Today, we look at a writing prompt that works every time you try it. The answers might be different across months, years, or decades, but try this one out today and see what you find. 

What Does the Character Want? 

As we've studied the types of stories, they all revolve around values that we hold as humans. Those values drive our desires, goals, and eventually our actions. We know that a character needs a goal to move a story forward. But have you taken the time to explore how much they want it and why they want it? Maybe if you're stuck, you need to revisit what the character desires. 

Those values or needs determine the type of plot or story we tell. As a reminder, here's that picture of that hierarchy of needs:

Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs for Writers

Read the full post on types of stories here. 

One Simple Prompt

Or maybe you aren't stuck with a character or story, but you're stuck as a writer. This prompt works for you too. 

Here's a simple prompt that works every time: write about what you want.

A story is about a character who wants something. They want it so badly that they are willing to disrupt the status quo, to change something in their life to get what they want. 

When was the last time you wanted something so badly you were willing to do anything (anything!) to get it?

When was the last time you had something you loved so much you would do anything to protect it?

What is something you want but can never have?

Stop judging and self-editing those desires and write them out. You can tear them up or burn them if you want to when you're done, but take the time to get the words flowing again. Our characters have desires they would rather hide, too. If we don't tap into our own humanness, our own range of desires, how can we depict those in our stories? 

Great Stories Are About Desire

Desire is the best and worst part of life, and all great stories are about desire. To write a good story, you need to connect with your own desire.

You don't need to act on that desire. And ou don't need to obsess over what you want.

You need to know desire, to understand it as intimately as you know yourself.

What do you want most in the world?

What prompts work every time when you get stuck? Share them in the comments


Set the timer for fifteen minutes. Free write an answer to this question: What do you want most in the world right now? You can respond as yourself or as a character you're creating. See what surfaces.

When you're finished, post your practice in the Pro Practice Workshop here. And if you post, please make sure to give feedback to a few other writers. If it's too personal, maybe just share about the experience of writing to the prompt in the comments

Happy writing!

Joe Bunting is an author and the leader of The Write Practice community. He is also the author of the new book Crowdsourcing Paris, a real life adventure story set in France. It was a #1 New Release on Amazon. Follow him on Instagram (@jhbunting).

Want best-seller coaching? Book Joe here.

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