Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Let Maslow make you a meanie!

Myra Johnson
Conflict. It’s the meat of the story. The never-ending challenges that keep our heroes and heroines in jeopardy . . . and keep our readers turning pages.

Why does it work? Because we identify with people we worry about. And you really, really want readers to worry about your story characters!

Before you can ramp up the conflict, you need to know what is most important to your central character--what the character would risk everything to protect or obtain. Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs can help. (If you’re unfamiliar with Maslow, click here for more info.)

Maslow’s theory assumes that people will attempt to fulfill their most basic needs before moving on to satisfy their more advanced needs. The pyramid below illustrates the different levels, with the most basic human needs at the bottom, building toward the highest psychological needs at the top.




As we step through the levels, think about the central character in your work-in-progress. Where does the character’s current situation place him or her on the pyramid? What types of challenges do those needs suggest?

Physiological needs. This is the bottom and most basic level, what every human being requires for survival, including food, clothing, and shelter. Take away any of those and your character’s life is in serious jeopardy. Think Katniss and Peeta in The Hunger Games, or Tom Hanks’s character in the movie Cast Away. Adventure stories usually rely heavily on survival needs, as do romantic suspense novels like Debby Giusti’s MIA: Missing in Atlanta.

Safety and security. The second level is one step above (pardon the pun) merely surviving. This is the need to believe that what makes us feel safe and secure won’t be taken away from us. It can include everything from financial security to health and well-being. In Tina Radcliffe’s novel The Rancher’s Reunion, the hero is living with Huntington’s disease, but not really living because he’s letting health worries separate him from the woman he loves. In A House Full of Hope, by Missy Tippens, the heroine is a single mother of four who worries that the hero’s arrival in town will result in her family’s eviction from their home.

Belonging. Inherent in every human being is the need to share physical and emotional closeness with others. A few weeks ago I watched the Hallmark movie based on Beverly Lewis’s The Shunning, about a young Amish girl who defies her parents and then is shunned by the entire community. The resulting emotional isolation this character suffered was heartbreaking. Janet Dean’s hero in Wanted: A Family exhibits his need to belong by attempting to find the mother who abandoned him.

Esteem. A step above belonging is the need for self-respect, to be not only accepted but also valued by others. The need for esteem or recognition can drive people to attempt things they might not ordinarily do. A good example is Charity O’Connor, from Julie Lessman’s A Passion Redeemed. Charity feels insecure in her family’s love, and she lets jealousy of her sister Faith drive her to seek validation in unhealthy romantic relationships.

Self-actualization.
This is a fancy term for reaching your full potential--or, from a Christian perspective, fully becoming the person God created you to be. Ultimately, that should be the goal for every story character. Not that we should show them reaching perfection by the end of the book, but the reader should believe the characters are continuing to grow and change for the better as a result of the challenges they’ve faced. Look at the heroines in Mary Connealy’s Sophie’s Daughters series. In each novel the heroine must grow beyond her own weaknesses until she finds fulfillment--first through her reliance upon God, then believing in herself, and finally as a strong, confident partner in a satisfying romantic relationship.

The most riveting stories take the central characters through varying levels of needs. As one need is met, the next problem may knock the character backward a level or two. In my novel A Horseman’s Heart, the hero finds belonging and closeness with the heroine and begins to feel valued and important, only to have an unexpected encounter threaten his sense of security and cause him to wonder if it’s time to move on again.

Let’s talk! Can you see using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to create interesting problems for your story characters? Which level(s) do you find your characters working through most often? Would bumping them back a level or two boost your story conflict and possibly prevent the dreaded “sagging middle”?
Leave a comment on today’s post to be entered in a drawing for A Horseman’s Heart. 
North Carolina’s a long, long way from Texas, but horse trainer Kip Lorimer needs to get out of town fast, because the woman who long ago destroyed his last remnants of trust has just caught up with him—again.

Special-ed teacher Sheridan Cross has trust issues of her own, so when Kip shows up with a horse to donate to the family’s equine therapy program, she can’t help but be suspicious. A cowboy a thousand miles from home and living out of a horse trailer? What’s wrong with this picture?

