Better Storytelling
The Basics Advanced Writing Story Development Reviews Writing Tools Catalog About Mark O'Bannon

Subscribe today and recieve:

  • A FREE copy of the ebook, "How to Tell a Story."
  • A FREE copy of, "The Top Ten Mistakes Made By Writers."
  • Better Storytelling Tips delivered to your inbox every month.

Video - Better Storytelling Tips

Videos Coming Soon!

"Desire: The Spine Of The Story"

by Mark O'Bannon

The Spine Of The Story: Desire
Desire: The Spine Of The Story
Some stories lack zest, gusto... oomph! Drifting aimlessly about, these kinds of stories never seem to go anywhere. In short, the hero and the story are spineless.

If your hero has no desire, if no goal is clearly defined, then the story will have no purpose and it will die before it has gone anywhere.

This can often happen if the writer hasn't planned things out before they sit down to scribble out their story. Just writing and seeing where your muse takes you is a great method, but you must be careful when using this free form style, or your story will appear limp and lifeless.

Desire: The Spine Of The Story
When you create a clear, definable goal for your hero, you are giving your story a "spine." The spine of the story is also referred to as the Desire Line. The desire line forms the hero's quest.

Often overlooked, this aspect of writing is one of the most important things to consider when creating a story. Always give your hero a crystal clear goal to pursue. The audience must know what it is and they must know when the hero has reached the goal.

While there are many causes of broken stories, one of the most common ways to destroy your story is to not give the hero a quest to pursue. One of the chief purposes at the start of a story is to create a goal for the hero - a character desire.

Mysteries always have a very clearly defined goal (such as trying to catch a criminal). A strong story spine makes a tale more interesting, it is easier to follow and the story is more satisfying to the audience.

Hero vs. Opponent
Both the hero and the opponent should have a desire. Try to think of your story as these two adversaries competing over the same goal, rather than the hero trying to do something while the opponent tries to stop him. If you don't give your opponent a goal, then he will appear weaker, and this will in turn, cause your hero to become weaker. Strong antagonists always make your hero look good.

Too Many Goals
Be careful not to give your hero too many desires. All of the steps along the way should point towards a single main goal. Otherwise, you could fracture your story.

When you are telling an "A" story and a "B" story, try to think of ways to connect the storylines. One story should influence the other.

Desire & Counter-Desire
In some stories, the hero will have a desire and also a counter-desire. Think of the Bourne Initiative. Jason Bourne's goal is to discover who he is. His counter-desire is to escape from his past. The closer he gets to learning about his past, the closer the villains come to killing him. This sets up a strong push-pull motion in the story.

Action Steps
Here is how to set up a desire line for your story.

1. In the opening stages of your story, give your hero a clear goal.

2. Also give the antagonist a goal to put them in conflict.

3. How are the hero and opponent pursuing the same goal?

4. Is your hero's desire clear?

5. Does your hero have a single goal?

Give Your Story A Spine
Get out a piece of paper and write down the main goal for the hero. Then write down the antagonist's goal. Keep this in mind throughout the writing process.

The easiest way to fix a story is to go back to the desire line.


- Mark O'Bannon


Free Member Newsletter

Free SubscriptionReceive exclusive special offers and
in-depth advice
with Mark's FREE
"Better Storytelling
Tips" newsletter.


Recommended Articles

William F Nolan The Basics of Storytelling

The Blank Page The Blank Page - Where to Begin?

Start At The End Start At The End

What Makes A Great Hero What Makes A Great Hero?

How Setting Affects Your Story How Setting Affects Your Story

Lead With The Theme Lead With The Theme

The Spine Of Your Story: Desire The Spine of the Story: Desire

The Heart Of The Story: Need The Heart of the Story: Need

Identification Identification

Writers Block Writer's Block - Feed Your Muse!

Story Length Word Count & Story Length

How Three Act Structure Will Kill Your Story How Three Acts Will Kill Your Story


We take your privacy very seriously. You can read our entire privacy policy by clicking the link above.

©2010-2011 MEO Enterprises LLC, All Rights Reserved. "Better Storytelling " and "MEO Enterprises" are trademarks used by MEO Enterprises LLC. By entering, you agree to our terms and conditions. By entering your email address you are also requesting and agreeing to subscribe to our email newsletter. You can read our FTC Disclosure Statement. If you need to contact support, please go to the Contact Us link above.