Beemgee/Character/Perceived Need

In this post we’ll continue to consider Beemgee’s character development process. Perceived need is the next attribute in our quest to build our protagonist.

Recall, our hero has an external problem. He’s been thrust into a situation or he’s been assigned a mission. Either way, along with this problem comes a desire or want. Succinctly put, our hero desires a solution. In essence, he wants another state of being, one free from the external problem. This naturally yields a goal, what he has to achieve to reach this state of being. Most often, a goal consists of a number of tasks that must be performed in order for the goal to be achieved.

This leads directly into the topic of today’s post, the perceived need. Here’s Beemgee summary:

“The perceived need is what the character believes she or he needs in order to reach the goal. If the goal is the apparent thing that ought to be achieved in order to solve the external problem, then there may well be certain knowledge, objects or people that the character needs to find or attain first in order to reach the goal. A character may have to do a number of things before it is possible to reach the goal. Attaining these needs marks stages or phases of the story journey. What stages are there in this story?”

In a more detailed article on this subject, Beemgee offers several examples. I’ll use one. Say the goal is to reach a certain place, one too far for an easy or strenuous stroll. Obviously, our character needs some form of transportation. Let’s say he decides that he needs a car. Quickly, the issue of access and availability arises. Where and how is he going to get a car?

Examples like this illustrate how plot (events in a story) develop. Of course, after acquiring the car and driving to the intended destination, the hero may learn things have changed. He’s now at a port city and learns the treasure has been moved. It’s now on an island. How does he go there? Well, a boat of course. Obviously, you see where this is going and all we’ve considered is the issue of transportation. We haven’t yet discussed the equipment he will need to open the golden-laden chest.

It’s critical to note that these perceived needs and the journey(s) they create deal only with the external story, not the most interesting and reader-grabbing internal story. That is where the real story gold resides. That’s where the hero is battling his psychological problems, including the why he needs to find the treasure. In the best and most powerful stories, this ‘why’ won’t be for the hero to increase his net worth. It will be something deep, like he needs the money to pay for his only child’s heart transplant, or to show his father that he’s not a lazy, good-for-nothing idiot.

All great stories are built on character arcs, usually of the positive kind. The hero starts off believing a lie and over the life of the story discovers the truth and winds up in a better place, at least psychologically.

In sum, the external plot mirrors the hero’s internal journey, the ‘road’ he travels to a better place, a state of being where he may or may not have achieved his external goal, but certainly one where he’s resolved his inner need (assuming a positive character arc is the author’s intent).

Perceived needs could be described as the power source that moves the story train down the tracks while allowing the hero inside a passenger compartment to deal with more personal issues.

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Beemgee/Character/Task

In early September, we embarked on a long and detailed review of a wonderful story development tool known as Beemgee (fyi, that’s also the name of the company that created the tool).

Beemgee’s focus is both plot and character. We started with character. The three attributes we’ve considered so far are external problem, want, and goal. Today, let’s look at task.

Simply put, task is what the character has to complete to achieve the goal and solve the external problem. Task is all about what a character does, his actions. It’s not about what’s going on inside him. Rather, it’s about his external world and how he behaves toward it.

Think mission. Rarely does a character have to complete one task. A mission, say, to travel to the deep, dark cave and destroy the dragon, is comprised of a series of tasks. For example, the hero might have to investigate the cave’s location. He might have to acquire special supplies and weapons. He might have to enlist an ally or two. To accomplish the mission, our hero engages in a multitude of activities.

These actions, including what happens when our hero reaches the cave and engages the dragon, will fill a vast portion of our story plot. This fact should trigger at least a brief moment of satisfaction for us writers.

Think about it a minute (you might want to review the external problem, want, and goal posts (not goalposts). We’ve given our hero a problem he must address (it’s been festering for a while or it hit him out of the clear blue sky). He wants to be free of the problem, thus he sets a goal for himself. For example, he must kill the dragon before he can rescue the princess. Now, we’ve given him a mission comprised of a multitude of steps he must complete before he can achieve the goal and solve the external problem.

See how all this fits? Do you see how your story is developing? Of course, we’re just starting, but it appears Beemgee is a viable way to construct a story worth writing, and hopefully one attractive to our readers.

One final thought. Our protagonist isn’t the only one with these four attributes. Think about your antagonist. Commonly, his external problem is the protagonist and what he’s trying to achieve. Thus, the antagonist’s goal is to stop the protagonist by pursuing a mission filled with multiple steps.

Characters with opposing goals create conflict. These battles are seen all along the path toward goal fulfillment, no matter whose goal we’re talking about. During every action by the protagonist to complete a task (locate the map that reveals the cave), he is faced with opposition, a hardy resistance to his success.

And, everyone knows without conflict, there is no story.

Take out a pencil and start thinking about the task your protagonist must accomplish to achieve his goal. Do the same for your antagonist and his helpers. By the way, does your protagonist have an ally with a somewhat conflicting goal? Will it hinder your hero in some small or large way?

This activity will help you learn more about your characters. Remember, they are defined by the actions they take. Don’t be too dictatorial, you might miss out on how they can surprise you.

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