Pursuit of innermost desires

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    Edmund Lloyd Fletcher

    So, we all know we have some foundational human needs such as:
    (This is off the top of my head, not a definitive list…)

    • Value / Personal worth
    • Love
    • Meaning
    • Purpose
    • Peace
    • Happiness
    • Freedom
    • Justice
    • Community/belonging
    • Salvation from the mistakes of the past
    • Hope for the future
    • Eternal Life

    I may have missed some, there.  Feel free to add your own.

    Of course, good news for us, the Christian worldview provides the correct definition for all of these things.  Hurray!

    But the more interesting question I have as an author (and the one that I want to put to you all) is, what are the WRONG ways that people try to meet these needs?

    Because — and I’m spit-balling here — I think those wrong answers are ready-made motivation for our villains and the basis for conflict in their world (as well as our own).

    For instance, is revenge a wrong-headed attempt at justice, or is striving for power a worldly attempt at proving one’s personal worth?

    What do you think?  You’re a smart crowd – I’d love to hear your ideas!

    Homeschooling father of 10, writing Christian action/adventure novels from my home high in the Rockies.

    Ariel Ashira

    @edmund-lloyd-fletcher this is off your topic…but wait.  Your a Merakian?!?  How did I not know that…

    "No matter how much it hurts, how dark it gets, or how hard you fall, you are never out of the fight."

    I, David

    This is an interesting discussion… I’ll try to pick it up when I get the time.


    I, David

    Well seeing as how sin is a perversion of what is good–lust and adultery pervert love and marriage, murder perverts life, greed perverts contentment–it follows that for every good thing and desire, there is an alternative for evil.



    Idols. That’s how people pretend to meet their needs apart from God. They don’t really actually meet them, but they delude themselves into thinking they are.

    The thing is, if people aren’t worshipping the true God, they are worshipping idols – success and iPhones are just as dumb as the stone columns that people used to worship. (Don’t tell Apple.) Idols also include people: when people idolize each other, interesting conflicts can develop when the person being idolized doesn’t meet the need in question.

    That means that the people are either a) deluding themselves that their idol meets their need and lying to themselves about the fact that it does, even when it doesn’t; or b) they know that their idol DOESN’T meet their need right now, but they think if only they believe in their idol more and put more effort into it, it will. Type B is the most common type in America – type A makes your character seem eccentric or insane unless it is a culturally accepted type A. For example, if your villain is Buddist, there are needs that Buddism supposedly meets that your villain might buy into.

    A good example of Type B is performance addiction – people think that their success, achievements, accolades will meet their needs. It’s a sneaky workplace thing because your income is a function of how much you get to eat, right? No, God provides or does not provide for people. The poor are opportunities for those better off to show generosity.

    Another example of Type B is relationship addiction – people believe that if they just have the right relationships, it will meet their needs. Wrong again. That leads you to going through husbands or wives like melted butter because clearly you have not found the One. Hint: God is the One. Who will meet your needs. Everyone else: not so much.

    These are the most common idols, but the variety of idols and those who serve them is enormous. More eccentric ones I’ve heard about include: Star Trek (actual worshipping the franchise and thinking it’s real), Star Wars, furry animals, metal music (I mean, metal music is awesome…but it can’t supply all of your needs – music can even fall short on meeting the emotional ones, I’ve found), Bionicle *shudders and runs for the exit*, bike riding.

    (In case you haven’t noticed, LGTBQ is an idol, folks. Peeps serve it to the exclusion of good sense. Just look up the efforts they spend on getting kids…it’s a lot easier to do it the right way.)

    Most unbelievers actually serve MULTIPLE idols. This is an extremely important fact to consider. That’s because idols damage a person and create more needs, not less, which require more idols to fill in more of the needs…*insert death spiral here*. However, an unbeliever can actually be happy (I know, scary) if they have matched up the number of needs to the number of idols and serve them all well. They will be less satisfied than a mature believer, of course, but they can still be happy. But if some of their idols get knocked down or even threatened, party’s over.

    Consider the performance addicted guy who comes home to his Netflix and his wife every night. As long as he’s climbing the corporate ladder, his favorite shows aren’t being canceled, and his wife is happy, he’s in pretty good shape. But once his shows get canceled, his wife cheats on him, and/or he gets fired, he’s in emotional freefall. He might be able to ensure his security by using his corporate climb to buy his wife presents, and his wife might recommend better shows. You see how this becomes difficult to break. Even if he does get to the point of dissatisfaction and pursuit, the sin nature will be 300X more likely to grab a new idol or an entire new set of idols.

