I was sitting on the beach this morning, watching the sunrise, drinking my tea when a pesky question arose in my mind:
What do you want?
Oh great, I thought, not this one again. Sometimes I’m too existential for my own good.
What’s funny about this is just a few days ago, as I was working on my new book I asked this question regarding my main character:
What does she want?
This notion is the core of my book—all my books. What is the single driving factor for each of my protaganists? Everything in my story that happens from beginning, middle and end points to the central desire of the leading role. This driving force is what keeps the reader engaged. It’s why we read… to see if the characters get what they want in the end.
Isn’t that all we’re looking for in life as well? To follow our desires and ultimately leave this planet finding what we came for? That’s why this element is key to good story telling. Desire seeking is a key component to the human condition.
In the case of my novella (working title:Oz Sucks) Jane, a cynical, spitfire has been blown to Oz in a hurricane and wants nothing more than to get home. Thus I am creating a story dedicated to Jane’s quest. Every scene in the book in some way points towards her desire, either bringing her closer or farther from her goal.
My secondary character, the cocky, romantic interest, Kansas transplant Nick wants one thing and one thing only—to have Jane. So, my story is a dance of sorts between these two characters, based on a basic premise: Jane wants to go home and Nick wants Jane.
Think about the “characters” in your life. Are you not also doing a dance with them as them as well? A push-pull of I want, you want… we want?
A great example of this comes from Lord of the Rings. The premise is so simple. Frodo, wants to get rid of the ring without being sucked in by its power…and of course Sméagol wants the ring. Such a modest premise for such a rich, complicated story.
We are no different than the characters in the books we read. We are all driven by our desires, thus our lives unfold according to the path we choose. If you want to be a wealthy person, your life story will show you acting in ways either to make money.or in some people’s case spending money haphazardly in order create the illusion of wealth. If your reason to live is to make your children happy, all of your core actions will be to give them what they need for a happy existence.
Of course our desires change over time since life is full of many sub-stories…not quite as clean and crisp as a book. However if you step back, pretend you are the reader instead of the leading role, you can see what drives you, why you do what you do.
It’s a weird exercise, seeing yourself as the reader (or the writer) instead of the actor, but I find it fun and fascinating.
I’ve probably sat in this spot on the beach five hundred times in the last five years and each time my surface desires have morphed and changed, but this morning I felt something different. Beneath my multitude of wants, something stayed the same.
What do I want? I asked myself. I knew the answer. Like a character in one of my books, the core of my desire has been calling me all these years.
I want to bring love to this world…and so, for me, as I write this life story I know it’s about becoming whole, so I can help others in their journey.
So if I’m to stay true to my writer’s code, every action I do from here on out should reflect this desire to not just give love, but be love.
That’s one lofty book, but I think I’m up to it.
Remember you’re the author of your own book….your own personal masterpiece. Make it a good one.
PS. Here’s a great talk by Andrew Stanton the creator of Finding Nemo who talks about the key components of story telling and the power of asking ‘what do you want?’