Character goals; their Wants and Needs

Overview

While I’ve been away, I’ve been planning and world building for a new book. I know that I’ve got a few projects on the go and no progress towards them, but this is a book I’ve wanted to write for as long as I can remember. and I want to make it the best I possibly can. As a result, I’m now diving into the characters and their goals for the stories.

My protagonist for the story, I still haven’t got a good grasp on who they are yet. But, my deuteragonist has got a lot more depth to her. As I was researching what would make a character better, I discovered about a characters Wants and Needs.

To give a character appropriate depth, they need both a Want and Need. In storytelling, a Want refers to the main goal of a character of a story, and a Need is what they need to do to reach their goal.

The Wants of a character

A “Want” is the goal of a character, what they want to do in the story. Their want is their goal. In Ironman, Tony wanted to make sure his technology didn’t get into the wrong hands ever again. In The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker, Link wanted to save his sister. Finally, In My Hero Academia, Deku wanted to be the top hero. All of these are the main driving force of the story, the end goal that the characters and the audience want to get to.

A character needs a strong “Want” to drive the plot forwards. Without a strong want, the story has no direction. One of the most famous stories in modern time is “The Lord of the Rings” The protagonist, Frodo, has a strong Want. Frodo is tasked with and Wants to destroy the one Ring. This want drives everything with in the plot. It drives Frodo and Sam towards Mordor, it keeps Aragorn, Legolas, and Gimli fighting to protect Middle-Earth, and makes Merry and Pippin want to play their own part in the story and help their friends.

If we take away Frodo’s want to destroy the ring, The plot would be non-existent. Frodo would live out his remaining days in The Shire, his home, and when the Ring Wraiths show up, they would take the Ring for Sauron. All the other events in the story wouldn’t exist. Legolas and Gimli wouldn’t have met Aragorn as the Counsel of Elrond wouldn’t have taken place. Aragorn would have lived out the rest of his days as a ranger, and the remaining Hobbits would have been enslaved or killed.

The Needs of a character.

A “Need” is what a character has to do in order to achieve the Want of their story. The needs of a story are mostly universal themes. Accept yourself, Work together, and with the power of friendship anything is accomplished are among many different themes of needs of a character. Without a Need, the story seems hollow and the characters lack depth. There’s no emotional connection between the audience and the character.

Going back to the example of Frodo in The Lord of the Rings, to destroy the Ring, Frodo needs to accept that he can’t do it alone and that he needs Sam’s help. Throughout the story, Sam is constantly rejected by Frodo. During the breaking of the Fellowship, Frodo tried to leave without Sam, not wanting him to come along with him. In the Return of The King, Frodo completely rejects Sam, thinking that he’s against Frodo. However, after Frodo is betrayed by Gollum, stung by Shelob and abducted by Orcs. Sam comes back to his rescue. After this event, Frodo finally accepts he was wrong about Sam, and realises that he needed Sam the whole time. A payoff to this is shortly after, where Sam carries Frodo further towards Mount Doom. In addition, As the Ring is being destroyed, completing the Want of the story, Sam saves Frodo from falling to his death, Fufilling the Need of the story.

While a quest to destroy a Ring is a unique goal to Frodo, realising that he needs a friend is a Universal theme across all media. Frodo without Sam would be a boring character, there’s no emotional connection if Frodo journeyed alone. We wouldn’t see the affects of the Ring taking a hold of Frodo. And without Sam, the goal wouldn’t have been completed as Frodo would have been killed by Gollum or the Ring would have been retrieved by Orcs when Frodo was abducted.

How to tell the difference between a Want and a Need

If even after the explaining of a Want and Need, it is hard to understand what the difference is between the two. Then there are a couple of things to look out for to clarify which is which. A Want is unique for a character where as a Need is universal. A Want is something that can’t be found in every story. While some stories may have similar wants, they’re all unique to the character and their goal. a Need is universal themes, friendship, teamwork, self realisation. These can be seen in many different books and isn’t exclusive to a character. Many works of fiction rely on the “Through the power of friendship, anything is possible” trope.

Another way to decipher a Want from a Need is asking “Can you see it?” a Want is normally something physical, or something that can be seen or measured. Defeating the villain, destroying the Ring, being able to return to normal life. They’re all things that cna be seen or measured. Even in the case of My Hero Academia, While the number one hero is a title, it can be measured against other heroes. To contrast this, a Need is emotional rather than physical. How a character connects to others or sees themselves shows the need. One of my favourite films, Spider-man: Into the Spiderverse, When Miles believes in himself is when he can fulfil his Want. And the Need of believing in himself connects to the audience in an emotional level.

Final Thoughts

Hopefully now you can know the difference between a Want and a Need and know why they are important to a story and a character. As I’m developing my own characters, I really want to make sure I have their Wants and Needs laid out. my deuteragonist has her’s planned out, but now I just need to put it into more depth. I really can’t wait to get around to writing this project, but I’ve got a lot more planning before I can get there.

Thank you for reading this post! I hope I can get to writing more blog posts soon! Please feel free to follow my blog for when I post more! and follow me on twitter for new updates: https://twitter.com/RinCrowe Thank you for your support!

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