Narrative Writing



A focal character who has nothing he wants to attain or retain can’t be endangered, and so has no place in any story. Whether he succeeds or fails is immaterial. He still must strive.

               — Dwight V. Swain, Techniques of the Selling Writer

What does your main character want?

When I ask students this question, I often get a mushy answer:

No! I don't want to know what happens to her. I want to know what she wants!

After several more tries, the student finally realizes that she needs to rephrase the answer:

Okay, now we're getting somewhere.

Study the following examples.

Bernard Stanley is a shy baker. His wife died five years ago, and now he is terribly lonely. He wants to ask one of his regular customers out on a date.

Sonja Simmons is an adventurous college student. While hiking in the wilderness, she discovers a mountain cave. She wants to explore the cave.

Mario Lynch is a grumpy detective. One day, a client hires him to investigate a gruesome murder. He wants to solve the case.

Now it's your turn. What does your protagonist want?

Write it down.

There is no quiz for this lesson.