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Wants vs. needs

Wants drive us to act. Needs drive us to succeed in life. Wants drive a character to pursue their goals, while needs represent the lessons or growth required for their success. In storytelling, balancing these aspects creates a well-rounded, engaging character.

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  • leafers tree style avatar for user Alaina B
    I have a lot of trouble figuring out what character(s) that I write want/need. I develop personalities for them but then get stuck trying to figure out their wants/needs and how they achieve them (basically, I can't write plot). Any tips on how to develop these aspects of characters and get better plots?
    (13 votes)
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  • duskpin sapling style avatar for user Dreamcast
    In my story, I feel like my charcter's (Alex Quincey) dilemma is way too cliche. He wants to leave the town he just moved to; he needs to stay with his sister since his parents died. Is there any way to spice this up, for lack of a better term?
    (7 votes)
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    • female robot ada style avatar for user Katey Gordon
      Hi Genesis this sounds really good but you can definitely add some plot twists if you want to
      Has Alex Quincey met anyone else that may make him reconsider to stay?

      Why did his parents pass away?
      For example look at Harry Potter, The series of unfortunate events, The Chronicles of Narnia , Star Wars Force Awakens, Snow White , Cinderella
      Is there a mystery surrounding the parents death?

      How is Alex coming to his own terms of loss?

      Did Alex parents have a secret that Alex was unaware of perhaps super powers, from another world, A Royal family, Wizards?

      What is Alex sisters name ?

      There are many ways storytellers​portray grief in there characters sometimes parents had a long lost secret, sometimes the character gives up on love since loosing there parents and a friend can help them view things from a different perspective, sometimes there are long lost family members like Uncles, Aunt's etc.

      I think what you wrote is not cliche but there is always more you can add in a plot.
      (17 votes)
  • hopper cool style avatar for user Saruman
    Shouldn't need drive the character? because most of hte time people are like OH I want this oh I want that and they sometimes have motivation to get that but deep down inside if you feel like you need something you would be very motivated to get it
    (1 vote)
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  • starky sapling style avatar for user Jamie Arruda
    ok. I know this has nothing to do with this, but I love Monsters INC. It makes me cry!
    (9 votes)
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  • duskpin sapling style avatar for user Gracemcm
    Can a character get what they want at the end of a movie, as well as doing what they need?
    (6 votes)
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    • female robot ada style avatar for user Andromeda
      I think that it depends on your story, and what elements you hope will stay with your audience. There are three main types of endings, whether in books, movies, stories, or really anything else. One, stories where the character gets both what he/she wants and what he/she needs. The character might take risks and nearly lose everything, but in the end, everything turns out more or less okay. This type of story can be very satisfying, and it doesn't have to be an And they all lived happily ever after type of ending, either--a lot of popular books/movies would go in this category, including Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone, Coco, and The Incredibles.The second is where the character's needs are found and fulfilled, but their original desires are not. This may be because the character no longer cares about them, understands their worthlessness, has sacrificed them to do something greater/more important (whether more important personally or for a larger cause), or for some other reason entirely. He/she may also lose someone or something important to him/her in the process of the story. This type of story can be thought-provoking and powerful. And the third option, of course, is that neither the character's wants or needs are met. Again, this can be powerful if done well. Ultimately, there's no hard and fast rule. Every story is unique, and different plots need different endings. I hope this helps!
      (7 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Jody Hagen
    In the ninjago movie lloyd wants to change the past but needs to give in to the present
    (6 votes)
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  • duskpin tree style avatar for user Dylan-Timothy979
    Great question first off its difficult for us to figure out what characters want/need. For me I often wrote characters based on people who inspired me in my life or develop a character who went through the same emotions as me and similar experiences.

    For example
    1. I wrote a story which I published to a online writing website and magazine, My character was named Sarah she wrote Santa Clause a letter asking to make her walk again in the 1900's. As I wrote the conflict and emotions Santa Clause went through unable to grant Sarah's wish and how Santa Clause designed a special present for Sarah. My emotions were strong in this story I felt I needed to write this story at a young age this was how I personally connected needs and wants also from my own experiences of Isolation, Wishing and my own life story.
    2. Another story was a very short paragraph of a young girl turning 18 she was set in the 1900's and wanted to be a writer unfourtunely girls had one role in this time frame but my character is very strong and won't let soceity tell her who she should be. Her want/need was to be a writer

    3. Another fun story I wrote when I was young was developed a story about a Teddy Bear which made me feel less fearful etc. This Teddy bear was quite different and had been on a magical journey. The teddy bear named pink patches want/need was to be loved and find a home as this bear did it went to a special little girl who needed a teddy bear like him.

    These are a few examples I am always writing sometimes I feel you have to write first and then develop the need/wants later. Here are a few tips that may help though

    1. Write characters that represent the people that are in your life( perhaps ask them what are their want/need for example they dream of being a doctor,buying something or learned valuble lessons)

    2. Develop a character based on you and moments in your life was there a time when you had a want/need?

    3. Write characters interests ,dislikes ,likes etc. sometimes this helps in developing your characters want/need

    4. While watching a movie or reading a book ask yourself what are these characters want/need sometimes this helps us develop our own characters.

