6 Requirements for Writing Better Character Goals by K.M. Weiland - Usa
Quick. Tell me what your characters want.
Maybe you have an immediate answer. Maybe your protagonist wants to save the world, survive, or live happily ever after.
While those are all legit goals that have powered hundreds of good stories, what I’m talking about is what your characters want.
I’m talking about the one thing your characters want more than anything, want unto obsession, want even unto death. They want this thing, whatever it is, so badly they will chase after it in the face of impossible stakes, sometimes against their better judgment, sometimes at great cost to themselves and people they care about, sometimes even at the risk of saving the world/surviving/living happily ever after.
This powerful desire is at the heart of dynamic characters, complex conflict, and effortless plots. When we talk about the symbiosis of plot and characteror characters who “write themselves” (and therefore the story), what we’re usually pointing to is a cast with powerful underlying desires.
This is a secret of good writing. Why a secret? Because it’s so easy for authors to overlook.
We’d all agree that yeah, yeah, characters need goals. Of course they have goals! Just look at them—they want to save the world, survive, live happily ever after. We might even throw in a couple bonus prizes, just cuz we’re cool like that. Our characters want all kinds of big things. Happiness. Self-actualization. World peace.
Those desires don’t count. Those desires are boring. Even if your characters are actively working toward these goals, these things are just too big, abstract, and pedestrian to drive a story. Everybody on earth wants those things—especially when forced into a story situation in which these things are suddenly and legitimately threatened. When the zombie epidemic hits, you can bet I’m going to have a lot invested in finding a cure. But that hardly makes me a unique character.
A much more interesting scenario would be a character, searching for the cure, who was already infected—and who was dealing with an even more powerful desire for brain salad. Or, even better, she’s a gourmand obsessed with finding a very specific and exotic type of brain.
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