How To Fix A Story – The Desire Line

How To Fix A Story: The Desire Line

You’ve written your story, but something is wrong. You can’t quite put your finger on it, but you know that its a serious problem. How do you know what to fix when a story isn’t working?

Imagine taking a journey over the ocean in a sleek sailboat. It can seem wonderful for a time, but if you don’t have a destination, you can end up sailing around in circles forever. Like sailing, when you’re writing a story, you must know where you’re going. Too many writers forget about the quest the hero is on.

The Desire Line
A story is about a character who is trying to solve a problem. Every hero is on a quest. To rescue the princess, to find the hidden treasure, to defeat the empire. The desire line is known as the spine of the story and it forms the tracks that the story runs over. The character’s desire must be clear, specific and definite. If you’re having problems with a story, go back to the desire line to see if there’s a way to strengthen it.

Is the story goal a clearn single desire line? Is it specific? The more specific the better. Does it build in intensity? Do you have a second desire line that doesn’t come into conflict with the first goal? Does the story goal come from the main character?

Action Steps
When examining the desire line of your story, ask yourself these questions:

1. Does the hero have a goal? Does the hero have a single, clear goal? The hero’s desire will come out of the Inciting Incident.

2. Is it a specific goal? The more specific the desire, the better. A desire to be successful, or a desire to become independent isn’t specific enough.

3. Does the goal build in intensity? The hero’s desire should build in intensity throughout the story until it becomes an obsession. The opponent’s desire should also become more intense as the story progresses. The desire should also build in importance. How is the world affected by it?

4. What kind of desire is it? A low desire would include such things as a desire for wealth or a desire to escape. A high desire is something much more interesting, such as a desire for freedom, or a desire to save the world.

5. Is there a second desire? Be careful when introducing a second desire line. If the two desires are unrelated, your story will break in two. When using a second desire line, have them affect each other in significant ways. Love stories are common second desire lines.

What to do now
Desire is one of the most important elements in a story. It must be as intense as you can make it. Take a look at your story and see how you can strengthen the desire line. When your character cares deeply about something, the audience will too.


– Mark O’Bannon

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