Any book that helps a child to form a habit of reading, to make reading one of his deep and continuing needs, is good for him. ~Maya Angelou
The work of Dr. William Glasser highlights four needs every person has, beyond the basic needs that assure survival. These four needs deal with how people interact and what motivates them. Each person will have different strength levels for each of the needs. This creates opportunity for tension between people, and within the psyche of the character.
Belonging/Love: This need centers on how humans are social and so need to have other people in their life. They need to feel like they are part of a community to some degree and to feel that they are loved by those people who are significant to them. People want to be liked (Facebook). Conflict in this area is the fodder for a variety of experiences that can be shown to a reader. Star-crossed lovers, the wanna-be willing to do anything to fit in, and spurned lover are a few examples.
Power: Every person has a need to be significant. They want to some degree to matter, to be in charge, to have others follow them (Twitter), and to have some form of status. There are different ways people go about gaining power, and these ways are the jumping off point for most competition, good v/s evil character drama. Think about the oppressed rising up against the tyrant, the prince chopping off body parts willy-nilly, the spouse using silence to get their partner to admit their faults, alien v/s whatever.
Freedom: Having the ability to make choices, to not feel tied down to obligations and requirements, is important for most people to some extent. Entire plot lines can follow from the duty a character reluctantly fulfills. Juxtapose this with the character who doesn’t find this same task as a limit to the ability to make choices, but prefers to have structure and predictability. Odd parings – couples – can create classic tales.
Fun: This may be a need that is often overlooked, both with character and everyone else in the world. The question is what do people do for entertainment. Sure there are people who want to settle down and to be domesticated, but for them that is the adventure. Jumping into snake filled dungeons and finding the final-final frontier is not for everyone, but it is for some. This need for adventure can spark tales of great quests and journeys – odysseys – whether across the backyard or through deep space.
These four needs can provide another way to develop characters and to look at how they interact within the world. It can help go deeper into what makes characters do all those fascinating things they do, those things that make them interesting, those things that make me willing to spend an evening with them as they live out their lives.