38: Fear and Desire, Keys to Conflict

Figuring out your characters’ fears and deepest needs and desires is a key to characterization and generating conflict for your plot.

The question of the week is: How have you used your characters’ fears to drive your plot? Or, what is your favorite example of a character’s fears driving a plot?

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Transcript
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If you're struggling to invent conflict for your

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novel, go back to the drawing board and revisit your

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character's fears. You need to know the wants and needs for

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every primary and important secondary character. This

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knowledge will give you lots of ideas for your plot, tools, tips

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and more on this episode of writing pursuits, let's get to

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it. Welcome to the writing pursuits podcast where authors

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like you discuss writing craft, author, life and book marketing

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strategies. I'm your host Kathrese. McKee. I own writing

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pursuits and write and produce the weekly newsletter writing

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pursuits tips for authors. In addition, I am a speculative

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fiction author, writing procedures for authors who drink

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too much coffee, endure judgemental looks from their

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furry writing companions and struggle for words. If you are a

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writer seeking encouragement, information and inspiration,

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this podcast is for you. Let's get to it. Hey, writing

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pursuits, authors. Welcome

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back to the podcast. To those of you who are new, I want to

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extend a special welcome. My name is Kathrese McKee, and I'm

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glad you're here. Please leave a comment a star rating and follow

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the show to help others find writing pursuits. I've been laid

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up with back problems lately. So I've spent a lot of time binging

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dramas on my iPad as a way to ignore the pain Don't worry, I'm

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under a doctor's care we have a plan. Normally, I don't like

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shows that alternate between the present and the past. I was flat

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on my back with nothing else to do. So I gave Quantico a second

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chance. I'm glad I spent the time because the show is a good

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example of using characters desires and fears to drive a

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story forward and to generate twists and turns for the plot.

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fears and desires drive conflict. For those who have

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never seen the series Quantico is about a class of recruits

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going through FBI training, it centers on Alex a young woman

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with a few secrets in her past secrets she desires to leave in

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the past. In fact, all of the recruits who live on her Hall

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have secrets and they all fear exposure. These are the

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characters who get tangled up in the drama surrounding Alex,

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their individual fears drive the conflict in every episode.

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Figuring out your character's tears and deepest needs and

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desires is a key to characterization and generating

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conflict for your plot. Know your character's fears, even if

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they don't make it into the plot. If you are struggling to

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invent conflict for your novel, go back to the drawing board and

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revisit your character's fears. You need to know the wants and

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needs for every primary and secondary, important character.

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This knowledge will give you lots of ideas for your plot.

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This reminds me of when I was a little kid, like maybe four or

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five years old. My father was earning and an engineering

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degree at New Mexico State University. And my family lived

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in a cottage located in married college housing. And we

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frequently took advantage of the universities magnificent Oh, the

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only problem was, I had a deep seated fear of drowning. I don't

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know where it came from. It just has always been there. I've been

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afraid of the water. I could climb down into the pool using

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the steps and wander around in the shallow end. But jumping off

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the side of the pool at the deep end was not. I mean, not at all

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what I wanted to do. But my dad had been part of the diving team

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back in his high school days, and he was determined to help me

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overcome my fear. So he would spend an eternity standing in

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the pool, kindly encouraging me to jump in where he would be

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right there to catch me. Keep in mind, my younger sister, then

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two or three years old, had no problem launching herself into

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the deep end cannon ball. In fact, she would jump in and

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climb out three or four times while I hesitated on the edge. I

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hated getting shown up like that. But the fear remained. So

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if you were to develop a character similar to me for your

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novel, you would be passing up an opportunity for conflict and

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drama and character growth. If you didn't make your character

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with the water phobia face her deepest fear head on know what

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is at stake for your characters. Hand in hand with your

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characters fears are the stakes they face. What are the stakes,

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put some sort of death on the line and conflict becomes easier

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to come by death can be physical, social, political,

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emotional, or mental. Everyone you know has one or more things

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at stake. Let's break that down. If your character's chief fear

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is losing their mom, that's an emotional state when her mom

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passes away, your character will experience a metaphorical

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emotional death. deep grief takes a toll or start with

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internal conflict if you're having trouble what does the

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character want and why can't they have it? Or why do they

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believe They can't have it. Not every story needs huge universe

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shattering conflict. Conflict doesn't have to be big it boils

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down to opposing views, priorities, beliefs, wants and

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needs. I don't mean to say that conflict isn't important, but it

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can be comprised of multiple building conflicts. However,

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regardless of the scope of a conflict, the stakes for your

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main character need to rise Do you need a handy way to examine

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fears here are three tools that you can use to generate ideas

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about fears Maslow's hierarchy of needs is perhaps the easiest

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place to start when you are figuring out your character's

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motivations. However, the hierarchy is not conclusive, and

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many people think it can be improved. In case you're not

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familiar with the hierarchy. Maslow theorized that humans but

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most basic needs are the foundation, things like food,

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shelter, water, and protection from the elements. The hierarchy

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is depicted as a pyramid with physiological needs at the base.