When Sheridan’s mother offers Kip a job as barn manager, Sheridan decides she’d better stick close enough to keep an eye on things, never expecting she’ll soon have eyes only for the handsome cowboy. Can they trust their hearts and find true love, or will their troubled pasts come crashing down on their dreams?

Watch for A Horseman’s Gift, book 2 in the Horsemen of Cross Roads Farm series, coming soon!

90 comments:

Carol Moncado said...

Very nice Myra!

I hadn't thought about it in quite Maslow terms [I'm familiar with his pyramid from college and the psych major/master's degree I helped hubby study for ;)], but my current hero is gonna get knocked back a step or two when he loses access to his [very healthy] bank account.

Another MS that has done well in a few contests does this too when he loses his job and they start worrying about money, paying the bills etc.

Gonna have to ponder it some more...

Thank you for sharing!

Tina Radcliffe said...

Look, look, it's my book.

I am so excited!!!

Vince said...

Hi Myra:

This is a wonderful way to look at character growth in a novel. I can see two of my favorite Seeker stories in this light.

In “A Heart Revealed” my favorite heroine, Emma, has worked her way up to the esteem level but she denies herself the possibility of becoming a self-actualizing person because of mistakes she’s made in her marriage. This is one of the hardest conflicts to overcome that I’ve ever read in a romance.

In “The Price of Victory”, my favorite hero, Sterling, is a self-actualizing person who knows he is at the top level and he knows that having a family is part of God’s plan for him.

The heroine is knocking on the door of her esteem needs with a great desire to win races to earn her father’s love. The hero, as part of his own self-actualizing process, acts as her mentor.

He wants to help her achieve her goals of winning races but also wants to show her that the spiritual process of self-actualization can bring her her father’s love without the need of winning races.

I had not thought of this before but I think I very much like romances that focus on the self-actualizing quest. (I don’t think Maslov would say any human is self-actualized. As I remember reading Maslow, he’s always talking about self-actualizing individuals.)

In my own, WIP, “Stranded in a Cabin with a Romance Writer” both the hero and heroine have reached what they thought was their “self actualizing” level only to find out that they were not fulfilled. With time running out, they are both thirty-six and she wants to have children, they retreat separately to a remote mountain cabin for two weeks of soul searching only to discover that they must share the cabin with each other!

Vince

Virginia said...

Oh, this was really neat! I can't remember where I saw this first in terms of writing, but I love how you can see PLOT HOLES in an ms with it. I realized I had left so many things out of a good plot after seeing this pyramid.

How fun to see the Seeker books in Maslow's light! I rememebr reading Janet Dean's book 'An Inconvenient Match' and being wowed by the ramped up tension. Also, Jessica Nelson's 'Love on The Range' had a lot of tension due to physiological needs...

And let's not forget Mary's heroine dropped in a cave first thing! One of my friends thought that was soooo scary. :D

Tina, I love your book. You SHOULD be excited!(Not because I love it. Just because it's so good.)

Mary Cline said...

Thanks Myra,
I know I studied Maslow's pyramid I college and even touched on it in HS. Having this pointed out in reference to writing is going to help me make some sense of things and give a little more direction to my WIPS.

I know these things but having them pointed out one more time is so helpful.

Mary Cline said...

Thanks Myra,
I know I studied Maslow's pyramid I college and even touched on it in HS. Having this pointed out in reference to writing is going to help me make some sense of things and give a little more direction to my WIPS.

I know these things but having them pointed out one more time is so helpful.

Carol J. Garvin said...

This is a great resource for identifying what's missing in my ms! I have lots of conflict and obstacles in my protagonist's way, but they might not always be the right kind.

I also have to keep a balance with how much I torment one of my MCs -- he can begin to look like a victim if I don't handle it right. I'm going to go have a look at where all the catastrophes fit in to this pyramid. :)

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Oh, Myra. I copied this and put it in my "need to remember" file almost before I had read to the end.

I could check off almost every need for my heroine right off. Those needs were easy for me to see even without knowing the pyramid. My hero, that is a different story and this really helps.

