The Basic Steps of a Story.
Step one: The Protagonist (And his world)
Every time communication occurs, it is grounded in context. If there is no context, then the reader will almost definitely get the wrong idea. For example, observe the sentence, “Here’s my number.” How many different ways could this be taken? Here are a few.
One may read this and assume that it is a comment shared between two single people who are securing a date. “Would you like to get coffee some time?” “I would love to. Here’s my number.”
Then again, perhaps one would assume it was for a business encounter. “Oh, you are a photographer? Could I set up a shoot with you?” “Certainly, here’s my number.”
Or perhaps it is jersey day for a high school basketball team and a boy is searching through the uniforms. “Here’s my number,” he smiles.
The list could go on and on.
Step two: The Protagonist needs
Our needs drive us. I eat, breathe, sleep, and drink water, not only because I want to (and trust me, I do), but because I need to. Some nights, I’m in the middle of a project and I don’t want to stop, but tiredness takes over. I lose clarity, my efficiency drops, and my head hurts. My body is going to make me sleep at some point, or I am going to die. So, I got to sleep. I am driven by a need.
Everybody is driven by their needs. Some people have different needs than others. Some people are confused about what their needs are. Others, have such deep wants that they feel they are needs. All of these kinds of needs collectively drive your story.
Thus, if you have established who you are character is and what their world looks like, we may move to their needs. What does your character need? What does your protagonist think they need? This will drive your character. Below are some powerful needs that may drive a character.
Love. Maybe your character deeply feels the need to be loved. I love implementing this need in my characters. It can be used in a self promoting, arrogant kind of way. However, I much prefer using love to demonstrate the basic we need we all have. What about your character? Do they have a family? Do they have a spouse? Do they have friends? Are they loved?
Good. Your character can be driven by the need to do good. Perhaps they feel their moral compass deeply in their soul and suffer to disobey it.
Physical needs. Maybe the adventure your character is on is not actually about deep wants at all. Maybe they are compelled to act based on their physical needs. Does your character have a place to sleep at night? Do they have food in their belly? Do they have clean water to drink?
Joy. Joy is a need we all have. Most people only find brief happiness. Even Kings and Queens are often left looking for true, lasting joy. Does your main character have joy?
Whatever needs you assign your character, consider how you can make them known to your reader. Showing is often better than telling, so be wise in how you relay the information. However you decide to convey your protagonist’s needs, make sure the reader knows it. One of the worst things a writer can do to his story is not have a clearly defined need for their main character.