Author Topic: Character's want versus need, and character's flaw/wound  (Read 350 times)

Cabbages and kings

Character's want versus need, and character's flaw/wound
« on: January 16, 2021, 10:42:28 AM »

So I've been watching some videos about a character's want and need, and about a character's flaw or wound.

And I've come up confused.

So the main character's want is easy enough, it's their primary goal and it's stated outright. It's the basic premise of the story.

And the main character's need is described as a subconscious desire, but I don't think it has to be subconscious at all.

Am I missing something, or am I correct?

And about the main character's flaw or wound, I heard that the character has to get what she needs to fix her flaw or heal her wound.

But it makes more sense to me to have the character overcome her flaw or wound in order to get what she needs.

So which one is it, or is it something else altogether?
 

Vijaya

Re: Character's want versus need, and character's flaw/wound
« Reply #1 on: January 16, 2021, 12:27:49 PM »
Agree that need doesn't have to be subconscious, but it can be.

As to flaw/wound, in a neat and tidy world, you'd conquer the flaw to become whole again, or in the case of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, the very flaw or wound is the thing that allows him to be Santa's helper.

I think you'd enjoy Story Genius by Lisa Cron. I really liked her idea of misbelief. Read here for more: https://vijayabodach.blogspot.com/2016/10/story-genius-by-lisa-cron.html


Author of over 100 books and magazine pieces, primarily for children
Vijaya Bodach | Personal Blog | Bodach Books
 
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notthatamanda

Re: Character's want versus need, and character's flaw/wound
« Reply #2 on: January 16, 2021, 10:54:55 PM »
I think that a character has to grow to overcome their flaw or wound to get what they want. For example, the person who craves a long term relationship (love) has to risk being rejected and counting on someone else to get what they want. They have to come to terms with the risk of their greatest fear to get what they want. Enneagram #2, see below. Probably useless thought - maybe romance is really just the clearest example of the enneagram which is a reason why it is so popular.

Late last year I watched a webinar about the enneagram which I hadn't heard of before. Very interesting. It breaks people down into desires and worst fears based on the desires. The webinar presenter said for an authentic character they act with those fears and desires in mind (the character's subconscious mind) always. We can all understand it on some level, it's why when a character does something that they would never do, readers/viewers know it and don't approve of it.

This explains it pretty well.

https://enneagramexplained.com/enneagram-core-motivations/

Hope that's helpful, sorry if it's not.
 
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Hopscotch

Re: Character's want versus need, and character's flaw/wound
« Reply #3 on: January 17, 2021, 01:59:37 AM »
You also can see the idea in action - of a main character who's got an internal problem that prevents solving the external problem - by watching a gangster film from the '30s (The Roaring Twenties) b/c they are in-your-face about internal vs. external conflict.
 
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PJ Post

Re: Character's want versus need, and character's flaw/wound
« Reply #4 on: January 17, 2021, 03:45:45 AM »
The Flaw is the physical/psychological manifestation of the Wound. The Want is the stated action necessary to overcome the subconscious Need. So, the Wound creates the Flaw that drives the Want in order to satisfy the Need.

Example:

Wound: grows up poor (inciting situation)
Flaw: feels worthless (unconscious character motivation)
Want: to be somebody of note (plot)
Need: self-acceptance (subtext)

So, because the protagonist's backstory didn't allow them to get enough hugs or whatever as a kid, they act out in such a way, hoping it will heal the Wound, but it can't. What's done is done - they must learn to accept it. It's the Flaw that they can heal from. The plot then is about transitioning from absence to plenty, from worthlessness to self-acceptance.

Poor to rich.
Addict to clean.
Loner to family.
Criminal to cop.
Unloved to loved.
Ugly to beautiful.
Outcast to acceptance.
Underachiever to overachiever.

But it doesn't have to be that complicated. The Wound and the Flaw can be the same thing.

Example:

Flaw/Wound: kid grows up poor (inciting situation / character motivation)
Want: to be rich - to provide for loved ones (plot)
Need: seeks redemption (subtext)

Or even...
 
Flaw/Wound: kid grows up poor (inciting situation / character motivation)
Want/Need: to be rich - to provide for loved ones (plot - no subtext)


It's worth noting that the Flaw isn't usually subconscious. People know what they're about - but often refuse to confront, admit or otherwise deal with it, so there’s this illusion that it is 'subconscious'. (It's also why Therapy is a thing.) For example, an addict knows they're an addict, they just refuse to accept it. Achieving their Want gives them the strength, either directly on the page or through inference, to overcome their Flaw and reach a better place (self-acceptance/forgiveness/confidence) - whatever that means for the story – in order to deal with their Need.

