Step Two: Desire

John Truby, in his book THE ANATOMY OF STORY, offers seven steps to building a great story structure. The second step is Desire.

Desire is what your hero wants. It’s the driving force of the story. It’s what sucks the reader in and makes him hang on with fingers and toes and teeth. Desire is intimately connected to need. “In most stories,” Truby says, “when the hero accomplishes his goal, he also fulfills his need.”
Here’s a simple example. A lion is hungry (physical need). He sees a young antelope within the herd and wants to eat it (desire). If he can catch the antelope, he won’t be hungry anymore (need fulfilled).

Don’t confuse need and desire. Need has to do with overcoming a weakness within the hero. He is paralyzed somehow at the beginning of the story by this weakness. Desire is a goal outside the hero. Once he identifies his desire, his goal, he takes action to reach that goal.

Need and desire also have different functions in the story. Need lets the reader see how the hero must change to become a better person and live a better life. It is hidden, under the surface, not identified by the hero as a flaw. Desire gives the reader something to want along with the hero. It’s on the surface.
In SAVING PRIVATE RYAN, Hero John Miller’s need is to do his duty in spite of his fear (this includes both psychological and moral needs). His desire is to find Private Ryan and bring him back alive.

In THE VERDICT, the hero must regain his self-respect (psychological) and learn to act with justice toward others (moral). His desire is to win the case.

In the next post I’ll discuss Truby’s third step, Opponent

-Sonja

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