This article was originally published in The Writer’s Everything, Issue #009.
The Purpose Of Writing Concepts
Every week, published in my writing magazine, The Writer’s Everything, Writing Concepts will discuss a major piece of knowledge that authors would do well to be aware of.
This week, the topic of Writing Concepts is “Character Needs.”
Over the course of a character arc, it is essential for the character to transition from their wants to their needs. A character’s wants are the generally selfish and self-centered things that he believes are required to have a fulfilling and happy life. Over the course of their story, however, most characters realize that the opposite is true.
The story teaches them a lesson. It helps them to learn what it is that will actually give their life fulfillment. That insubstantial thing that they come to identify is their character’s needs.
Character needs are generally much more selfless than character wants. They are noble and altruistic. They usually conform to what we as a culture consider to be the best aspects of our emotional and intellectual potential.
In Shrek, the titular protagonist starts his character arc with the simple desire to be left alone. He doesn’t want any social interactions, and he doesn’t want any responsibilities. Over the course of the film, however, he comes to develop multiple relationships, and he realizes by the end that his character needs are, in fact, the opposite of his wants. His needs involve having close friendships and letting people in.
Generally, the only time a character arc won’t end with the character realizing their needs is when the arc is a negative one, wherein the character is worse-off at the end than he was at the beginning.
The Writer’s Everything
This article, as well as many others, have been featured in previous issues of my writing journal, The Writer’s Everything, in which I, along with occasional guest contributors, provide essays, guides, encouragement, motivation, writing prompts, character bio development kits, and anything else that can help you turn your dream of becoming a writer into a reality.
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