Characters, Writing Tips

Character Development: Wants/Needs and Portraits

Welcome back to Claerie’s Tales and the third part of my Character Development series. If you haven’t read parts one and two, I highly recommend starting there, as in order to illustrate this topic thoroughly, I will be using the character I created last time as an example. If you have read those previous posts, hi again! Today’s post will be all about the biggest pieces of the puzzle, identifying a character’s wants and needs. As a bonus, I’m going to link you to a couple of my favorite sources for creating character avatars for both personal and professional use, so be sure to read ‘til the and to check that out.

Now that you know the basics about your character—their backstory, thanks to emotional wounds, and the more immediate facts such as, who their family is, where they live and what they like, it’s time to boil that down into the needs of your plot. How do you do that? By figuring out what your character wants or their goal, and what they need, or the thing that will make them happy. Sometimes the want and the need are the same, but oftentimes, they are not. They are, however, always related.

Example 1. Let’s start with our character from the last blog post. A groom was left at the altar. He swears off of relationships, only to attend a party thrown by a mutual friend of the bride and find his ex-fiancé together with another man. This prompts him to join his college buddies on a trip to South America, which he had previously declined in favor of settling into marriage. On the trip, he has a fling with a hot tour guide and while he’s determined to keep it casual, he realizes after he returns home that he wants something more.

Based on that paragraph, what is the goal here? Well, there are actually multiple. In act one, he wants to get married. After she leaves, he wants to get over her by swearing off relationships and then having a fling. But by the third act, he wants something more serious.

Having multiple goals is especially important because it implies you’re getting closer to determining your character’s arc, or the ways in which they change throughout the novel. But all of the small goals still contribute to one big overarching goal.  The groom’s goal, in this case, is still to get over the bride, but the steps he goes through to do that change as the story progresses. First, he swears off romance, then, he tentatively accepts it, but doesn’t want to be serious because he’s afraid of commitment, and finally, he takes the leap and learns to trust again.  If you look at your novel and realize the character is only after one goal with no baby steps in between, that may be a sign that they’re not changing as much as they could be and thus your book could be stronger. Make sense? Good.

So, where’s the need part in all this? In order to get what he wants and be happy in the end, what part of his personality or view of the world needs to change? In the case of our groom, to truly get over his bride, he needs to not just get over her, but her abandonment of him. Only then can he truly move forward with the tour guide.

Example 2. In Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, Harry, Ron, and Hermione want to find the Resurrection stone, but in order to do that and be ready for the next adventure, they need to accept what makes them different: Harry needs to accept his legacy, Hermione needs to be proud of her book smarts and Ron needs to be brave in the face of danger.

Example 3. In The Hunger Games, Katniss wants to survive the games, but to do so, she needs to learn to work with others and be more aware of the world around her.

In conclusion, wants and needs give your character context within the world of your story, and allow them to expand in tandem with your plot by taking everything you’ve worked on so far and fusing it together into a complete and well-rounded character.

battle black blur board game
Photo by Pixabay on

Bonus: One other thing I do for purely descriptive purposes (and fun) when creating characters is making avatars for myself to use as references, and/or commission character portraits. Here are three of my favorite resources.

For Personal Use: Any of the free Avatar Creators on rinimarugames

Commissions: Tara Spruit. You can find her on INSTAGRAMTWITTER, and TUMBLR.

Rickyliaiw on Fiverr (My character artist and the designer of my logo :))

Question of the Week: What does your MC want? Let me know in the comments!

If you liked today’s post, please consider scrolling to the top of the page and entering your email to subscribe to my blog and be notified every time I post new content. As always, keep making magic, word weavers!

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