Writing Secrets: What characters want

 In Tips for Writers

Even seasoned writers sometimes forget about what characters want.

The more we work with writers and their stories, the more I’ve come to realise that “wanting” is the very essence of narrative. If your character wants nothing, there’s no tension and, therefore, little point in reading further.

It’s the basic principle. Without it, there are no stakes. There is nothing to drive us forward. There is no story.

We were recently asked to look at a couple of manuscripts by writers who felt intuitively that their novels lacked something – but weren’t sure what. Both are powerful writers, who have produced beautiful work.

Yet characters in both manuscripts acted seemingly randomly. Things happened to and around them. They were acting and reacting, but without much purpose.

As soon as a character wants something: love, a place in the world, justice, revenge … the story will be driven forward by their attempts to reach their goal or gain their heart’s desire.

Their desire doesn’t have to lead to high-paced action. Perhaps all they want is peace of mind, or relief from heartache. But if they care about it, so will we. They will gain purpose and so will the story. It will instantly gain momentum.

Read Richard’s latest blog ‘Monday Motivation: Grow into your writing

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