If you only remember two things about character, remember these:
- Every character must want something. Without desire there is no character.
- There must be obstacles to the attainment of that desire. Without obstacles there is no conflict.
Grace Paley’s terrific short story, “Wants,” crystallizes the main character’s desire brilliantly.
The narrator, a woman whose children are now grown, meets her divorced husband in the street. She is on her way to the library to return books that she checked out forty years before. Her husband accuses her of many things. Among her faults, according to the snarly ex, is a lack of desire.
She disagrees. She feels that in life, she has wanted a great many things. Among them, she wanted “to be a different person,” and “to have been married forever to one person.”
I encourage you to Read the story. Few characters express their desires so directly.
Finish this sentence for your main character. Write at least 500 words describing the desire and what drives it. Then write at least one thousand words in which you pose an obstacle to the attainment of that desire. What stands in the way of the protagonist getting what he or she wants?