Deepest Longing

When I was a child I didn’t yearn for dolls or fancy dresses. I wanted to feel special, to feel loved. To be treated as an equal to my older brother.

As a teen I wanted social acceptance which was never going to happen because I dressed in old-fashioned homemade clothes. On top of that I was painfully shy. When I realized that college might be an option, I yearned to go anywhere that got me out of the home.

As you can see, my longings had to do with being loved, being accepted and escaping home.

Your characters must have yearnings that compel their interests and desires. These yearnings need to be so powerful that the reader senses them and identifies with them. They also must present fairly early in the work so as to establish the motivations behind what your character says and does.

Your task is to take a character that will appear in a story. Put the name at the top of the page. Then create a list of at least five yearnings that would drive that individual’s actions.

Choose the most dynamic thing on the list. The one that could spur the most controversy. Maybe even get your character in trouble.

Begin writing, keeping in mind that the yearning appears early on. Do not directly state the yearning, but rather find a way to show it through dialogue or action.

Reread. Does it shine forth? Can you feel the character’s desires?

Have fun with this one.


Socioeconomic Status

            How much money someone has affects the things that he does, thinks, and says. It impacts future dreams and the things that she hopes to accomplish.

For example, a person who grows up in a wealthy family has everything that she could ever possibly want. Nice clothes, a comfortable bed, good food and all the electronics that one could possibly want. He may attend a private school with other entitled children so never knows what it’s like to have class disrupted by unruly students or may have never witnessed a lunchtime brawl.

This character grows into an adult with distinct advantages in terms of status, education and outlook. He has experienced nothing but the best and desires to maintain that status.

Then consider the low income child who grows up in a tiny studio apartment with eight family members. Who is often hungry and wears ragged hand-me-down shoes and clothes. Who falls ill frequently or has to accompany non-English speaking relatives to appointments to act as translator and so misses great amounts of school.

Perhaps she moves around a lot, from one shelter to another, and so schools change weekly. Most shelters are in low income neighborhoods so she does not have access to modern technology in terms of computer labs, WiFi and calculators. School lunches are adequate, probably free, but not delicious. She knows of students who come to school high on drugs, who sell their bodies and who are bellicose.

Think about how these differing early lives affect how your character behaves in your story.

Your task is to decide into which socioeconomic group your character belongs. Then make a bullet-point list of the structures in this person’s life, beginning with the home environment. Consider size of the home, family living there, quality of food and clothes, and what possessions the character owns. Include on your list the things the character sees in his daily life, as he walks down the street, rides in a car or bus, goes into a store, eats at a soup kitchen or restaurant.

Once you have completed your list, write a short scene in which these elements come into play.

This is not an easy task.

Have fun with this one.

The First Step

As the topic of a story is formulating in your mind, you must come up with the moral question. What is the probing question that the story is going to solve?

For example, in a coming-of-age story about a teenager who desires to be included in the popular group, the question might be “How do you join a group when you are seen to be an outsider?”

This quest for an answer drives the character’s motivation throughout the story. At the end, either the protagonist is now a part of that group, or has come to an epiphany that membership is not what she really wants. And why.

What if the main character sees an injustice in society at large and wants to correct it. The driving moral question would be “How do I motivate others to help me in this quest and what steps do I need to take to make things right?’

Perhaps the character sees poor kids going hungry in school which impacts their ability to learn. How will the protagonist provide healthy meals on a consistent basis?

Another part of the question is motivation. What happened to the protagonist that made her aware of the problem/issue? Why does she feel she is the one to correct the situation? What knowledge or experiences does she have that allows her to be the organizer?

Your task is to create a situation in which your character has a burning moral question that he is compelled to satisfy. First, define the question. Then make a list of possible solutions.

Establish the society in which the character lives, works, plays. Put things in motion and see what happens.

When you are finished, reread what you have written. If you are satisfied as a reader, great. If not, what changes need to be implemented to bring fulfillment?

Have fun with this one.