Your character wants more than one thing and probably her desires are in opposition. An example of this we can all understand: She values being slim—she’s a lifetime member of Weight Watchers. But she values rich sugar-laden desserts—she craves them in fact. She’d kill for a profiterole right now…. You get the idea! Conflicting desires are the heart of complex characterization and tense, compelling writing.
A plausible and complex character will have a couple of strong desires that are in conflict. This is like life. It feels real to the reader and gives you a chance to further characterize through showing how and which desire he chooses.
Dramatize small incidents of conflicting values in scenes. Build these small choices to foreshadow the larger choices to come. She is going to choose values or desires that demonstrate her personality. Be sure to write-in the character’s attitude toward the choice. Think, mixed feelings. Remember, narration and back story will help here, but the riskiest way to inform the reader is through narration. Be sure that the narration doesn’t just recap what the reader already knows. It needs to deliver new information or a new perspective. Dialog is a good medium to use. Try having your secondary characters talk about the character with the conundrum.
- Identify what emotions the character is feeling.
- Double check that you’ve laid the groundwork for the mixed feelings by dramatizing the causes of each in earlier scenes.
- Decide how you want to portray two contradictory feelings: in the same scene, in alternate scenes, through narrative, through character thoughts, or through some combination of techniques.
- Include emotional indicators (sensory language, gesture, expression, etc.) for the reader to share in each emotion the character feels.
Prompt: What if you really did what you want to do? (Wood, The Pocket Muse)
Write a flash fiction or short story in the first person on what would happen if the character went ahead and did what (s)he always secretly wanted to do. Show your reader how this big desire might be in direct conflict with the character’s values and develop the process of choosing.
“I want to satisfy the undisclosed desires in your heart”