The Importance of Desire


Desire is essential to storytelling.

Need.  Longing.

What does your main character(s) want?

How much do they want it?  How far will they go to achieve the person, place, object, or outcome of their desires?

Plato said, “Human behavior flows from three main sources: desire, emotion, and knowledge.”

Biblical consciousness begins with the desire for knowledge–eating of the forbidden fruit.

courtesy of Pinterest

courtesy of Pinterest

The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it.  Resist it and your soul grows sick with longing for thing it has forbidden to itself.” — Oscar Wilde

Hankering.  Passion.

What is driving your character’s desire?  Notoriety?  Fame?

Khalil Gibran said, “Desire is half of life; indifference is half of death.”

Urge.  Proclivity.

Is the desire true to the being of the character or undertaken due to peer, parental, or societal pressure?  If it isn’t burning within their soul, will it be reasonably achieved?

The starting point of all achievement is desire.”  –Napoleon Hill

Can your character refrain from its pursuit?  Is it a compulsion?

Those who restrain their desire do so because theirs is weak enough to be restrained.”  –William Blake

Craving.  Thirst.

Hilton Head birthday berries

Does is come from a mouthwatering appetite?  That decadent triple layer chocolate confection?  Or the addict’s inability to turn away from their drug?

In Myers’ Twilight series, everything is hinged in desire.  The vampires desire blood, Bella desires Edward to the point of surrendering her human body.

George Bernard Shaw said, “Life contains but two tragedies.  One is not to get your heart’s desire; the other is to get it.”

Love.  Lust.

Love is an irresistible desire to be irresistibly desired.”  –Robert Frost

Ravenousness.  Libido.

What if it isn’t good for the person seeking it?  What if it causes harm?  What is learned and how does this shape the life of your character?

Troyes - St. Nizier - Gargoyle kept company by pigeons

I chose and my world was shaken.  So what?  The choice may have been mistaken; the choosing was not.”  –Stephen Sondheim

The last thing any writer wants to create is a boring character unless their boredom is part of the trail that leads to an exciting romp between the covers of the novel.  Here again, we return to desire.

Leo Tolstoy defined boredom as the “desire for desires.”

Perhaps Tolstoy gives up the greatest tale of woe in pursuing desire in Anna Karenina.

Or perhaps it is F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby.

Who can forget the world-building Gatsby engages in to plant himself within the society of the object of his love and desire?  Or the ultimate toll it took on him?

Is there a novel coming to your mind that exhibits the pros and/or cons of desire?

About reneejohnsonwrites

I have recently returned from University of Iowa's Novel-Writing Intensive during their Summer Writing Festival. Other credits include two stints at The Essoyes School in France, two terms at a writer's residency at Noepe Center for Literary Arts on Martha's Vineyard, and a retreat in Italy. Join me in 'writing the world.' -- Renee Canter Johnson, author of "Herald Angels", "The Haunting of William Gray", and "Acquisition" published by The Wild Rose Press. Coming soon--an international intrigue set in Venice, Italy--where adventure and danger are as masked as the characters.
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4 Responses to The Importance of Desire

  1. A really interesting meditation on desire and its place in writing Renee.

  2. diannegray says:

    This is such an important trait for our characters, Renee. Great post – and I love that George Bernard Shaw quote.

    • Thank you Dianne. I love quotes, as you may have noticed, using them whenever I can to illustrate a theme. That one seems particularly poignant–a bit like–be careful what you wish for, you might get it.

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