The following question about story & character sparked a series of blogs that will be posted on my website chrisoatley.com
in coming weeks. I'll post the first part here on DA and if you want to read on, check my site every Monday for the next couple of weeks..
Anonymous asked: The foundation of a satisfying story can be 1.) What the hero wants? 2.) Why they want it? 3.) Whats stopping them? 4.) Whats at stake? Plus 3 acts & turning points. Chris, when coming up with stories do you use structures like these or start from a character?
In my part one I presented the idea that catharsis = satisfaction. This week: The heros want.
To be human is to want something a person, a validation, a fix, an answer etc
And to want something is to face a series of challenges to that pursuit whether the want is tangible or intangible. Often, when our human wants are challenged, we discover a transcendent need of which our want is, at best, an echo.
This is not news to anyone who has given any real thought to these kinds of questions so I wont waste any time here. But if you want to learn more, you can read Story by Robert McKee. McKee is brilliant and compelling and yet I disagree with him on many, many points. However, what I think McKee does better than any of his peers is illuminate the transcendence of story and thus raise the bar for storytellers in every possible medium. (If youre just looking for a great book on story structure, Blake Snyders Save The Cat series is, in my opinion, the best.)
In response to the question: YES. The foundation to the stories that I write (I promise youll get to read some of them in the very near future) is what the hero wants. BUT the want is generally filtered by the truth of the characters transcendent need.
Luke Skywalker wants to be a pilot and join the rebel alliance but Obi Wan (his teacher) has different things in mind. What Luke really needs (his destiny) is to become a Jedi Master and revive his spiritually-dead father, Darth Vader.
It is important to note that the two paths are not entirely dissimilar. Lukes want (to become a fighter pilot) is an echo of Lukes actual destiny. Both plans get him out of his boring hometown. Both plans promise adventure. Lukes plan makes him a better man but Lukes destiny changes the world.
So now were back to catharsis. The characters want (and thus our human wants) are echoes of a transcendent need, of the inherent human desire for meaning in our existence, pursuits, struggles, failures and victories.
Are you writing a story? What does your character want/ need? If youre not a writer, which stories mean the most to you?
I want to hear your thoughts/ opinions and follow-up questions. Part three will be posted next Monday.