Every once in a while I consider a vegetarian lifestyle. Not because of the health benefits (I think my body really needs and functions well on meat) and not because of the environmental benefits, but because I have a soft heart. I think about how the cows and chickens live and my heart goes out to them. These thoughts result in the purchase of a lot of “happy” animal products. I try to buy free-range meat and eggs, organic milk etc. It doesn’t solve the problem, but it is my way of compromising.
However every now and again something happens that puts all thoughts of a vegetarian lifestyle out of my mind. One such event came about last week. It was my birthday and a friend took me out to lunch to a wonderful place in Gastown…Peckinpah Restaurant. I had the most amazing BBQ experience in…well…quite possibly my life. The brisket I ate was so tender that it nearly fell apart on my fork. There were two types of BBQ sauce right on the table. Complimenting it all the hush puppies (deep fried cornbread) made me want to eat until my stomach hurt and I have fallen in love with, of all things, collard greens.
I’m sorry my cow friends, I no longer think there is any way I will ever be a vegetarian. My selfish desire for BBQ has risen above my guilt. Gluttons unite!
Selfish desires can be powerful motivators for a character. We can explore them from a number of directions…how the character developed the desire, what lengths the character will go through to satisfy their desire, and the consequences of those desires. In fact most, dare I say all, conflicts in fiction come from the desire of a character not being met, or being in opposition to the desires of another character.
For this exercise pick one desire of your character and really explain it to yourself. Ask yourself why your character wants this thing? Ask yourself how they came to need or want it and what the consequences of not achieving their desire would be? If you can understand the genesis and progression of your character’s desires you have an engine for conflict in your story. So choose a character, choose a desire and aim to fill one sheet of paper with the 5 Ws of your character’s driving need. Happy writing.