    In a fantasy setting, you’ll more likely see characters believe in “magic” or a religion specific to that location. This may or may not interlock with the truth. Narnia has that in direct opposition; Lord of the Rings has “magic” used by both good and evil. Also, in fantasy settings you can use old fashioned idols like rings or even stone columns. Just saying. Other idols: knowledge, wisdom, some sort of self-knowledge or some power unlocked through some “enlightenment”. Or you can make up your own “evil religion” – just make sure you don’t start believing it!

    In sci-fi, technology and science and human progress are the idols a la carte. Think Star Trek and Elon Musk. And iPhones. Trust me, the iPhones are much better in the future. 😛 Also, the visionary leader that led to all of the human progress or alien progress will get the idolization treatment. Just ask Tony Stark. And Big Brother. Yikies.

    In historical fiction, idols will be dictated by the specific time period your work takes place. If you want a fast breakdown, look up “literary periods” for the location you’re considering. That will tell you the most commonly accepted idols at that time in history. For example, the “The Age of Reason”…reason was the most commonly accepted idol during that time. You get the idea. That worked out well until Dr. Logic’s demise in the chaos of WWI. Never mind, we have emotions now, cue Modernism, for clearly science and art have failed us…ah yes, reinvention is the better idol! And so on.

    Alright, that is enough. But hopefully that will get the ball rolling. Unfortunately any number of idols can meet any number of needs in the big list you gave me. Someone could use Star Trek to fill all of them…or only one of them…or maybe they use butterflies for that. It’s really up to the writer and character and what they want to do.

    Sarah, Miss S, Sierepica_Fuzzywalker


      This is really interesting! I think you’re right in that evil actions can stem from not using gifts the way they’re meant to be used. I agree with the fact that people sometimes seek power in order to gain a feeling of self-worth and use revenge as a tool to gain “justice.” Here are my thoughts on how desires can be perverted (just ideas):

      Love/relationships (not just romantic relationships, but friends, employees, family, etc): manipulation, self-serving without giving to the other person, utilizing relationships for money and status, etc. Essentially, not seeing people as human beings with needs, but using them merely as a tool to serve one’s own ends.

      Freedom – insubordination, rebelling simply for rebellion’s sake and not toward meaningful ends.

      Community/belonging – giving into peer-pressure, doing bad things to be accepted and “cool,” codependency.

      Happiness – hedonistic but not in a good way. Greed, obsessions with obtaining money/possessions, stealing.

      Value/personal worth – workaholism, “producing” and performing for love, seeking one’s own vainglory, materialism, using people to gain status, manipulation for sympathy, needing to be seen as “the hero,” attention-seeking, bullying, abusing one’s own authority/power/beauty/charm to harm people.

      Hope and peace for the future – needing to be in control of everything – people, events, etc.


      • This reply was modified 1 month, 3 weeks ago by Michaela.
      Naiya Dyani

        Bookmarking this thread! I may or may not have a habit of forgetting to give my characters motivations. . . 😛

        I just figured out/developed motives for some of the characters in my WIP. One of the main themes of my story is revenge vs. forgiveness, so I’ve been throwing a lot of foil characters in there. One is determined to avenge his family (even if the people he’s hurting didn’t do anything). Another focuses on the specific people/person who hurt him, but goes all out in his attempt at revenge. A third tries to ignore the hurt as much as he can, but eventually has to make a choice when (*insert spoiler here*). (Can’t ruin it in case I ever post it here for betas, ya know? 😉 )

        There are multiple ways to go wrong with the same motive. That’s part of what I’m looking at. It’s kind of fun digging into all the different ways to go about something and looking at the consequences of each 🙂


        Hearts are like matter--they can be beaten down, torn, and burned, but they cannot be destroyed.

        Josiah DeGraaf

        Personally, I think one of my favorite paths to twist a villain’s motives in this regard is by giving them utilitarian reasoning in their efforts to achieve these goals. Saul from the Old Testament is a great example of this in the ways that he (initially) seems to be seeking the right things, but just doesn’t have enough faith to do them in the right way. As a result, he seeks to obtain good things, but does so by taking the most straightforward path rather than the moral one.

        Lit fanatic. Eclectic reader. Theology nerd. Writing fantasy at https://josiahdegraaf.com

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