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  • Writer's pictureKelly

What do you want??

In my last blog post, I wrote about why it is important for your character to want something. Now, let’s dive into some tricks for figuring out what it is your character wants since they don’t always tell you right off the bat.

First, write scenes that occur before your story starts. Let’s say your character’s inciting incident is being kidnapped by pirates. What were they doing before that day? What were they doing a week ago? A year? What was their childhood like? You don’t ever have to use those scenes, but they’ll give you insight into who your character is and what their goals in life are. It may feel like a waste of time because it won’t go into the final book, but it is vital to the process. You will have to go through several drafts and take out scenes that you love, but that doesn’t make them unimportant. Knowing these things about your character’s history will allow you to add richness and depth to the scenes that do make it into your final book.

Second: do the opposite. Write an ending. What happens after the story ends? Are they happy to be in that situation? Did they get what they wanted or are they still unsatisfied? Does the character that got kidnapped by pirates want to be with the pirates still? Or is he happy to be home? Write a scene with a character who knew nothing about that adventure - how is our kidnapped pirate reacting to the new stranger? This will give you a good idea of where you want your character to go and what their heart’s desire truly was.

A third trick is to find a similar character and compare contrast. Does your kidnapped character act like Elizabeth Swann from Pirates of the Caribbean? Or are they more like Wendy from Peter Pan? Put your character in those stories and think about how they would react to them. Does anything in your story change the way that they would react to the pirates? Ask yourself why, what is different about each situation and why would your character react differently in those situations? Did something happen in their childhood? Are they missing a Will Turner type character? Or a Michael and John? Did they want companions like that? Are they annoyed that they don’t have a group of companions? Or annoyed with the ones that they do have? Digging deep and figuring out the differences will show you who they are in different situations and if anything remains constant. If there is a desire that is constant, that may be them telling you what they truly want out of their fictional life.

One last way to find out what your character wants is to ask them. Literally. Sit down with yourself somewhere and interview them. You can pretend you’re a therapist asking them questions, a stranger just meeting them, their best friend, a bartender, or an interrogator. It might sound crazy, it might feel crazy, but it works if you let it. If you have a particularly stubborn or closed off character it might take them a bit to warm up, but even writing down a ‘how are you?’ and then writing down their answer will tell you a lot about the character. It will give you a sense of how they talk, how they would answer a stranger or a person of authority asking them questions. It will give you a sense of who they are and what they want because you are putting yourself into their shoes. If you’re having trouble getting started, here are some suggested questions: What’s your favorite color and why? What was your favorite vacation as a child? Where did you go to school and what was your favorite subject? What’s your favorite holiday? Who is your best friend? When have you won something and what did you win?

Once you’ve done all that and figured out what they want - you’ll need to decide if they get it or not. Next time, I’ll write more about whether or not they should.

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