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Neil Gaiman on character, motivation and plot

The next [building block of story] is the characters.

Who are they? What do they want?

I’m going to harp on a lot about what characters want.

I’m going to harp on about what characters want because over and over again you’ll find that when you’re plotting, when you’re putting something together, it’s the only question that opens the door to “What do you do next?”

If you get stuck you can ask yourself what your characters want, and that is like a flashlight: it shines a light on the road ahead and lets you move forward.

Neil GaimanDeveloping the Story – in Masterclass: Neil Gaiman Teaches the Art of Storytelling

So what?

So, what if this question shines bright light on how we make change – on the people we serve, on our organisations and communities?

Understanding what our “characters” want (which as Gaiman points out, is often different from what they need) will open the door to “What do you do next?”

You don’t have to give people what they want, but you won’t get very far unless you start somewhere in the vicinity.

See also: Neil Gaiman on reading fiction, empathy and changing the world

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