Today I’m thinking about the protagonist of the book I’m working on. Her name is Maddie and she’s eleven. She’s got a dog, an older sister, and a really big secret. But what does she want?
What did I want, when I was 11?
I remember wanting pretty hair. I tried growing it long but then got tired of it and got it all cut off with a cute little Dorothy Hamill-style wedge. (Don’t laugh! They were really popular.) I wanted a ten-speed bike, but I only had a three-speed. I wanted friends, and had some. I wanted to be the best at something.
Ah, now we are getting somewhere. I wanted to be the best runner or the best bike rider. I wanted to be the most popular. I wanted to be special. Not special like when grown-ups say, “Everyone is special.” Nope. I wanted to be more special than everyone else.
Why I am I telling you this? Because I think that getting in touch with my inside wants, the ones I am embarrassed that I had, will help me create a more believable character. I have to ask myself, what does Maddie want more than anything else? What does she want so much that she is willing to sacrifice anything to have it?
I think that answer is: trust and respect. Maddie made some big mistakes over the previous year. Her mother, sister, best friend, and other kids don’t really trust her to tell the truth. She wants people to believe her, but they are wary. It’s a hard time for her. She wants to prove that she’s still a good person. That’s going to motivate her to do something very big—like saving a lot of people—to try to gain back that trust and respect.
What do your characters want more than anything else? Not what they say they want—what do they really, really want when no one’s looking?