is a seeker of love.

I think I so often get caught up in the action of the story and forget about the internal needs of my characters. This is a great list to keep close by. :)

Krista Phillips said...

Great list! Several of those applied my characters:-) It's funny, usually I don't know at the beginning what exactly my characters "need" but very soon after I start, I start to see their need:-)

Pepper said...

I'm that way in my writing too. I really start fleshing out my characters as I write them.
As a SOTP writer, are you a big-time rewriter?
I love editing and rewriting because I learn so much more about my story that way.

Jocelyn DEFINITELY has a need for safety - from the first paragraph! Oh what a good story.

Krista Phillips said...

Oh, yes, I have to rewrite a lot. Usually I stop half way through and go back, because I have to check timing. I've had some DOOZY of errors before, and it really helps get a firm grip on the rest of my story. So I rewrite the first half then. When I'm done, I read through and edit, but do more rewriting on the second half.

I would NOT say that I love editing and rewriting. The thrill of the first write is just... exhilarating. Editing and rewriting is tiresome, lol! But, gotta do what ya gotta do!