29.4.13

Yearning, or What Your Character Wants Most

Only two days left of Blogging from A to Z. I'm going to miss the challenge of coming up with something to write about nearly every day. But, it'll be nice to breathe again!

Without further ado…


Y is for Yearning


Have you ever wanted something really badly? I mean, really, really badly?

Everyone has longed for something at some point in their life. It could be something good, like a relationship, a child, their dream job, an iPad, or simply wanting to pay the bills. Or you could want something bad, like your best friend's wife, or that third piece of chocolate cheesecake.

In writing a novel, every character needs to have a yearning for something. A character's wants are what drive the story forward. What does Katniss Everdeen want? To survive the hunger games and protect her family. What does Harry Potter want? To destroy Lord Voldemort and live his life in peace. What does Lizzie Bennet want? To marry a good man for love (and it would help if he's rich).

Notice anything in common about these wants? All the characters' wants are being denied. A want only drives the novel forward if it is thwarted. If the yearning is satisfied, then it disappears. It drops out of the plot and the character does not need to act to get it. In other words, don't give your character what she wants--take it away from her instead. Or make her yearn for something new. And don't let her have that, either.

It's the best way to get a novel's plot moving: get your character yearning for something that she cannot have.

Do you know what your character wants?

~I.E.