The legendary coach Vince Lombardi used to greet his players at training camp by saying: “Within every man there is a burning flame of desperation. That is why you are here.”
I would include women in that, of course, and wouldn’t restrict the application to football. Or sports. Or Wisconsin.
This flame of desperation arises from some nameless place inside us, creating a profound sense of yearning that we often cannot define, but it is as intrinsic to our lives as more purely physical urges beyond our conscious control such as hunger, thirst, the sex drive, the need to breathe.
We long for something else, something better, something deeper and purer and truer, even if we have no clear idea what that might be, or how to go about naming it, let alone finding it.
And as writers we transmit that yearning to our characters.
This all came back to me as I was contemplating Donald Maass’s most recent post here (“Infused”), on the importance of recognizing your character’s core need, and my own most recent piece on pinpointing your character’s desire.
[pullquote]We long for something else, something better, something deeper and purer and truer[/pullquote]
It seemed to me the beginning of a debate had started, with me saying that overcomplicating the matter was more often the result of confusion on the writer’s part than the character’s. But Donald made a very interesting comment that’s stayed with me. Troubled me. Nagged me.
The bastard (he muttered).
Here’s my attempt at a reply. [Read more…]