I dread the "sagging middle" almost as I dread looking at my sagging middle.

Thanks for the girdle!

Peace, Julie

Virginia said...

JULIE, brilliant! Sagging middles need a girdle... of tension. Girdles are un-comfy, hot and sweaty, or downright painful. So our book middles must NOT be loveliness and light. That's probably the really brief moment right before the black period of 'all is lost', which is right before the HEA.

The writer in me gives you a giant cyber hug. Thanks!

T

Annie Rains said...

Thanks for this great post. I think I need to go back and make my heroine's journey even more painful :)

Mary Curry said...

Myra! I love this. I have to head off to work but I'm going to be thinking about it all day. Can't wait to come back and read the discussion.

Rose said...

Hi Myra,

I think my character's alway stay in the security part of the pyramid. I'm going to print this out to keep in mind for my current WIP.

Julie Lessman said...

WOW, MYRA ... I just had an epiphany through your wonderful blog today!!

As #12 of #13 kids in a dysfunctional family where there wasn't a lot of love and respect, I SO relate to the listed needs of "belonging" and "esteem. BUT ... what I didn't realize is how much those two needs drive what I write! Charity O'Connor has always been my favorite character of those I have written, primarily because she is just so darn needy of attention that it's downright comical and, quite frankly, fun to write. But now I see that Charity is my therapy, acting the way I would act if not for the redemption of Christ.

VERY interesting blog today, my friend, and VERY insightful!!

Hugs,
Julie

Julie Lessman said...

LOL, TINA ... you are SO cute!!

VINCE, thank you for your kind comment about Emma and A Heart Revealed.

And let me go on notice right now as saying I had the privilege of a phone chat with Vince where I was lucky enough to get a glimpse of his current WIP, “Stranded in a Cabin with a Romance Writer." Absolutely HYSTERICAL and hands-down one of the most unique (and funniest!) premises/plots I have EVER heard!! Cannot WAIT to see it published!!

Hugs,
Julie

Jackie said...

Wow, I don't know what this says about me as an author, but I haven't thought about Maslow in years.

You've given me a lot to think about.

Thanks!
Jackie L.

Janet Dean said...

Myra, this is great stuff!! You nailed Jake, the hero in Wanted: A Family. All he wanted was a family, to belong. By the end of the book, he got a bigger family than he ever imagined.

Perhaps a drop back into survival mode will jump start a hero who's struggling with taking the risk of reaching self-actualization. Hmm.

Vince, I love the forced togetherness of your h/h. :-) Sharing that cabin should ramp up the tension big-time.

Julie and Virginia, right on! Thanks for wrapping your wisdom in a smile!

Janet

Julie Lessman said...

I'm with VIRGINIA -- LOVE the girdle analogy, JULIE HP!!!

And ditto what ROSE said -- this is a printer-offer ... :)

Hugs,
Julie

Jeanne T said...

Myra, it's been yeeeaaaaarrrrs since I've thought about Maslow's pyramid. You've given me a lot to think about today as I ponder my characters' journeys, and their conflicts. I think both my hero and heroine mostly work in the esteem part of the pyramid. What a great challenge to bring other types of conflict. Thanks!

Sandra Leesmith said...

Morning Myra, Great blog and very insightful. It always helps to have these prompts to deepen our characters.

Vince, thanks for noticing Sterling's self-actualizing process. Can hardly wait to see your wip in print. Have you been sending it out?

Audra Harders said...

Myra, what wonderful insight! I know Maslow has been around forever, but I never really thought of applying the concepts to my manuscript.

You smart girl!

You so nailed the thread in every Seeker book you illustrated.

Now to go and pick apart the theory to my own writing. How fun!

Definitely a keeper!

Pepper said...

Wonderful post, Myra. And I loved 'seeing' all the examples from the Seekers :-)

I'm sure most people use different levels in different books. I use the basics alot in my historicals (life-threatening moments), but I also like to use 'belonging' and 'self-actualization'- with little life-threatening moments sprinkled throughout ;-)

The main character in my WIP (and last novel)is searching for a sense of belonging, maybe some 'esteem' issues too.

