Characters: The roles they play in story

Character having an existential crisis

General rule:

  • Characters in a story are there to move the plot.
  • Stories revolve around your main protagonist(s) and the events the happen to them.
  • Characters always have an external and internal journey during the story.

We love characters just like we love other people. We can relate to them, live vicariously, or sympathize with their situation.

By the end of a story, we all feel closer to that character, and in many cases feel like we made a friend.

This explains why we feel a gaping hole of emptiness when a series concludes. The relationship and adventures are over. Never again will we see them grow, learn, or act.

What your character wants (6 exchanges)

Something that motivates to fulfill an intrinsic or extrinsic desire that fits the parameters below:

  • Time: immediate, short term, long term
  • Focus: A small or large commitment that can impact decisions
  • Topic Based: Something specific to a certain area or broad 
6 Sources of Exchange
  • Love/Connection
  • Status
  • Information
  • Money
  • Goods
  • Services

What your character needs (Mazlows hierarchy of needs)

Mazlow’s Hierarchy of needs:

  1. Self Actualization- Desire to be the most we can be. Reaching full potential
  2. Ego- Self esteem, respect, status, freedom
  3. Social- Friendship,family, intimacy, belonging
  4. Safety- Security of body,health, resources,morality,family,shelter
  5. Physiological- food,water, air, sleep, homeostasis

What to do?

  1. Come up with a want for your character using one of the six exchanges
  2. Devise a backstory introducing the need, which will explain why they have that want
  3. As the character continues, you must portray that this want is not only ineffective, but creates more problems for the character and the story


A teenage boy wants to play football to get the most popular girl in school so that his friends don’t look down on him, but what he needs is better friends to accept him for who he is.

The teenage boy becomes obsessed with being the best football player and even takes steroids to boost his performance. As he dives deeper into this athletic life, his grades suffer, he hangs out with worse friends, and starts treating the girl he wants as on object of his desire instead of the person she is

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