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The next higher layer of the pyramid is a human's need for

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safety and security. Maslow believed that food and water are

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more important to humans, then safety and security, we are

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willing to risk our safety to obtain our physiological needs

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above safety and security becomes a layer for belonging

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and love. The next smaller layer is our need for esteem. And

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above that comes a pinnacle of self actualization, which is

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described as achieving one's fullest potential. Think of the

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Olympic sprinter breaking all the records and winning the gold

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medal that is really reaching their fullest potential as a

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sprinter. So that would be your self actualization. According to

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Maslow, the lower more basic needs must be met before human

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turns our attention to the higher needs, and I kind of

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disagree. In general, it's true. The Pyramid Chart used for

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Maslow's hierarchy provides a handy reference and prompt the

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Keep in mind that a person can sacrifice survival for a higher

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calling, throwing it out the window and service of self

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actualization. Fears are often our strongest source of

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motivation. And each of the needs on the hierarchy can be

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rephrased as a fear, fear of starvation, fear of a slow

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painful death due to lack of shelter, fear of violence and

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violation when you lack safety, fear of being loved and liked

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and alone. Fear of losing all self respect when you can't meet

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your own expectations, fear of living a life that isn't worth

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remembering. The two other tools that I'm going to mention are

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the Enneagram and the Myers Briggs tests. Enneagram and

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Myers Briggs are also useful tools for characterization

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according to trinity.com. The Enneagram is a system of

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Personality Typing, that describes patterns and how

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people interpret the world and manage their emotions. The Myers

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Briggs results are similar than one similar to the ones from

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Enneagram. At least for me they are many people prefer one

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system over the other, but both are useful for characterization.

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According to the Myers Briggs site. The purpose of the Myers

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Briggs Type Indicator MBTI personality in Victoria is to

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make the theory of Psychological Types described by CG Jung,

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understandable and useful in people's lives. The essence of

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the theory is that much seemingly random variation in

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the behavior is actually quite orderly and consistent. Being

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due to basic differences in the ways individuals prefer to use

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their perception and judgment. Recently, I took an Enneagram

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test, I landed on five wing four, also known as the

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philosopher, spending too much time around other people

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stresses me out. I fear being overwhelmed, or seemingly or

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seeming incompetent, or being unable to express myself and

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thus earning criticism from others. Predictably, then, I

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spend a lot of time and energy learning new skills, trying to

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understand the world around me, reflecting thinking and trying

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to earn the appreciation of others by helping them learn to

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I tend to be overly sensitive, and to focus on the stuff going

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on inside my head. Wow, that is too much information and hits

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too close to home. This means I tend to overthink and view

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topics as an academic exercise instead of plunging in and

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learning as I go. This is handy information for me to know about

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myself, so I can break free of the more self destructive

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features of being a philosopher. So I push myself to get my hands

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dirty, and stop hesitating at the edge of the pool before I

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jump in. Maybe you've taken a Myers Briggs test, and if you

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have that's great. I land squarely on it. J, the architect

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or the scientist, often i NT j's are just not the nicest people.

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Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk are all considered

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to be INTJ J's

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female INTJ is or perhaps the rarest personality group. And

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this group includes folks like Jane Austen, Angela, Lance

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Berry, Hillary Clinton, Jodie Foster and Hedy Lamarr. Okay, I

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can handle that the females seem nicer than the males. Just as a

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general observation according to the Myers Briggs website in the

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shownotes, i NT J's have original minds and great drive

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for implementing their ideas and achieving their goals. They

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quickly see patterns in external events and develop long range.

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Explanatory perspectives, when committed, organize a job and

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carry it through skeptical and independent have high standards

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of competence and performance for themselves and others. In

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other words, they make great supervillains. But the fear is

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variety. JS from Myers Briggs, are about the same as the ones

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indicated by the Enneagram the fear of being incompetent, the

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fear of being wrong, the fear of misunderstanding, something

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important, and so on. Enough about me, I'm just trying to

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provide an example. Run your main characters through the

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Enneagram or the Myers Briggs test. Check out Maslow's

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hierarchy of needs. Figure out your character's motivations and

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needs and fears these tools will have you come up with a conflict

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and plot points if you have problems, or run into a wall or

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draw blank. Many authors struggle to come up with

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realistic compelling conflict for their plots. And we all know

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that we can't afford to write a snoozer novel full of peace and

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harmony. readers want to see a character strive to overcome

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hardships to grow and to conquer their fears. The question of the

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week is, how have you used your characters theories to drive

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your plot? Or what is your favorite example of a

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character's fears? Driving a plot? Leave your answer right

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proceeds.com forward slash podcast forward slash 38. That's

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all I have for today. Until next time, keep writing. Thank you

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for joining us today. If you enjoyed this episode, please

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leave a comment and follow the podcast. If you're new around

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links mentioned in today's episode are in the show notes at

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writing pursuits.com. Please join us on Wednesdays for new

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episodes and keep writing my friends. Keep writing

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