Friday, November 16, 2012

Wants and Needs

So the last time I had an article, I talked about characters and how, despite being the creators, most artists and authors really aren't good enough authorities the human mind to really discuss what's going on in the minds of said characters.

With that in mind, I figure I should walk through how I create a character for my various projects.  I'm not talking about the bits where the character is out to save the world or what hair style they have, I mean how I make the character's character.  As I said, I'm not a therapist, but I do need some kind of guide to tell me WHY a character does something.  Yes, characters need a reason to do things, and often they have plenty through the course of a story, but what matters to me is how they justify it to themselves.

Thus for each character where it's appropriate, I give them a simple, two column list.  One says "WANTS" and the other says "NEEDS."  And that's about it.  In my experience, simple is more effective than building a complex series of relationships or what not, as it is easier to remember, and easier to build on as the story continues.

Wants represent the desires of the character.  Typically they're physical in nature (wants this thing, for example) and often are declared by the character in some way.  It's the motivative force, it pushes the character forward and drives them along.  It also acts as a way to redirect the plot, taking what was initially a foregone conclusion and sending it off on a different path.  Wants are powerful, conscious, and often more than a touch irrational.  It's one thing to want to be ruler of the Earth, it's another to want to be King of the Universe.  One is doable, the other not so much.

Needs are different, but not exclusively.  They're usually not physical in nature, more mental or spiritual, and often even the character doesn't know that it's there.  It's more a completion force, when achieved it completes a character arc, and possibly set up a new one.  It doesn't mean it's the end of the story, of course, but it could be essential to the climax and lead to the end of the story.  Needs also tend to be reasonable and rational, and are almost always actually achievable.

Wants and needs relate to each other in various ways.  Sometimes, they're the same thing, or closely related.  Nothing says they HAVE to be different, after all.  At the same time, the want will often be bigger than need, so achieving the need won't achieve the want.  Other times, wants and needs are opposed to each other.  The want runs counter to the need, meaning getting that need often won't be accomplished via direction action of the character.

Here's the last comment on this:  as the author or artist, the wants and needs of the character should NEVER be given out.  It's a guide for developing the story and character and that's all it's for.  Revealing it would lead to potential spoilers, and remove the ability to change them as the story goes on.  Plus, it's fun to guess.

Well, that's enough for this week.  Until next time kiddies.

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