Writing Lecture/Objective Three
Characters can have superficial problems and deep seated ones. A story is about how a Central Character deals with those problems and the fact that the hidden problems are powerful motive forces. Adding to the story is how the CC's problems lurk in the back story and how the difference between truth and facade creates friction in the character's life, and lastly how a Consumer of Literature (COL) gets caught up in it all.
This discussion shifts to a character's Want-Need-Desire (WND). Maybe some of you remember the famous song from the musical, "All I want is a room somewhere . . ." How about "All I WANT for Christmas is my two front teeth?" Well the reader or audience is also very interested in what this WANT is. This is what propels the central character along the surface of the story and the undertow swirling beneath.
Actually, it doesn't really matter what that compelling need is or even if it isn't in someone's best interests. It is the passion, a motive force that gets the character up in the morning and energizes the day, and draws him or her towards some conscious or unconscious goal. There is nothing really Freudian about a WND. It is usually something the CC will show you in a heart beat, but on rarer occasions is a truth they are hiding from themselves. It is the thing he or she is angling for consciously or unconsciously and the reader sees it even if the CC doesn't.
The WND does not have to be a physical need. It can be spiritual or emotional. It's a compelling drive to get off your butt and do something to make things better in life, a desire to get out of that rut we all get stuck in. The reader is waiting . . . this is the drama . . . will the CC get what they want?
After you have a central character in mind and the reader catches a glimmer of their problem, (superficial or underlying) you want to show what motivates them. A WND that is unfulfilled is a powerful force. It is a clash between expectation and reality and readers perk up when they see it. "Oh my goodness gracious!" they say to themselves. "Something exciting is about to happen." This realization is frequently a precursor to all the crises that will soon rise in opposition to CC's attempt to get their life back on track. The writer needs to show the WND and some of the resources the CC has at his or her disposal. Showing the strength of his or her will, persistence, and commitment is high on the list of those resources.
A story is about frustration, conflict, and turmoil. The CC has this compelling drive to do something that is being constantly thwarted. The CC's will is the irresistible force, and all those crises become the seemingly immovable objects. The two collide in a crash that keeps the reader riveted in the story.
In Gone with the Wind1, Scarlett O'Hara wants her sister's fiancé. She needs to make sure ". . . I'll never go hungry again!" and she has a big time desire for Ashley Wilkes. Oh my Gosh . . .Poor Melanie . . . poor Sue Ellen! Poor anyone who stands between Scarlet and her wants, needs, or desires. When Margret Mitchell wrote her classic, she gave new meaning to the WND component of storytelling. It's the grist of a good tale. The sooner the audience realizes it, the sooner they will form an attachment to the CC. That is exactly what the writer is trying to achieve, that emotional attachment, that latching on between the reader or audience. The writer needs to get the consumer spun up and emotionally involved by developing that vicarious attachment, so the reader becomes as deeply committed as the CC is.
The central character is also the point of view (POV) character. The story being told is being conveyed through the eyes of the CC. The CC is who the work is about and the motivating force behind the story. So early on, the writer needs to get busy about what the (WND) is. If it is something the writer feels passionately about and can communicate through experience, so much the better. Think about nearly every unforgettable story you ever saw or read. You can bet the CC had a bee in his or her bonnet or an axe to grind. The consumers soon discovered it was something they could relate to and find some sympathy for.
Percy Goodfellow - Workshop Instructor
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