    These are some tips that helped me writing is never easy but when you develop a new character or finished writing a story the feeling is really a joyful experience. Don't worry you will develop better plots with time 😉.
    (6 votes)
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  • aqualine tree style avatar for user Emily Nelson
    So in my book, the MC is a person who knows she does not matter to those in power and who believes that you should give everyone a chance to be who they want to be.
    BTW, in this world almost everyone has powers and only some people are considered heroes; these "heroes" can get away with most anything and they take the place of celebrities. there are schools for heroes but most people aren't able to get in because their powers aren't flashy also people are judged harshly because of how they look. There is a council known as The Council Of 8, who hold all the power, all the heroes only answer to The Council Of 8, each council member has 8 chief heroes that are basically generals. There are 2 main groups who oppose The Council Of 8. The leaders of them grew up as friends but after a entire state was destroyed in a event known as "The Night Of Manny Sorrows" and only 4 people are alive from that "accident" and so they formed "The Phoenix Rebellion" and "The Fire Of Freedom." The MC, whose name is Dawn, helps the leader of The Phoenix Rebellion without knowing who he is. When The Council Of 8 realized where he was they tried to kill him and Dawn so he helped her hide and they become friends.
    I love my Idea, but I don't know What to do to make the plot better anyone have any ideas?
    (4 votes)
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    • duskpin sapling style avatar for user Computer Master
      You could talk to friends and family about it. I remember when I was trying to get a good plot for my story(still in the planning phase though). By myself, I'd be like Victoria starts to..... nope stop throws the paper away It was a repetitive process. Until the day I decided to talk to my friends about it. So they looked through my story gave me tips , teased me about some things, like all great friends do argued with me and in the end I started building up my plot. There isn't a "specific way" to improve your plot but inspiration comes from everywhere. And make sure to grab the stinking inspiration by the ear and say, "nope your not going anywhere you have work to do!" JK but hope this helps!
      (4 votes)
  • blobby green style avatar for user Marcus Carrillo
    I have a lot of trouble figuring out what character(s) that I write want/need. I develop personalities for them but then get stuck trying to figure out their wants/needs and how they achieve them (basically, I can't write plot). Any tips on how to develop these aspects of characters and get better plots?
    (5 votes)
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  • hopper happy style avatar for user Hendrico Janse van Vuuren
    My personal wants, to become a very unique artist with his own style, and to pursue my upcoming career in IT.
    My needs, to study in those fields, though I'm sort of self-taught in the art department and I got my art skills from my biological mother.
    (5 votes)
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Video transcript

- In the last video we talked about the difference between internal and external features. Let's ignore external, or physical features for a moment and zoom in on the mind of a character. (chimes) One powerful way to think about this is to ask yourself a question. What does this character want? - It's important to understand what a character wants because it informs your story. If you don't really know what they start out wanting it's hard to take them somewhere on a journey; and that's what stories are all about. - When you pick a movie, any one of your favorite movies, you're gonna actually probably kind of like skip to the part where the character says, "I want to do this." "I want to be champion." "I want to be king." "I want to be the greatest chef in the world." Characters get to have that goal and they will work every day, every second of the day in their story to make that happen. - [Narrator] Wants drive a character to act. A character might want something and do everything to get it. Needs are the things we need to do, or learn in order to grow, or succeed in life. For example, a character might learn that they need to share what they desire in order to be fulfilled, or happy. The distinction between what a character wants and what they need is important when you're building a character. - We all have those things we want. Oh man, I'd love that new car. Or, I'd really like, oh man, I'd love a VR machine, that'd be so cool. But what I need is probably to feed my family. And what I need is probably to have good relationships and things like that. - Oftentimes I think needs are something that we don't like admitting. It's eating your vegetables. You want to just go for those sweets, the things that that make life easier, but we have to sometimes do those things that we don't want to do. And in the end, it makes for full course meal if we're going with this food analogy. And I think in a character it's important to have those needs, and even have those needs sometimes conflict with the wants because it makes our characters stronger and makes them have to go through trials that turn them into more a well-rounded character. - So Woody in Toy Story, for example, he wants to be Andy's favorite toy, and stay that way. And he needs to learn to share. To share his friendship, and to not have to always be the best. Sometimes a character might want something in the beginning, and then their need completely comes out of a realization they might have along the way. - In the case of Sully, he wants to rise up in the organization. You know, he's just like everyone wants to be you want to be promoted to be the top in your profession. Internally though, we throw a monkey wrench in his plans in the form of Boo. Something that he doesn't want to take care of. But because this little girl actually depends on him he's at odds with what his main goal is. If he gets exposed to actually having a human child that career path that he wants gets destroyed. It disappears. So, the thing that he values, that he says he wants and the thing that he has to take care of right now are going to destroy each other. His heart actually softens because he starts to care about Boo more than he cares about his career. In fact, he doesn't care at all about his career anymore. And he will choose what he needs in his life his connection. A connection to another person. He wants Boo in his life. - So I think that oftentimes your want can be some of the entertainment of the story, but the need is gonna be that emotional heart that really makes people remember the film when they come out of the theater and for years later. - In the next exercise, you'll have a chance to think a little more about the wants and needs of some characters you know. As well as ones you want to create.