Using Basic Needs in Your Writing

Eating. Sleeping. Drinking. Bathroom breaks. When you’re writing an action paced fantasy adventure, these are things you don’t stop to consider. But what if I told you that they are absolutely essential to a story?

Let’s start simple. Every living creature needs energy, to eat and refuel with food and water. I don’t want to see you try and give me a reason why your human characters never eat a thing: they need food to live. Humans can live without food for about three weeks, so you probably want to keep your happy band of fantasy protagonists well fed.

“But Emmy, they don’t have TIME to eat! They need to get to Lord Ringdemort’s castle before the end of the week!” Well, they can stop to eat. Eating doesn’t have to be a stop in the flow of the story. If you want, you can always mention meal breaks in a short summary sentence as you hop from one scene to another. Maybe as they eat, they get attacked by wolves or something, I don’t know, it’s your story. Even Lord of the Rings had the Hobbits complaining about second breakfast! You can come up with a ton of problems and scenarios as your characters munch on rotten apples.

Next one up on the list, sleeping. Your precious little heroes need their strength if they want to free the innocent people of Camelot, right? Out of all the living necessities, sleeping is the easiest to write about. It could lead to late night sentry duty confessions with a friend as the others sleep, or a midnight raid, even an enjoyable dream sequence. Just give your characters a break.

Bathroom breaks have to be the most looked over part of fiction. You don’t want to interrupt the action with a bathroom break. You don’t even need to suggest it. The reader can guess that for themselves. There are a few things you can do with bathrooms, though.

In the fantasy cat series Warriors, many cats escape from watchful eyes using the excuse of the bathroom (or Dirtplace, as they call it) to go enact more plot points. In the series, the bathroom ruse even enacted the important plot point of poisoning a kitten! You can use the bathroom ruse whenever you need a clever escape for your characters.

The last one isn’t as much a necessity as it is something most action characters encounter. And what is this horrid object that lives inside every character?

Fatigue.

Fatigue is something rarely shown in writing. If you unathletic hero is running from a monster, they’re going to feel like the monster is already eating them. Stitches and pains fill their sides. Their throat and lungs burn like fire. Their legs are so weak, barely able to push them across the ground. So what’s all this stuff about them not being tired? Fatigue adds a sense of reality to your story, because I sure can’t run and jump across a cliff without wanting to die, and your characters shouldn’t either.

So when you write, remember basic living needs your characters must follow. There’s plenty of wiggle room to add them in. Yet how do you add them in without interuppting the flow of the story?

That is for another time.

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