Thanks so much for the great points to ponder.

Julie Hilton Steele said...

Virginia, glad you like the analogy. I am looking at my WIP this morning through this post and it is begetting good thought after good thought.

I am going to copy your comment and put it with Myra's!

Peace, Julie

Joanne Sher said...

Sooo good. I, like just about everyone else here so far, studied Maslow in college - but never EVEr though of applying it to my MS. Getting SUCH good writing stuff today.. Hokey petes!!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hi, Myra! Great way to get the creative juices flowing and make us think this morning! In my WIP, my hero's life is in danger, and he's so angry, he's not helping himself stay safe! The man who tried to kill him is courting the heroine, and the heroine is having a crisis of esteem, as she is sick and tired of her brothers picking on her. She's ready to prove to them that she is not someone to be laughed at. So when the hero asks for her help in proving that the villain is a lowdown murdering liar, she jumps in with both feet--and almost gets them all killed.

Sounds fun, doesn't it!? Thanks for helping me realize what each of my characters' internal crises are, Myra!

Pam Hillman said...

Oh, I like this, Myra!

What a simple (okay, the technique is not really simple, but pyramind is) way to knock your characters DOWN a peg or two and ratchet UP the tension at the same time.

Gotta save this post for sure!

KC Frantzen and May the K9 Spy said...

Great info Myra. Thank you so much.

No sagging middles... :)

This is a keeper for sure!

Myra Johnson said...

Good morning, Seekerville!

(Ooh, sudden Robin Williams flashback!)

CAROL, you're so right--money worries can really cause problems for your characters.

TINA, I loved The Rancher's Reunion! Great story, and it fit right in with today's topic!

Myra Johnson said...

VINCE, thanks for adding these examples. Emma in Julie's book is definitely in need of self-esteem, and Julie brings her toward fulfillment so beautifully!

I love Sterling in Sandra's book, too! He's such a charmer, so "together" and yet so vulnerable as he lets himself fall for Debra.

Myra Johnson said...

VIRGINIA, I hadn't thought about Maslow for quite some time until I was preparing a talk on characterization recently for my ACFW chapter. Rereading some craft books on the subject was a great reminder.

Oh, and Mary's cave scenes? I get claustrophobic just thinking about them!

Pam Hillman said...

Okay, you psychology major folks out there...

Why is it that I never remember any of this kind of stuff from high school or college?

Please don't phsychoanalyze this question too thoroughly.

And I was a good student (or at least they thought I was since I was salutatorian), so I know I was THERE for all this.

And I'm not that old, either, so get that thought out of your mind!

Maybe I'm just really good at compartmentalizing stuff, and once it's no longer needed, it goes into a dark hole.

Yes, that's bound to be it!

Myra Johnson said...

MARY CLINE, glad you found some helpful reminders here. What I like about Maslow's pyramid is how it puts need fulfillment in logical order. We can't successfully move to the next level until the one we're on is satisfied.

CAROL G., you're right--you do need to look for the best and most logical conflicts to throw at your characters. What makes sense in terms of their current situation and future goals?

Myra Johnson said...

JULIE H S, we're all subject to "sagging middle" issues, plot-wise and otherwise. Oh, my--need to fire up the Wii Fit more often!!! Glad you found Maslow's "girdle" helpful!

ANNIE, go for it! Be a troublemaker! Your characters will thank you for it. (Later, anyway.)

MARY CURRY, I just hope you don't let Maslow create problems for you at work!!!

Myra Johnson said...

ROSE, I believe security in some form or another can be central to many characters' most urgent needs. So that's a good place to start as you work your character up the pyramid to reach that satisfying ending.

JULIE, I thought of Charity right away when I got to the "esteem" level. Maybe it's because that is also a need I personally identify with. And writing as therapy? Definitely!

Myra Johnson said...

JULIE--you got to read Vince's book??? I am so jealous!

Mary Connealy said...

