WHAT DOES YOUR HERO WANT? #5: Sameness
In this series of articles exploring the various goals your hero will pursue, all the desires have had one thing in common: they all serve to move your hero closer to her ultimate objective. Your hero imagines her life changing for the better when she finally gets what she wants.
But the desire I want to discuss now has the opposite effect: it prevents your hero from moving forward or achieving what they want and need.
This is the hero’s desire for things to stay the same.
No matter how bad our circumstances might be, one thing we know for sure: we can survive them. We’ve managed to get by for this long, so wherever we are, we feel emotionally safe. We may be unfulfilled, we may even feel some kind of pain, but we’re able to tolerate it. We’re in our comfort zones.
But our desire for sameness – for feeling safe and protected – can also keep us stuck. We end up tolerating situations that aren’t bringing us the happiness or fulfillment we need and deserve.
Change would mean taking a terrifying risk. We’d have to leave what’s familiar and step into the unknown. We’d have to go against everything we believe about who we are and who we are supposed to be.
Change would mean stripping away the emotional armor we’ve created and exposing our hidden fears and desires and vulnerability. And that can be more than we’ll even consider.
That’s why, given a choice between happy and safe, we’ll almost always pick safe.
It’s the same with the hero of your story. She might be getting along just fine, content and satisfied with the way things are. Or she might be in an awful situation – a boring or painful job, or relationship, or environment. But she’s doing nothing to improve her situation, or escape from it, because the thought of change is too terrifying.
For your hero, this desire to maintain the familiar status quo is at the heart of her inner conflict. And this tug-of-war between who she’s always been and who she might become – between her fear and her courage – can elicit a powerful emotional response from your readers and audiences.
In La La Land, both heroes begin the movie trapped in their desire for sameness. Sebastian (Ryan Gosling) longs for his own jazz club, but is uncompromising about the location, fanatical about the purity of jazz, and selling out on a nightly basis by playing music he disdains.
And though Mia (Emma Stone) seems more active and determined, her efforts are really just an ever-repeating cycle of failure and rejection. She keeps grinding away at hopeless auditions while waiting tables tables at a studio diner that is seemingly inches from the stardom and success she dreams of.
Neither of them would admit, even to themselves (especially to themselves), that a part of them is content not taking the real risks achieving their dreams would entail. But we can see how stuck they really are.
It’s only when they meet each other, and Sebastian gets fired, and Mia starts writing her one woman show, that they step out of their protective identities and really go after what they want.
And of course, that’s when they fall in love.
We all struggle with our own fears and longings. So when you reveal your hero’s own inner conflict, we will identify with that character at the deepest possible level.
And when you tell a story about a hero who is able to overcome this fear, and when you reveal how they were able to find that courage, that’s when you will truly inspire your audiences, and move them to action.
In the final article of this series, I’ll show you how to present all these desires in your story.
[Click below to read the previous articles in this series.]
WHAT DOES YOUR HERO WANT? #1: The Outer Motivation
WHAT DOES YOUR HERO WANT? #2: Inner Motivations
WHAT DOES YOUR HERO WANT #3: Longings & Needs
WHAT DOES YOUR HERO WANT? #4: Preliminary Goals and Ultimate Objectives