~ Sherman Alexie ~
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Life can be painful, especially for our characters. In fact, the fallout of an emotionally wounding event such as a car accident, failing to save someone’s life, infertility, or being sent away as a child can derail their life for years (or even decades!) if left unresolved. Not only that, it can change the character’s personality, damage their relationships, and seed their life with dysfunction and unfulfillment.
This is why at the start of a story the protagonist is usually dissatisfied, lost, unhappy, or yearning for something more. They are experiencing something called an unmet need.
Unmet needs are created because emotional wounds generate a FEAR of being hurt again (which can manifest in many ways).
...food, water, and other primal physiological needs are the most critical to fill since they are based on survival. Next is the need to be safe, then to be loved, to be respected, and, finally, to reach one’s potential.
These needs, when met, create balance and lead to satisfaction within. But if one or more needs are absent, a hole is created, a feeling that something is missing. As this “lack” builds in intensity, the psychological pressure will grow until finally it pushes the character to seek a way to fill the void.