Sunday, July 16, 2023

Desire - More Than Meets the Eye

Lucifer asks what we truly Desire. 

Goals, Motivations and Conflicts

You've probably heard about character goals, motivations and conflicts, or GMCs. They are the cornerstone of strong writing, making the story ring true no matter the genre - Fantasy, Historical Thriller, Romance, Crime ...  

We are told that each main character, be they 'good' or 'evil' should have solid and believable GMCs, but looking deeper, we find that there is more here than meets the eye. We find out what it is that truly DRIVES them.

Enter the root of it all - DESIRE

It may not be obvious what that desire is, at least at first, but it is at the center of every thought, action and deed of all characters.

Lilith from Diablo IV - Does she want to destroy the Sanctuary or save it?
Either way, the core desire is to be eternal.

Why is Desire so Important?

From the Uphandashads it is said, 

You are your deepest driving desire. 

As is your desire, so is your will. 

As is your will, so is your deed. 

As is your deed, so is your destiny.

You are your deepest driving desire...

Desire motivates intentions, goals, actions and outcomes, for the protagonists AND antagonists (and for  us regular folk too).

Susan Sarandon in Enchanted

Good vs. Evil Doesn't Live Here

Some stories might rely on ideas like good vs evil to bolster their character's goals, but desire knows no such division. It is pure, in and of itself. The desire to 'feel safe' may translate into actions that seem to others as good or bad, worthy or unworthy. But these subjective notions are value judgements, not truths.

Take the example of the goal to win love. If it is driven by the desire to feel whole and complete, then the goals might seem like striving to connect, helping others. Take for example Snow White and her care for the dwarves and the woodsman's cabin. But if the desire is perceived as a liability, it could result in a character who plots to eliminate rivals, like the 'evil' witch with the bright red apple. 

Relationship to Desire

The GMCs will depend on the character's relationship to their desire. Do they accept and honor their deepest driving desire or do they push it away? Does the desire embarrass them? Uplift them? Enrage them? Do they even know what it is? This is where the true conflict of the story grows. The author may not make such truths obvious, but the scenes will infer them, even if they keep us readers guessing.

Take for example Arthur Conon Doyle's Sherlock Holmes. His main character's goal may be to catch criminals and solve crimes but his desire is found behind the cerebral challenge. The puzzle. The chance to 'solve' the problem. The deeper desire may be safety, achieved by discovering order in the chaos.

A modern take on Sherlock and Watson

Intention and Obstacles to Desire

In a Master Class on scriptwriting, Aaron Sorkin said the pace of the story, the authenticity of it, depends on two things: intention and obstacle. He gives the example of a road trip across the States. The intention is to get from New York to LA in a car. That's the goal, motivated, perhaps, by a meeting, audition or interview. But the desire? The fuel that drives everything forward? That might be the burning desire to expand one's horizons.

And for the story to work, there has to be an obstacle. They can't just get in the car and three days later arrive in LA on time. There must be challenges along the way. 

Maybe they only have two days to make it there on time. Or maybe, they don't have money for gas. The car could break down. They could even be abducted by aliens. Obstacles to achieving desires will keep the story, and characters, going.

In Crown of Bones, Ash's true desire is to experience communion with 
her phantom, the one she can never have...

Goals Change; Desires Remain the Same

A character's goals may change through the story as they grow and evolve, but the driving desire is like a core value. It remains the same. 

Again, in Crown of Bones, Marcus's goal is to control his phantom, but his true desire is to be worthy. Once he can control the phantom, his goal shifts to leading his companions back to Baiseen in time to protect the city. Once the city is safe, his goal is to collect the remaining whistle bones.... and on it goes but the desire, for him, is to achieve a sense of worthiness. That never goes away.

As Willa Cather says in the Song of the Lark, “The world is little, people are little, human life is little. There is only one big thing — desire.”

So tell me, do you know what you truly desire?



Posts in the 'More Than Meets the Eye' Series

Book Titles

The End



Styling Characters



Kim Falconer, currently writing as A K Wilder, has released Crown of Bones, a YA Epic Fantasy with Curse of Shadows as book 2 in the series. Currently, she is working on the third book, out in 2024

Kim can be found on  AKWilder TwitterFacebook and Instagram

Throw the bones, read your horoscopes or Raise Your Phantom on the site 

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