Creativity Workshop

Using Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs in Character Development

Going deeper into character…

What do people/characters need to feel a sense of balance and well-being? How can we use this as writers to throw character’s lives off balance and/or restore balance?


Google Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs and then relate the ideas to your protagonist, finding new ways for your character to change. Maslow created a theory in psychology for what humans need, often represented in a pyramid. Physiological needs are on the bottom with basic things like food, water, sleep, breathing, sex. Moving up from the base of triangle are safety, love and belonging, and esteem to self-actualization at the triangle’s tip.

For example: What if my character loses her house, how does it affect her relationships? What if she doesn’t have problem-solving skills? How will she cope? How would the story be affected if a friend tries to support her, but she doesn’t understand friendship? What events would I need to include in the story to help her to achieve her goals?

Click here to see more information about Maslow.


How important is safety when we write?

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”― Sylvia Plath


Pick a word. For example: “Sensible.” Find a picture of the word, read about the history, and make a list of the number of contexts in which the word appears online in the first five pages of search engine results.


Write a rant about technology.


My Aunt Pat created the Duke of Url as a character in one of her books (get it? URL…it’s where I put the website address, like Write a letter to the Duke or Duchess of Url about all the ways s/he’s made your life easier.


Spend a morning thinking about how the online world relates to your writing goals. Make a list of what you know and what you’d like to learn. Translate your plan into three SMART goals: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and timely.


Write about a time when you felt vulnerable. When the writing shows resistance or avoidance, press on, write through it.


Spend an evening reading about the life cycle of a butterfly: egg, caterpillar, chrysalis, butterfly. Connect the transformation to your writing process. Explore how you can be open to accepting all its phases.


Rearrange your pictures and plants, shifting them to different rooms. Sort though stacks of books, give some away. For a week spend each evening purging and sorting and reorganizing your living space. The act of cleaning makes space for new ideas and can give a sense of control again. 

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