{discover.play.build.} character wants

Just like real people, fictional characters are driven by their wants. And just like real life, if I can figure out what people want, it’s a lot easier to understand their actions and choices. In order for a story to unfold when I’m drafting, it helps to know what my characters want. It’s even better when the wants of different characters conflict, because then there is tension.

Often in order to discover a character’s wants, I put them in action via a scene. Here is a notebook entry from a few years ago where I’m trying to discover more about the character’s wants. I put him in action in three different places to try to discover more about him.

I’ve noticed this shift in my notebooks. After I learn some of the “surface stuff” about a character, I tend to put him in scenes to see how he acts. One of the best ways for me to get to know my characters is to see them in action. As is often the case, this element of fiction mirrors real life. It is by watching people in action that we really get to know them.

{Discover. Play. Build.}
Write a scene showing your character’s wants through thoughts, dialogue, or actions. Change the setting and see if you can discover different wants. If you don’t want to play with a fictional character, try this with yourself. Choose three different settings from your life and write three different snippets showing what you want when you are in each place.

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  1. Thanks so much for sharing this. I'm a little stuck with one of my characters, so I'm definitely going to use this tomorrow to get to know her better!