Wants

Wants differ from spine in that they are smaller goals (objectives is another term sometimes used) that must be reached before the larger goal of the spine can be achieved. For instance, in 8-1/2 the protagonist's spine is "to lead an authentic life" — a life that is not a lie — but he also wants to make a great film and be a good husband. There are also smaller (but not unimportant), more immediate wants that occur in individual scenes and are called scene wants. For the protagonist, Guido, there are scenes in which he wants to escape, to placate, to deflect. Also, these "smaller" wants can conflict with the larger goal of the spine, and as far as dramatic purposes are concerned it is better if they do. For example: an Ethical Man wants to live his life ethically — his spine, or sometimes called life want — but his wife and children are hungry. He wants to feed them, but can only get sustenance for them by committing an unethical act.

Synonymous with want in drama is the obstacle to obtaining that want. This is what elicits the struggle — the dramatic journey. It is what supplies the conflict.

"Hey, will you love me for the rest of my life?"

"Of course I will."

End of film.

If instead of acquiescence there is rejection— "Get lost, jerk!" —we have the obligatory obstacle that sets up the obligatory conflict, but only if the character truly "wants."

There are three possibilities concerning a character's want: the character will succeed in obtaining the want, will fail, or will be sidetracked by a new, more urgent want.

It is important to make a distinction between wants and needs. To paraphrase Mick Jagger: "You can't always get what you want, but if you try, you might get what you need." This distinction often supplies the basis for irony in our stories — another very powerful tool used as a codified technique by storytellers at least since the time of the ancient Greeks.

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