I LOVE THIS, MYRA. this is laid out in such a clear way. thank you for this.
I promise to come back and be sarcastic in a bit, but I need to study it more. I think measuring our books against this could be an outline for the progress of any well written story.

Myra Johnson said...

JACKIE, I hadn't thought about Maslow in years either--LOL!

JANET, glad to know my take on Jake (oooh, a rhyme!!) was on target. Belonging is something we all need, even writing introverts like me!!!

Marianne said...

Although i am a reader, not a writer, i often find these posts to go great with my blogs. Yes i blog about books, so would love to win this novel. Thanks for the opportunity.

marianne dot wanham at gmail dot com

Myra Johnson said...

JEANNE T, welcome to the club. Maslow's pyramid was introduced to me in one of the earliest writing craft books I read. It's been years since I consciously thought about it.

SANDRA, doesn't Vince kind of blow you away with his psychological insights? What would Seekerville do without that guy?

Mary Connealy said...

I've never heard of Maslow.
And yes, I went to college! True the assignments had to be chiseled into granite, but I WENT! There was no Maslow.
Maybe they hadn't invented human nature yet when I went.

Myra Johnson said...

AUDRA, sometimes it's easier to look deeper into someone else's character development than it is your own. I think we're just too close to the source.

PEPPER, my personal opinion is that every story character starts with a basic need that may be higher up the pyramid (like esteem or belonging), but he or she is frequently thwarted by lower-level needs that have to be worked through first.

Myra Johnson said...

JOANNE, glad you found something useful here! Now go forth and create problems!

MELANIE, what a story you have there! And you bring up another point worth consideration: What if the hero and heroine are at different levels on the pyramid? How will their personal issues affect the other character's journey?

Myra Johnson said...

PAM, glad you approve! Yep, Maslow is great for inspiring new ways to torture our characters.

As for compartmentalizing, I am an expert. Information that is no longer needed is relegated to the farthest recesses of my overstuffed brain. Hopefully I can still unearth it when absolutely necessary.

Myra Johnson said...

KC, I'm with you on fighting sagging middles!

MARY IS GOING TO STUDY MY POST!!!! I am so honored!!!! I should be the one studying at the feet of the master storyteller. Currently I am anxiously reading to find out what happens with Maxie the Mouse!

Patty Wysong said...

Lots of food for thought here, Myra. I need to think about my characters is light of this. Thank you--very well timed for me. =]

Myra Johnson said...

MARIANNE, we love to have readers visit Seekerville! Thanks for stopping by!

MARY, Maslow wrote his famous paper in 1943, according to the link I provided in the post. And since I know I'm older than you and was born well after that year (not sayin' when exactly!), you are without excuse. Human nature HAD been invented by then.

Helen Gray said...

Pam: You made me feel better, since I don't remember studying this in high school or college.

I know this isn't supposed to happen, but I'm getting a little frustrated. I'm working on revisions, and every time I read something like this I identify more problems in my wip. Not sure I'll ever get it to a point of satisfaction.

Helen

P.S. There's coffee. I just didn't get you notified last night.

misskallie2000 said...

Hi Myra, Have not read any of your books but adding to my new author list with A Horseman’s Heart. I love characters who fight for what they believe to be their future. They may fight their feelings but in the end they admit they do have feeling about the hero or heroine.

I loved Emma in A Heart Revealed and felt her struggle to deny herself happiness because of something in her pass.

Thanks for this opportunity to enter giveaway.

misskallie2000 at yahoo dot com

Myra Johnson said...

PATTY, at Seekerville we aim to please!

HELEN, welcome to the life of a writer--LOL!!! Every time I go through a manuscript to work on revisions, I don't care how many times it's been, I can find SOMETHING I just know I could improve upon. At some point you've just got to let it go.

MISSKALLIE, thanks for visiting Seekerville! Conflict is essential for moving a story forward. It's what makes us care about the characters. Julie's "Emma" is certainly one of my favorite examples.

Tina Radcliffe said...

Vince, you are right, er, Myra and Maslow are right. It is all about self-actualization.

And not unlike Michael Hauges's Identity to Essence.

I love creating this thread for my characters.

Vince said...

