Monday, April 11, 2011

Food, Shelter, and Clothing, meet your competitors

A theme emerges from recent conversations--on topics ranging from career choices to exercise routines to venues of children's birthday parties: people need affirmation. We make decisions and we want others to know the reasons behind them.

When the basic essentials of food, shelter, and clothing are met, we become focused on our other set of basis needs. From my observations, these are:
  • understanding
  • acceptance
  • affirmation
[I didn't put "love" on the list because that's like including "oxygen" in the other list. Also, I used to include "respect" but I think "acceptance" is more fundamental. Also also, these are not mutually exclusive but are intertwined.]

There are degrees to which each person requires these three elements, depending on age, maturity, personality, but I suggest that even the most highly respected, mature, confident person has these needs.

In fiction, when we're not dealing with characters struggling for food and safety: say, in a dystopian society, knowing how our main and secondary characters deal with these needs can make these characters more alive and believable.

What do you think? Do you agree that these are essentials? Have I neglected something else you consider even more fundamental? Do you characters feel the need for one or the others strongly? Do these needs drive their motivation? Drop me a note!


Domey Malasarn said...

Yat-Yee, as I was reading this, I realized that I personally value acceptance a lot, but my characters tend to be after understanding. Hmm. Or, rather, I want my characters to be understood.

Bish Denham said...

Compassion comes to mind. Excellent post.

Michelle Davidson Argyle said...

That's a great little list of what we need as human beings. I think "human touch" - even emotional human touch is one of the most important things we need. If babies are cared for in every way except loving touch, they die, I've heard. That says a lot about who and what we are - and what we need. I think your list encompasses that.

Yat-Yee said...

Domey: I think I include these particular three because those are the ones that I seek the most. My characters end up wanting more or the less those very same things.

Bish and Michelle: thanks for pointing out compassion and the human touch as essentials. I totally agree. Michelle: I'd seen some documentaries about orphans how are fed but never touched, and they die, or fare very poorly. Broke my heart.

Judy Croome said...

The one element that I would add is that all these vital points(understanding, acceptance, affirmation) meed to be pre-fixed with the word "self", for self-understanding, self-acceptance and self-affirmation come from within, forming a more secure foundation than that which comes from an external source. The most complex characters can be created by exploring their struggle to change the need for external understanding, acceptance and affirmation into self understanding, acceptance and affirmation.
Judy (South Africa)

MG Higgins said...

Are you familiar with Maslow's hierarchy of needs? I wish I still had it memorized, but my brain can only hold so much. I do remember that self-actualization is at the top. Great way to look at characters.

February Grace said...

Yat-Yee I think you nailed it completely. Great post.

(Sorry I didn't send you an email in response to your kind words on my blog post about the worth of a writer's work- I couldn't find an email address anywhere...thank you so much I'm glad you liked it.)