"Need: The Heart Of The Story"
by Mark O'Bannon
Need: The Heart Of The Story
Many writers fail to notice the emotional undercurrent in their stories.
Writing with an intuitive sense, rather than developing a deliberate method to spark feelings such as love or hate, a writer may forget to include drama altogether.
Some writers believe that creating emotions in the audience isn't important at all, especially if they're writing action stories, which are deemed to be "plot driven" stories, rather than "character driven" tales. But when you include emotion in your stories, it will make it a stronger story.
If you just start writing away, hoping that your story will strike a nerve in the reader, you may not succeed all of the time. Success at creating emotions with this method can be a hit or miss affair.
How Do You Create Emotion In Your Story?
An Emotional Throughline, or drama, can be created deliberately in stories. The process isn't too hard to do. Here's how it works:
The Heart Of The Story
The emotional heart of a story is caused by a change in a character. Character change is referred to as a "character arc" and its used to demonstrate how a person has transformed by the events of the story into a better (or worse) human being. Where does character change come from?
When you give your characters a main flaw, such as greed, that character instantly becomes more interesting to the audience. John Truby, the top story consultant in Hollywood, calls a character flaw a weakness. He says that the character's weakness will become the wellspring of the story, because it leads to the character's need to change.
A Hidden Need
The heart of the story need comes from the character's flaws. When a character needs, he has an unconscious desire to change. This is one of the best ways to hook an audience. With a strong need you can create all kinds of emotions in the story. During the story, the hero's character flaws aren't too apparent to the character, though it may be obvious to the audience. As the story progresses, the weakness will gradually be revealed as the hero struggles to overcome the opponent and reach the goal.
Near the end of the story, the hero will face off with
the opponent in a fight over the story goal. During the fight, or sometimes after it, the character's need will be revealed and the hero will have the opportunity to change.
Answer these questions to set up the heart of your story:
1. What is the hero's main character flaw?
2. How does this flaw harm the hero?
3. How does this flaw harm others?
4. Can you identify the hero's need?
5. How does the opponent challenge or bring out the weakness of the hero?
6. How is the hero's flaw revealed as the story progresses?
Hint: As the character fails to win against the opponent, the hero will become desperate and will begin to cross the line.
7. How can the character's friends reveal the hero's weakness?
Hint: Criticism when the hero crosses the line works well.
8. How does the hero change near the end of the story?
What To Do Now
A strong emotional story will show us how to be better human beings. There is a tremendous appetite for well written stories, and one of the best techniques for writing a great story is to create change in one of the characters. This is why we need stories.
Take out a piece of paper and write down the answers to the questions listed above. As you write your story, refer to this paper and create an emotional arc in your story.
One final note: The hero isn't always the character who experiences change in the story, and more than one character can change!
- Mark O'Bannon