Pursuing Water

“When I used to teach creative writing, I would tell the students to make their characters want something right away even if it’s only a glass of water. Characters paralyzed by the meaninglessness of modern life still have to drink water from time to time.”
– Kurt Vonnegut

Tell me what your character wants in your first chapter.

What is their basic want, the one that propels their actions for the first fifty pages of your work?

My main character, Mary, wants a little bit of peace. That’s all she’s asking for. Can it really be that hard, finding peace?

The important thing about this is that I don’t allow peace of any sort to come anywhere near Mary. In fact, I throw more demands on her so she’s not likely to find peace for the entire book.

What is your main character looking for? What about your secondary characters? Your romantic hero, if you have one?

I know there are a number of you reading this blog but for some reason are reluctant to comment…so I’d love to meet you for the first time through this exercise!

21 thoughts on “Pursuing Water

  1. OK, so I'll respond to that plea (it's a good tip and question, after all)! 🙂

    Main character (Robert). Initial need – escape to a safe place.

    Secondary character 1 (Elizabeth). Initial need – get through first performance of new musical work.

    Secondary character 2 (Brother Andrew). Initial need – establish the new House.

    Antagonist 1 (Elizabeth's father). Initial need – keep business running.

    Antagonist 2 (General Chen). Initial need – obey orders.

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  2. OK, so I’ll respond to that plea (it’s a good tip and question, after all)! 🙂

    Main character (Robert). Initial need – escape to a safe place.
    Secondary character 1 (Elizabeth). Initial need – get through first performance of new musical work.
    Secondary character 2 (Brother Andrew). Initial need – establish the new House.
    Antagonist 1 (Elizabeth’s father). Initial need – keep business running.
    Antagonist 2 (General Chen). Initial need – obey orders.

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  3. Now that you've mentioned it…crap. They don't want anything tangible for one and the rest is a little vague.

    Heroine: Wants to keep job so she goes on a mandatory extended vacation.

    Hero: Wants to get fired so he can start up his renovation business.

    But physcially, you know the tangible stuff, they are waiting in the first chapter.

    And, Hi!

    Like

  4. Now that you've mentioned it…crap. They don't want anything tangible for one and the rest is a little vague.

    Heroine: Wants to keep job so she goes on a mandatory extended vacation.

    Hero: Wants to get fired so he can start up his renovation business.

    But physcially, you know the tangible stuff, they are waiting in the first chapter.

    And, Hi!

    Like

  5. Hi everyone, glad to see some new commenters!

    John – Awesome need for your MC! "Escape" is a great verb and brings all these questions to mind.

    Zoe – Oh wow, that's intense. Good luck with the novella!

    Ashley – Hi! What happened to his uncle? See how that's a great need, because it has me asking questions?

    Evangeline – Ooh, power? What time period is this?

    Melissa – Hi! Try simplifying the need. It sounds like your heroine wants to escape from her current life and your hero wants to start his own business. Keep it simple. From there, find something that prevents them from getting what they want.

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  6. Hi everyone, glad to see some new commenters!

    John – Awesome need for your MC! “Escape” is a great verb and brings all these questions to mind.

    Zoe – Oh wow, that’s intense. Good luck with the novella!

    Ashley – Hi! What happened to his uncle? See how that’s a great need, because it has me asking questions?

    Evangeline – Ooh, power? What time period is this?

    Melissa – Hi! Try simplifying the need. It sounds like your heroine wants to escape from her current life and your hero wants to start his own business. Keep it simple. From there, find something that prevents them from getting what they want.

    Like

  7. Edwardian, as always, lol. Michaela is an unapologetic thief of dubious background. Lying and stealing are her ways of achieving power in a backwards world where birth is everything, and a woman is a pawn in the hands of men. She punctures both in one swoop: the upper classes think she's one of "them" by exterior, she steals their riches, and she's fairly autonomous because she's financially independent.

    She's a great contrast to Phoebe, which is what places my hero, Anthony, in a quandary!

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  8. Edwardian, as always, lol. Michaela is an unapologetic thief of dubious background. Lying and stealing are her ways of achieving power in a backwards world where birth is everything, and a woman is a pawn in the hands of men. She punctures both in one swoop: the upper classes think she’s one of “them” by exterior, she steals their riches, and she’s fairly autonomous because she’s financially independent.

    She’s a great contrast to Phoebe, which is what places my hero, Anthony, in a quandary!

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  9. Poor Anthony! Michaela sounds like a force to be reckoned with…how will Phoebe compete?

    I love hearing about all these stories, you guys have some good stuff here and I want to read them all.

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  10. Poor Anthony! Michaela sounds like a force to be reckoned with…how will Phoebe compete?

    I love hearing about all these stories, you guys have some good stuff here and I want to read them all.

    Like

  11. Ah, I have the same problem when it comes to blossoming characters. I need it to feel like a discussion…all of my best ideas come out of talking with friends or my mother and saying something I didn't know I was going to say.

    I'm glad this helped! Hopefully I'll continue to ask more questions to flush out your characters.

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  12. Anthony is a thief too, but somehow, I end up writing these incredibly vulnerable heroes who fall into the hands of mercenary, tough heroines. *g*

    Phoebe can compete because she can offer Anthony what he craves, being an heiress and from an old family. She also can make him feel "manly" in that he and Michaela constantly try to one up on one another. So their relationship is difficult and challenging. Phoebe is sweet and adorable, and thinks him a hero.

    But see! This is what I want out of a CP. When you asked this question, all of the sudden, my characters blossomed. I can't ever get into the requisite character questionnaire sheets for writers because they're too vague for me. I need someone who knows to ask the right questions to coax characters to life.

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  13. Ah, I have the same problem when it comes to blossoming characters. I need it to feel like a discussion…all of my best ideas come out of talking with friends or my mother and saying something I didn’t know I was going to say.

    I’m glad this helped! Hopefully I’ll continue to ask more questions to flush out your characters.

    Like

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