Author Advice

Jessica Brody and Wants vs Needs

…the second important thing to note is that not all characters actually get what they want…Because in the end, the want is only half the story. Heroes aren’t complete until they also have a need. Heroes are often wrong about what will inevitably lead to their own happiness.

Save the Cat! Writes a novel
by Jessica Brody

Want versus need is something I think many of us (myself certainly included) struggle with a lot in real life. Do we need that latest and greatest whatever? Or do we just want it? Do we want to be healthier and move more? Or do we need to be more active to be happy?

Its not surprising to me that I often have trouble delineating between my characters’ wants and needs any more than I have trouble sussing out my own wants and needs. I frequently get to the half way point of a book (sometimes even 75% of the way through) and realize that something is wrong — the story isn’t working. Why isn’t it working? Because the character has gotten what they wanted, but not what they needed. And I need to figure out what that need is.

I really like Brody’s advice here because it gives me a direction to start from. If my character fully believes that X will lead to their happiness, that X will make everything better, that X is what they really really need — they’re probably wrong. That’s my cue as the author to think a little harder, dig a little deeper and go in the opposite direction. Rather than flail about lost, Brody’s advice points me towards the north star and guides me home almost every time.


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Published by rsjeffrey

Robin Jeffrey was born in Cheyenne, Wyoming to a psychologist and a librarian, giving her a love of literature and a consuming interest in the inner workings of people’s minds.

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