Hi Pam:

You asked:

"Why is it that I never remember any of this kind of stuff from high school or college?"

We tend to remember best what changes our way of thinking at the time and what we feel we will need to use in the future. Maslov was perfect for the sixties self-help junkies – that is, people who felt they didn’t have it all together and needed the help! (I read every self-help book!)

You probably were a pretty well adjusted kid back then. That’s not a bad thing. : )

Vince

Mary Connealy said...

TINA: You LOVE creating a

'Self-Actualization Identity to Essence Thread'

for your characters?

Did we switch to 'English as a Second Language' on Seekerville and no one told me?????

Vince said...

Hi Myra:

Actually, Julie is a saint. I read her my book over the phone and the battery went dead and she had to call back on another phone! She even let me sing her the song the hero wrote, “Just Looking for a Hero”, for his friend who needed a signature song to jumpstart his career. No kidding!

Julie is a great encourager. She has so much exuberance that she sounds like she twenty-five and just starting out on life’s great adventure! Julie is also totally honest. Here’s a great quote from our phone conversation.

“That’s a great story. Very original. Of course, I don’t know whether you can write.”

I don’t know either. : )

Vince

Vince said...

Hi Mary:

'Self-Actualization Identity to Essence Thread' for your characters…

That’s not English as a second language. That’s Deep-English! Do you have any wading boots on that ranch?

Vince

Myra Johnson said...

TINA! Identity to Essence! That's it!!! Michael Hauge knows whereof he speaks!

Oh, VINCE. The self-help era. I remember it well. Not the '60s so much as the '80s. "I'm Okay, You're Okay." Even if we're not fully self-actualized.

And yep, Julie is a real live-wire! She can run circles around the rest of us with her bubbly enthusiasm. That's why we love her so much!

Vince said...

The Bossy Bridegroom

I was waiting for Mary to mention this but I must say that The Bossy Bridegroom is all about the quest for achieve self- actualization on the part of the hero.

He has it all: he’s a leader of men, he’s a great speaker, he’s made himself independently wealthy with his business skills, he devotes his time to helping the small town achieve its goals. What he needs is atonement for the terrible way he treated his wife in the past. He knows he will not become a self-actualizing person until he fulfils his role as husband and father according to his newly acquired Christian values.

All the hero’s efforts are directed towards achieving this goal and almost everyone in town is against him having a second chance. Since the reader is likely to be on the town’s side, the conflict is on a knife’s edge for every page of the book. Everything could fall apart at any moment. This is conflict at the existential level. For someone like me, it’s about as good as a novel can get.

It’s a Kindle book now. You don’t have to join a club to buy it. If you like this stuff, don’t miss this book!!!

Vince

P.S. I’m not flirting! This is just a great book.

Mary Connealy said...

Poor Vince. Now he had to label his comments, "I'm not flirting."

LOL

Thank you for that kind mention of The Bossy Bridegroom.

It's not your usual sweet, chipper Romance Novel. Not by a long stretch.

But I love that book.

Mary Connealy said...

ps we are loaded with wading boots on the ranch.

I write books to keep my husband from making me put them on and come help.

Now I have to wear then to translate Tina's comments?

Metaphorical wading boots.

Tina, we need a Seeker Gear Store.

Nancy C said...

Wow, Myra, thank you. I've never heard of Maslow, but the man does seem to be on to something :-)

Now for a convoluted question. At the beginning of a story, a character has riches and the community's esteem, but does not have fulfillment of the lower need of a special someone in his life. If, during the course of the story, the character loses the riches and the community's esteem but fulfills the need for someone special, could the story end 'satisfyingly' there or would there be an expectation that he also recaptures the riches and the community's esteem (gets back to the level he had achieved at the beginning of the story)?

Nancy C

Jan Drexler said...

Yes, I've heard of Maslow - but not from college.

Laurie Schnelby uses his levels in her Plotting Through Motivation course, which I took in March (thank you, Seekerville - it was a prize I won when Laurie visited here in February!) The course gives you concrete ways to apply Maslow's levels to your character development - awesome.

