Wednesday, January 18, 2012

What They Want - by R. Renee Vickers

The modern writer must, at some point, come to grips that there likely has been no stone left unturned. All story lines, modes and methods have been explored, written about and exploited. And yet, authors are still able to write stories that are both interesting and compelling. How? How is it possible when there are only so many story lines and only so many different personality types to explore?

It all comes down to the characters. You don't pick up that famous so-and-so's book to read about the awesomely fantastic scenery, and you certainly don't read eight-hundred or more pages of the latest release because the local wizarding school has interesting tapestries. No, you spend gobs of time, your precious time reading those books, holding your breath for the next issue of that series, and swoon because of the author's unique delivery of their characters. Do you remember what book number five's title was, or do you remember the scandal of what that leading lady had the nerve to do?

Kurt Vonnegut said, "Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water."
(Bagombo Snuff Box: Uncollected Short Fiction,

There are no fancy tricks authors use to come up with these characters. There are no gimmicks. No slight of hand. What every author learns to do to make you swoon, and gasp and fall in love (or hate) is very basic. They create a personality (either off the top of their head or by researching if they want to get really creative) and then give them a want, desire or need. The more believable the want, the more believable the character will be.

On the TvTropes Wiki, they write, "Most people don't care to read about Flat Characters. They want to read about characters who seem like people. People have desires and fears, strengths and flaws; they are sometimes unpredictable, sometimes act on whim, but they usually have reasons for everything they do, consciously or unconsciously."

You can do a web search on what characters want and find a plethora of great resources but they'll all say pretty much the same thing, that character should want something. Every superhero wants, no needs to save the damsel in distress. Every super-villain wants said superhero to leave her where she lays, and ever damsel wants the aforementioned superhero to give the villain a good wallop. Every child wants to feel safe, every housewife wants to feel sexy, every husband wants to feel needed.

Have you ever read something or watched a movie where someone didn't want something at some point? Or, even more basic, do you know anyone who hasn't wanted something?

The more complex the desire, the more opportunities for conflict. Even if on onset of the story, the character doesn't seem to want anything, the dastardly author will make something happen that will force the character realize that either they do want something, or they really don't want something to happen.

This isn't just with the Main Character either. Every character (with the exception of the super-minor, filler/background characters) has to have something to desire. The protagonist(s) and antagonist(s) may fight over the same desire, both sides wanting the same thing. Or they could want to prevent each other from gaining something. Either way, it boils down to someone wanting something, even if it's as simple as a glass of water.

Where there is a desire there is an opportunity for the author to put obstacles in the way, to create drama, to leave the reader wanting more.

In my book, Sly's Surrender, I was sure to give each of the characters something to want. Sly wanted to relinquish her control, Jake wanted to take control, and Tony wanted to be a royal pain in the behind. Did it work? Did they convince you to keep reading to find out if they were successful? I'll let you be the judge.

Blurb: By day Sly is a take-charge, no-nonsense restaurateur, and at night she plays her hand as a demanding mistress. Sly has everything her heart desires: a successful business with loyal patrons, a gorgeous boyfriend and a flair for dominating in the bedroom. Everything she’s ever tried has gone her way, every decision followed to success, every goal achieved, and yet she yearns for more.

One night she decides to try something new, giving up her customary control to the tall, dark, and sexy Jake. Jake is put in a position to prove to his lover just what he’s capable of, and Sly experiences the new pleasures to be found in letting someone else handle her reins.

Need to satisfy your curiosity? Purchase Sly's Surrender here.

Thank you all for reading.

About R. Renee Vickers:

Born in Florida but raised in various towns in New England, R. Renée Vickers now lives in a small town just outside of Charleston, South Carolina, with her husband and children. And although work and family life leave her little free time, she spends every available moment indulging in her favorite passion, writing.


Ellie Heller said...

Nice post! I have to say, creating the conflict so a character doesn't get what they want is a large part of the fun of writing. :-)

David Kentner -- KevaD said...

Well done, Renee.
Really enjoy your writing.

R. Renee Vickers said...

@Ellie, Thank you! I agree completely! It's so much fun to torture, uh, I mean lead our characters down their respective paths with "challenges". :)

@David. Thank you very much! :D

Lorraine Pearl said...

Great post. Characters are definitely the key to everything.

I love to torture my characters for a long time before they get what they want. Although, I do have to remind myself to make sure those side characters have wants because I get so caught up in the main characters.

S.D. Grady said...

There are books I read for the scenery...and the gowns and jewels and horses and castles *sigh* But at the middle of it all there has be to be a princess worthy of the location :)

Nice post.

Margie Church said...

Hi Renee, character development is a complex thing IMO, and the longer you write the more you learn about it. I recently thought my characters were becoming too similar. I took a class on character development and learned a few new tricks that I used to discover whether my fears were real or imagined. I was happy to learn my characters so far were not at all similar and some new ways to help ensure they never would be. Good luck with your work. It'll pay off for you when you try this hard.

Ren said...

Oh, this is a great post, thanks :)

R. Renee Vickers said...

@Lorraine, We're like cats with a mouse (the mouse being the characters). Torturing them is half the fun. :) Thanks so much for coming by!!

@S.D. You are the ultimate romantic! The castle makes the princess all the more grand...or is it the other way around? Thanks for swinging in and lending your support! :*

@Margie I can imagine. I notice sometimes that my characters have the same smart ass voice...I know it's mine. It's gotta be tough to create unique and distinguishable characters after a while. Thanks for coming by and reading!

@Ren Many thanks Ren! I'm glad you enjoyed it! :-*

J.S. Wayne said...

Hi, Renee! I'm unfashionably late again. >.< I LOVE this post. You sum up exactly how a writer should look at character building. Too many characters come off flat and lifeless because people forget about the basic fact that everyone wants SOMETHING!

R. Renee Vickers said...

:) fashionably late! ;) Thanks for coming by J.S. I think we've all read at least one story where the author mistakenly sacrificed the basics of character building for a concept. But with characters being the lifeblood of the tale, it's a mistake to let the basics get away from us.