People are complicated, right? Well, according to Success Life Coach, Tony Robbins, there are only SIX reasons why anyone does anything.

These reasons are the SIX HUMAN NEEDS, and we’re going to use them to develop three-dimensional characters.

In the same way that a personal understanding of your own top needs can reveal why you do what you do, identifying your character’s top needs (two out of the six) and how they go about fulfilling them, will help you create dynamic three-dimensional characters that don’t depend on random quirks, habits, or flaws.


Certainty: The first basic need is certainty. We all need some level of certainty. We need to know we can eat when we’re hungry, stay warm when it’s freezing outside, go to sleep as one person and wake up as the same person the next day. Security, safety, reliability, predictability, order – someone whose need for certainty is high on their hierarchy would consider these factors more essential to their wellbeing when making a decision than say adventure, fun, or new experiences.

Uncertainty: If you knew everything that was going to happen before it happened, if you knew everything you did was going to be a huge success, or a terrible failure, if you knew tomorrow would be exactly the same as today and yesterday, life wouldn’t just be dull, it would be unbearable. So to some extent, we all need variety, challenge, surprise, excitement, adventure, chaos.

Significance: The third need is the need to feel unique, special, important.

Love and Connection: The fourth need is the need to feel connected, to feel love and be loved.


The final two needs are what fulfill us and determine our level of happiness in life.

Growth: The need to feel like we are growing, whether this emotionally, intellectually, spiritually (or all three).

Contribution: The need to give beyond ourselves – to help and protect and share with others.

Each person has different ways of meeting their top two needs and different beliefs or rules of how this should be done.

For example someone who needs a higher level of uncertainty than they are getting in their life could decide to take a round-the-world gap year, someone else could turn to drugs, someone else could take up skydiving, while someone else dumps their boyfriend and takes cooking lessons in Paris.

There are countless ways of trying to meet a person’s highest needs – ways that are empowering, neutral or dis-empowering.

Additionally, there are infinite possibilities concerning the beliefs someone has about how their needs should be met.

One person could have a rule that if their boyfriend truly loved them he would not spend time alone with other female friends. Someone else would only believe their boyfriend loved them as long as he never argued with them. For someone else, to feel loved would mean they had to have huge, passionate arguments with their partner, otherwise they thought he simply didn’t care enough.

Tony Robbins states that a person’s two highest needs drive their destiny. So let’s use this insight into human behaviour to discover how your characters’ top two needs drive their destiny, and what they think must happen for these needs to be met.


What does your character want concretely throughout the length of the story? This is something definitive, for example, to win the cup, to date the boy, to rescue her brother.


THE WHY: Why does your character want this? Which need does this fulfill?


What are their beliefs or rules about what must be done to feel this need is satisfied?


Robbin’s says a person’s destiny is driven by two needs. What is your character’s second most important need? How do you know this is the second driving need? How has it shaped and does it continue to shape your character? What are the beliefs or rules they apply in their life to get this need fulfilled?


As you are thinking about how these needs have been born in your character, you might also want to check out my article on the three choices a person makes that determine who they become in the face of a life-changing experience. (This article is available on my home page from January 25st.) 


The outline above is only a brief consolidation of the six human needs. It is based on the work of Tony Robbins. If you want more information, I highly recommend you also watch Robbins’ video DO NOT LIMIT YOURSELF.

If you want to see how I used these questions in developing the main antagonist in the sequel to my fantasy book Shadow Weaver, check out my blog post next Wednesday.