In college I hated Psychology courses, so I took a few as possible (maybe 2?), passed with flying colors and promptly forgot everything. Of course, I'm old enough to have forgotten most things from college...

Jan Drexler said...

A Seeker Gear Store? Where's the link?

Myra Johnson said...

Metaphorical wading boots.

Definitely required gear in Seekerville.

Especially when you pair Tina with Vince.

Andrea Strong said...

Myra~

I like this too. I hadn't seen Maslow's hierarchy since my college Educational Psych class.

As I apply this to my WIP I think most of my secondary character who has carried a torch for my heroine since childhood. He's stuck at gaining her esteem, and struggling with the fact that she's just not gonna "esteem" him like he wants her too. He can't self-actualize until he lets go of this infatuation...which he will do just in time for his own story in book two.

Now I need to put some thought into this for my main characters...I can see that it's there, it's just less obvious for them.

I haven't read any of yours, and I'd love to win this one.

andeemarie95 at gmail dot com

Myra Johnson said...

NANCY C, you pose an interesting question. I think you have to assume that "riches" and "esteem" are relative terms. Even the poorest people financially speaking might consider themselves rich in family, love, relationships, etc. It comes down to a question of values.

So your hero, in redefining what he considers riches and esteem, might realize the love and respect of a faithful woman fulfills those needs in ways he hadn't expected.

Does that help???

Myra Johnson said...

JAN, glad to hear another author is basing instruction on Maslow's ideas! Thanks for the heads-up!

As for Seeker gear, I think Mary is planning on opening a shop soon. Watch this space for details.

ANDREA, it sounds like you're on the right track in figuring out your characters' needs. I like what you're doing with the supporting character--and setting him up for redemption in his own story!

Andrea Strong said...

On a more sober, but not exactly writing related note...

I was sort of thinking of this the other day in relation to spiritual needs. Until the lowest level of physical needs, and even the next level or two are met, people often don't consider their need for a Savior, which is in reality even more basic than the need for food and shelter.

Organizations like soup kitchens and shelter missions operate so that people can see that God wants to meet all their needs.

So many ministries exist to help people meet their needs at all levels of the Maslow pyramid.

I happen to think Seekerville is one such useful ministry and am very thankful for you all and all you do.

Myra Johnson said...

ANDREA, how sweet! Helping each other is what Seekerville is all about!

It's true, though. People have trouble identifying their spiritual needs as long as they're hungry or without shelter or their physical lives are otherwise threatened. Maybe recognizing our spiritual neediness coincides with our need to belong to Someone greater than ourselves.

Mary Cline said...

Making stuff up we can be sure our characters get an HEA but do you think some people never get to the self actualization stage?

As Christians we can but that also brings up dying to self.

Oh dear, nobody has to answer this stuff, I am just thinking out loud or on screen or whatever.

Myra Johnson said...

LOL, MARY CLINE, you should probably pick up a pair of Mary Connealy's wading boots!

Vince said...

On Sagging Middles

Instead of using a girdle on a sagging middle, I suggest having the heroine spontaneously take a belly dancing class.

How are all the characters around her going to react to this? Interesting and more liberating than a girdle. It’s also a natural for showing and not telling.

Vince

Myra Johnson said...

VINCE!!!!!!! Oh my oh my oh my!!!!!!!

Um, would anyone here be shocked to know that ages and ages ago I was a belly dancer? Still have all my costumes packed away in the attic.

My hand trembles now as I prepare to hit the "publish your comment" button.

Cara Lynn James said...

Hi, Myra! I haven't thought about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in a very long time. Thanks for the reminder! I can see in some of my books a few of my characters are stuck at the level of social needs and a few are at the self-actualization level.

I wonder if writers are at different places in the pyramid.

Debby Giusti said...

Great blog, Myra! And such good food for thought.

You're right about suspense stories and the need for survival, which is what happens in the climax. Hopefully, by the end of the story, other needs are met as well.

In my opinion, the need to be loved is our greatest need, the most important of which is to have a relationship with or be in right relationship with God. If we don't think God can love us, we won't be able to love ourselves or open ourselves to a committed relationship with someone else. Self-actualization is, really, our ability to love ourselves and others.

