On this blog every Tuesday and Friday I write about story techniques, structure, and/or publishing. Comments and questions are welcome. I also have a personal blog, Amy Deardon, on which I write about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy.

I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research.

My book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story, is now available in both hard-copy and e-book formats. I also coach would-be novelists and screenwriters to develop their story. YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Hidden Need

Over the next few posts I'll go over the components of a character arc, but today want to focus on the skeleton of the character arc: the HIDDEN NEED.

The hidden need is an emotional lack or deep-seated problem that your character must fulfill during the course of your story in order to be fulfilled. For example, the character may suffer from a lack of courage, or an inability to be emotionally close to his girlfriend, or an overspending habit. The hidden need is linked to the moral or theme of your story -- in other words, this hidden need serves as a concrete demonstration of the larger, overall point that you're trying to make.

The hidden need is also considered a "subplot" of sorts in your story -- your hero is pursuing the story goal, but also must wrestle with this problem within the context of solving the big problem.

The hero usually isn't even aware of his problem/hidden need, although others around him are. Often there is a scene near the beginning where a character actually tells the hero he has a problem, which he dismisses.

The hidden need is usually solved in the third quarter of the story. The best stories solve the hidden need in a "triplet" of actions: the hidden need is clearly demonstrated, the hidden need is solved, and the hidden need is demonstrated to be solved in a small action. Often towards or at the climax, the solved hidden need is critical for the hero's triumph.

Stories without a hero's hidden need will fall flat, since the story will only be sustained by outer action. People desire to read stories for emotional fulfillment, and the hidden need is the mechanism to incorporate emotional involvement in your story.

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