What Does my Character Really Want? – or Me? or You?

Question for the Week

Welcome To My World this week asks, What question would be good to ask yourself—or if you’re a fiction writer, your characters?

In my Quiet Time every morning, I read from a number of devotional books. One of those in my current reading list is In All Things, the boxed set eleven of us South African Christian writers published during lockdown, and which is now available as a paperback. I am currently reading this through for the second time (apart from many reads-through during the editing process) and am amazed how I continue to receive blessings with each chapter.

I have just been reading Ashley Winters’ book, What God Wants – Seven Desires of God’s Heart. In her introduction, Ashley has this to say:

“When I write fictional characters, the question I continually ask myself is, ‘What do they want?'”

And that’s my answer. Read on ….

What do my characters really want?

I had never thought of this as an issue for my characters when I write fiction. In fact, I think it could work for non-fiction too. What did Naomi really want when she set out on the long road back from Moab to Bethlehem?

And what did Eve really want when she left the Garden of Eden? Good question.

As I read this a week or so ago, the question resonated with me. As I think of Amanda, my lead character in my current WIP (Work in Progress) what an excellent question to ask. I know her storyline, but what does she really want? That can also apply to her husband. What does he truly want of Amanda? Or in his life?

What about me?

It’s also a question that’s good for me to answer, and I’m taking a good look at how this applies in my life. What do I want—really want—in life? I think as I delve deeper into this question, I’m going to find it is much deeper than the superficial easy answers.

So I’m starting with Amanda. You can read more about her here.

She wants to be a full-time artist. That’s her dream. But it’s not a dream shared by the congregation of which her husband is the pastor. And it’s certainly not that of her husband, Owen. And of course, her marriage to Owen makes her a pastor’s wife. And “pastor’s wife” is not a title Amanda (a.k.a. Mandy) either wants or deserves. She is Owen’s wife, not the church’s. But how to convince the congregation? Or even Owen?

Eventually, she does the only thing she can think of. She runs away. She wants to find who she really is. What does God want of her? How can she become what the church wants? Is their role something God wants? Or one that she can ever fulfill?

What does Amanda really want?

I’ve already told you. She wants to be an artist. She loves her husband, but she can’t seem to please him in any way. So what’s the next step?

Have you ever been in a pickle like this? I have. You know exactly what you want. But it seems unattainable. Amanda can only be a artist if she gives up her role as pastor’s wife – in other words, walks away from her marriage. Is it possible that there’s an alternative solution?

What does my main character want? Really truly want? See this challenge in context. Click To Tweet

Is there any hope for her marriage? For their position in the church?

And now, I’ve realized the real answer lies in the question Ashley asks concerning her characters. What does she really want? Is it to be an artist? Is it marriage to Owen, and mother to her three unruly children? Or is there more?

You’re going to have to read the book to find out. And I’m going to have to finish writing it and make sure I answer that question. “What does Amanda really want?”

I think the real answer is going to be as a result of the story that will be contained in the prequel which is already written and will be available free to all my email subscribers. (It’s not published. It’s not even edited. But it’s written and waiting in the wings.)

What about you? 

How do you answer that question? Do you know—really know—what you want from life? If you do, are you pointing in the right direction?

If, on the other hand, you are like Amanda and don’t know the answer, how will you go about finding out? Share your initial answer to the question in the comment section below.

4 comments on “What Does my Character Really Want? – or Me? or You?

  1. I can really empathize with Amanda wanting to be a full-time artist. That is the gift God gave her in creativity, but there is also the matter of God’s timing and learning to be and give yourself to the other gifts in your life, family and marriage and wait for the right time to move forward in an art career.

    • You’re right Deryn. You’ll have to read the book to see how the pair of them work out their future. They both have a lot to learn!

    • I hate to admit it, but I really have most of what I want in life. I would just like it to pay more! And of course, I would like to rearrange family locations. 🙂 And get rid of a certain evil virus.

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