Maybe I should stop here! Or find a pair of wadding boots!

Hugs!

Myra Johnson said...

CARA, I'm sure you're right--writers, just like our characters, can be at all levels of the pyramid. Honestly, surviving in this business can be an ongoing struggle. Not to mention the need for approval and esteem.

DEBBY, I agree. The need to feel secure and complete in God's love supersedes all. I believe that's the Christian's definition of self-actualization.

Nancy C said...

Myra said:
So your hero, in redefining what he considers riches and esteem, might realize the love and respect of a faithful woman fulfills those needs in ways he hadn't expected.


Oh, good point, Myra. His understanding of riches and esteem changes from the physical (what shows to others) to the emotional/spiritual -- and there's the character growth. Yes, that helps bunches. Thanks!

Nancy C

CatMom said...

Great post, Myra---and as Jeanne and some of the others said, I haven't thought about Maslow in years. This is a definite keeper post for me, because I tend to be way too soft on my characters. I know I need to add more (LOTS more) tension and conflict in my stories, so this should help. ~ Congrats on your upcoming books--I always enjoy your stories! (My fave of your books is still WHERE DOGWOODS BLOOM--loved it!) Hugs, Patti Jo

Myra Johnson said...

NANCY, yay, you've got it!!

PATTI JO, yes, you need to get tough on your characters. In every scene, make it your goal to get the character into worse trouble than s/he was before. And thank you for the kind word about my books! WTDB was a favorite of mine, too. But these Horseman books have become pretty special. I've enjoyed carrying over the characters from one book to the next--something Mary and Julie do so well!

Cindy W. said...

Another keeper for the book. :)

Smiles & Blessings,
Cindy W.

countrybear52[at]yahoo[dot]com

Lyndee said...

Very thoughtful and clear explanations/examples of Maslow's work. Thanks, Myra. As a psych major, I studied this to death, but hadn't really thought of my writing conflicts in Maslow's terms. Certainly something I need to examine closer.

KC Frantzen and May the K9 Spy said...

Hey all my Seekerville FURiends,

Just had to share.

May and I just typed THE END!!!
WAHOOOO! Sequel is finished...

Well... As finished as it can be at this stage of the game.

Will be reviewing this post and many others before submitting.

Thank you Seekers!

Lyndee said...

CONGRATS KC! Two very sweet words! Yay for you!

Nancy C said...

Way to go, KC!

Nancy C

marybelle said...

When I read I want to have a vested interest in the characters.

I would love to read "A Horseman’s Heart" thank you.

marypres(AT)gmail(DOT)com

Anonymous said...

There is also a need for order in that list.
Virginia Schmidt listed it with the others in her book about building Master Characters.

Casey said...

*not an entry*

I've not seen this pyramid before, I love the idea of taking different struggles and molding situations around them. Thanks for the think, Myra! :)

Anonymous said...

As I have mentioned before the need for order (Aesthetic Need) comes before self-actualization.

And the need to know and understand comes before the aesthetic need.

So, I would add two more to the list.

Anna Labno

Myra Johnson said...

CINDY & LYNDEE, glad you found something helpful here. Thanks for stopping in!

KC, typing "the end" is always worth a celebration! Congratulations!

MARYBELLE, I'm with you. Why even bother reading a novel unless I quickly develop a vested interest in the characters?

Myra Johnson said...

CASEY, nice to see you here! Maslow's theory isn't new, and, as "Anonymous" ANNA LABNO has mentioned, variations have been developed over the years.

Still, these five needs bring you back to the basics and give you a good starting point for developing many different kinds of conflict for your story characters.

Shelia Hall said...

Sounds like a good book

Sarah said...

I love horses! I'm dipping into some new genres and I'd be excited to try a Horseman's Heart. Who knows - maybe I'll win?
When you read, you become a better writer :) so read on!

Janet Kerr said...

The is a nice re-cap of Maslow & a good reminder of what to look for in character growth.
Thanks so much,
Jan