Weekly Writing Workout: Three Ring Circus Part Two – NEED

Quick post today because I have a FULL week ahead. As a matter of fact… I have a full few months ahead of me as I make my way toward the launch of BOOK THREE of my Faerie Tales from the White Forest series on April 15. Can I get a squee?

And from today until April 3, you can enter to win your very own print copy. CLICK the IMAGE below for the GoodReads Book Three Givaway Page:


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Last week I talked about the three ring circus that is my head and gave a character exercise around WANT. Want is pretty easy to figure out because it’s the exterior goal. He wants the girl (or boy), she wants the grail (or tiara), the Detective wants to solve the murder, the Clown wants to perform for Cirque du Soleil.

Want marks the plot of the story, the trajectory the protag (or other character) takes to get this thing. But NEED marks the inner journey. It’s what the protagonist has to realize or face in order to become a better person, to become the person he or she is meant to be. And generally, we want our protags to emerge as better people (or faeries or dragons or giants)

In the movie Gattaca, a character driven near-future sic fi with Ethan Hawke and Uma Thurman, Hawke’s character  is a “genetically inferior man” who assumes the identity of a superior one (Jude Law) in order to pursue his childhood dream of going into space. That’s what he wants… but what he really NEEDS, what has been eating at him his entire life, is to confront his older brother and prove to himself that he is not inferior. It’s a great story about perseverance, about not letting other people’s views of who you are get in your way.

And as an audience, I don’t think we’d be completely satisfied without that moment. It’s a fist pump “yeah!” moment.


1) SET YOUR TIMER for 7-10 minutes.

Start with the line: The inner block my character has, that is getting in his way of being all he can be, is …

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

2) SET YOUR TIMER for 10-12 minutes.

Start with the line: If he confronted/faced/addressed this block then…

3) SET YOUR TIMER for 12-15 minutes.

There should be a moment where what your character wants is in conflict with what he needs. Perhaps addressing this need will get him into trouble. In Gattaca it’s when the MC challenges his brother to a swim in the ocean. He could die, they could both die, but he’s going to friggin’ prove himself.

Start with the line:  The moment when my character reaches a threshold, on the other side of which his better self lies, happens when…

Write without stopping, crossing out, rereading, or editing.

And have a great week!

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If you are a blogger who would like to post your own weekly workout exercise with me every Monday, please write to info (at) danikadinsmore.com



  1. 4amWriter
    Feb 17, 2014

    As I mentioned before, need trips me up. I think it’s mainly because my character usually doesn’t know what he needs, and so I have to spend some time hunting for it. When characters first approach me, what they want is practically stamped on their foreheads. What they need is much more complex and often I don’t figure it out until I have written a couple of drafts.

    • Danika Dinsmore
      Feb 17, 2014

      I think it is definitely more complex, because it’s internal. Want and must are what’s in the external world and much more tangible. They keep moving the action forward. For need I think about: what is in this character’s way of becoming a fully realized person? I was struggling with this with my current WIP, then realized what she “needs” is to find her own voice. She “wants” a relationship with another girl that is destructive, so she pursues it even though it hurts her over and over again. She “needs” to stand up for herself, even if it means losing this relationship.

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