5. The best character needs aren’t external needs, but internal ones.This final reason for knowing every character’s driving desire is important because so many writers simply don’t get it.
My last post hinted at this aspect of character creation. McClane’s need to reconcile with Holly is an internal need that is expressed through external action. People may enjoy all the action, but for the most part it’s way outside their experience. Rather, it’s the internal need that people relate to and identify with.
You might not realize it, but even Gruber is motivated by an internal need. It shows up in many ways during the movie, but perhaps the most direct statement of it comes near the climax. Gruber has realized who Holly really is and has taken her down to the vault with him. As Holly watches Gruber’s men and realizes that the “terrorist plot” is little more than a farce to cover their true intent, she remarks that Gruber is just a common thief. In a rare moment of anger, Gruber jumps in her face and says, “I am an exceptional thief, Mrs. McClane, and since I’m moving up to kidnapping, you should be more polite!”
It appears that Hans Gruber has an internal need to be the best at something, to prove that he is superior to everyone else, doesn’t it? It’s this inner passion that makes his character sizzle onscreen, that makes him a fitting villain to challenge John McClane’s “cowboy.” It creates the chemistry between the two that made Die Hard a box office smash.
By now I hope you understand why it’s so important to know what every character wants in your story. A properly-chosen personal passion can make even the most outlandish plot seem plausible. By knowing this one thing about your characters, you could conceivably revolutionize your ability to write powerful, gripping stories.
The photo came from the IMBD image database.