What does your character want?

It seems a simple enough question but you’d be surprised how many manuscripts I read where I don’t know the answer. Since most writers are focussed determined beings who know what they want, I wonder why they sometimes forget what motivates their key characters.

I have talked about this before, but for good reason — it’s important. Characters need more than it might seem ‘real’ people need to drive their actions. In real life where we see it only from the outside, we often get only glimpses of behaviour and ponder the reason that motivates it. In fiction we can get right inside a character, we are privy to the most private thoughts and fears — and as such we should be able to work out what drives the need. Why a character never sleeps, has scars on their wrist, can’t go near even the cutest dog, avoids a certain aisle in Tescos — all these idiosyncrasies that define us as human. Not only do we need this to understand aspects of personality, but also for the overall story. If we’re unsure what a character wants, we don’t see what drives the action — and so when we reach the story’s climax, are we invested enough? Do we care about the outcome?

The main thing I see as really connecting a reader to story is investment — total complete whole immersion in the world of the protagonist. That’s why I am so in love with voice and not a lover of head-hopping. I want to live inside a character or characters as I read, and the crux of that investment is knowing what they want, and knowing quite near the beginning that’s what this book is about — answering that question, solving that puzzle, facing that dilemma.

So when you come to edit you next piece, writers, or read your next book, readers, think about that fundamental question — what does your character want?

Have a great day all!

Oh and don’t forget I will in be Chester at the end of the month signing!

Chester Poster



Filed under being a successful writer, Blogging, Learning to be a writer, Living the dream, Mainstream Fiction, Novel writing, Publishing, Reading, Writing

2 responses to “What does your character want?

  1. So true. What do you want? is a simple question, but when writing a memoir, requires that we delve deep and communicate our desires to the reader, not an easy task.

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