Inception vs Tenet: The Art of Character

Part 1 - Why it’s important to establish Goals, Desires and Needs in Character and why stories mean more when they have all three

Image: © Warner Bros.

The Inevitable comparison

You see, on the surface, these two Christopher Nolan adventure spectacles are very similar. Both are spy thrillers with his trademark high-concept twists; both are written and directed solely by Nolan; both require an extraordinary amount of exposition (explanation about the mechanics of the world) to understand the story, and both feature a high-flying acrobatics team attempting to defy time and accomplish the impossible.

Ingredient 1: Characters with Desires & Goals

When referring to a story, a Goal and Desire are often used interchangeably to mean something external the characters want. However, today I’d like to propose that character desires are actually different from their goals. Sure, both drive the characters and, thus, narratives of the story. But the key difference is:

  • Desire, on the other hand, springs from the emotional heart of a character and usually motivates said action
Image: © Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios.

Ingredient 2: Give Your Character A Need

Image: © Warner Bros.

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