The Writer's Bag of Tricks
Character Development Part 4
We’ve been talking about how to make sure your characters are three-dimensional people rather than Flat Stanley. We have been chatting about the four things that readers learn from novels.
You know who your characters are now. You know more about them than you did before. You know their past and their idiosyncrasies. You know their biggest fears. You know their physical features and jobs. You know your characters better than you know yourself and all of that knowledge is necessary for you to write them well.
The characters are the who part of this concept. Now let’s look at the what part.
The what part is about what your character wants. It’s the goal part. It’s that elusive thing that your character wants to obtain or accomplish, If your character has no goal, well then, they are a weak and boring character.
What is a goal?
A goal, according to the dictionary, is the result or achievement toward which effort is directed. A goal is your character’s aim. And it is your character’s goal that helps your reader to feel your character’s conflict when they aim to achieve or obtain said goal.
What does your character want?
Think about this. Your character should want what they don’t have. This want should equate to having a determined need. They are desperate for this goal. They just gotta have it, gotta reach it. Failure is not an option. The goal has got to be an urgent thing.
When people need something, they tend to act against their own self-interest. Think addiction (apologies to any with this issue – it’s not my intention to make light). Deep down, people don’t want to be an addict. The issue is that they need the drug (or sex, or cigarettes, or gambling, or whatever). The need is beyond their ability to overcome (in this moment).
The goal has to be important enough that your character will move heaven and earth to obtain said goal. They will endure hardship. They are willing to risk their life. If they fail, life will be more than just disagreeable to them.; life will be unbearable. The goal must also be urgent. Urgency is paramount to your character’s goal. Not only must they have this thing, they must have it NOW.
Be thinking about your character’s goal. Next time we will consider what kinds of goals are good ones.