The inciting incident kicks off the story. It's the change the creates momentum. The inciting situation is whatever it is about their backstory that creates their Flaw/Wound. For Batman it was the death of his parents. This is also what drives character motivation.

The important thing to remember is this can all be super light like Luke Skywalker or that Groundhog movie remake Palm Springs (recommended), or it can be uber-dark like Silence of the Lambs or The Godfather. There’s no right or wrong as to how much we explore or how deep we go.

eta: Generally speaking:

Wound - Conscious - they know they grew up poor
Flaw - Unconscious - they don't realize how it affected them
Want - Conscious - they know they never want to be poor again, so they work to be rich
Need - Unconscious - they don't understand why
« Last Edit: January 17, 2021, 04:01:29 AM by PJ Post »
 
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TimothyEllis

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Re: Character's want versus need, and character's flaw/wound
« Reply #5 on: January 17, 2021, 02:12:20 PM »
Flaw/Wound: kid grows up poor (inciting situation / character motivation)
Want: to be rich - to provide for loved ones (plot)
Need: seeks redemption (subtext)

Redemption doesn't fit here.

Redemption only becomes a need after the flaw/wound manifests itself as having done something really bad (eg. in this context being a criminal, maybe even a murderer), and being hyper aware of it and wanting to come back from it.

In which case the Wound is growing up poor, and the flaw is having fallen to the darkside as a result.

The want can be part of the flaw as well, since in trying to get rich, really bad things happened.

But if all this is the case, then the need has to change as well. Needing to be rich and going darkside to get it, requires a redemption of doing something which will ultimately make them not need to be rich anymore.
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PJ Post

Re: Character's want versus need, and character's flaw/wound
« Reply #6 on: January 18, 2021, 02:16:53 AM »
We could argue about whether or not redemption is a uniformly conscious or subconscious act, but it was just an example - seeking redemption could also be a Flaw, such as the case with Robin in the current Titans show. But, yeah, I could have picked a less ambiguous example.

Which reminds me...it should also be noted that the 'Journey to the Want' could lead to accepting or dealing with their Need. The protagonist doesn't necessarily have to succeed. The arc doesn't lead to achieving their Want, the arc is complete when they confront their Need - consciously or not (on the page or not).
 

idontknowyet

Re: Character's want versus need, and character's flaw/wound
« Reply #7 on: January 18, 2021, 12:23:58 PM »
I will agree with the descriptions, but not the resolution. I dont think the flaw always needs to be fully fixed. Those books are too perfect and lose the sense of reality. No one fixes all their problems. Some times better is all the character needs. Or the ability to cope.
 

TimothyEllis

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Re: Character's want versus need, and character's flaw/wound
« Reply #8 on: January 18, 2021, 12:41:13 PM »
I will agree with the descriptions, but not the resolution. I dont think the flaw always needs to be fully fixed. Those books are too perfect and lose the sense of reality. No one fixes all their problems. Some times better is all the character needs. Or the ability to cope.

Fixing their problems ends it.

Not fixing their problems gives plenty of scope for a trilogy or long series.

 grint
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Luke Everhart

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Re: Character's want versus need, and character's flaw/wound
« Reply #9 on: January 18, 2021, 02:05:45 PM »
One of the best things I've ever read on character arcs, character flaws, and related is actually in a book that has a bit of a misleading title: "Take Off Your Pants! Outline Your Books for..." by Libbie Hawker
Yeah, the book is about outlining, but a lot more too.
She has some great stuff on:
character arcs
plots
themes
antagonists
allies
*character flaws* 👈
"anatomy of story" as per John Truby

It's a great book. 👍
https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00UKC0GHA/ref=dbs_a_def_rwt_hsch_vapi_tkin_p1_i1

Libbie, as I expect most of you know, is a successful indie and hybrid (with Amazon imprints) author. For example, her 2018 book "The Ragged Edge of Night" pub'd by Amazon imprint Lake Union (their imprint for contemporary and historical fiction) has over 6600 reviews/ratings and is still #408 in the paid Kindle store a year and a half after publication (Oct 2018).
Urban Fantasy Author
Magic & Mirth meets Action & Attitude
 

PJ Post

Re: Character's want versus need, and character's flaw/wound
« Reply #10 on: January 19, 2021, 01:07:50 AM »
I will agree with the descriptions, but not the resolution. I dont think the flaw always needs to be fully fixed. Those books are too perfect and lose the sense of reality. No one fixes all their problems. Some times better is all the character needs. Or the ability to cope.

Agree. I think the resolution is book and genre dependent. Romance requires resolution, or some otherwise happy place ending, but for other genres the resolution may just be acknowledgement - not fixed yet but working on it (confrontation).
« Last Edit: January 19, 2021, 01:10:15 AM by PJ Post »