Today's gold nuggets are from a workshop by author Sandy Asher, titled "Who's story is this? And why? And are you sure?" In other words... all about your Point of View Character.
All characters need at least one of these crucial items:
You have to decide who of your characters has the greatest need, and thus, who is driving the story forward. It is crucial to know why characters are in your story at all, and what they are trying to accomplish there.
Needs 1-3 are good for very young readers. (Early childhood.) 4-6 are good for adolescents.
- Getting these needs met, plus maintaining the first three, keep us busy for a lifetime. Safety, security, and trust are much more complicated to a high school student than to a young child; thus creating a more complex situation. (“I wish someone cared where I was at midnight.” Rules are a comfort to older kids.)
- With teenagers, needs begin to conflict with one another. You want to belong, even as you want to assert your independence. To become an adult, a teenager has to become more like his/her parents. To become an individual, a teenager must become LESS like his/her parents.
- These needs are constantly in play, constantly interacting with one another. And as they crash against each other, conflict arises, creating STORY.
- Every time a character enters a scene, he knows what he needs, or he wouldn’t enter the scene in the first place.
- The underlying need not only affects why we do the things we do, but also HOW we do them. Determines the level of desperation, as well as the tolerance for failure.
- What your character wants may be exactly the WRONG thing to get him what he needs. He may get what he wants, and still not get what he needs.
- When a story is too thin, or a character lacks dimension, it is often because you present what HAPPENS without presenting the WHY. This is an opportunity to travel deep inside a character.
- Real, basic human needs in stories keep readers coming back again and again for more. It keeps the same story fresh and significant. We instinctively understand that need. Every person acts instinctively out of his or her needs. And the people around them react. It is an action driven from inside. SO it behooves you to know why and how your characters are acting in a particular scene. If you can’t figure it out, perhaps there is no need for the scene? Or perhaps that is not, in fact, your main character.
Ultimately: the main character is the one whose needs and wants are so strong, they drive every scene and every chapter irresistibly forward.
Any thoughts? How do you decide on your protagonist? Does your main character have clear needs and wants, or is that something you can tweak before you begin?