From Writers Unboxed, this: Emma vs Hamlet: Two Approaches to Dramatizing Character Change
No question so focuses the mind of a writer beginning to draft a scene—or the series of scenes that will comprise their story—as what do the characters want. The question instantly begs a slew of others: Why do they want it? Do they themselves know? How? With what degree of clarity, certainty, or honesty? What if they’re mistaken? Worse—what if they’re actively deluding themselves?
I’m not sure I have ever started a book by asking myself those questions. I think by the time I’m through the first couple of chapters, I probably know, but I haven’t framed it that way.
I am almost certain I’ve never deliberately chosen to write a character who was actively deluding herself about what she wanted. The closest I’ve come to that is probably Oressa in The Mountain of Kept Memory. Oressa thinks she wants to stay unobtrusive, but given a shove, it turns out that’s not really what she wants.
Or, actually, maybe Meridy in The White Road of the Moon. That’s a bit the same, although in that case, Meridy thinks she’s more self-contained, or perhaps thinks she ought to be more self-contained, than is actually the case.
Anyway, interesting idea for a post!
A classic example: Jane Austen’s Emma. When Emma, the match-making busybody, realizes that she is wildly mistaken in her beliefs about the other characters, she descends into a paralysis of self-questioning doubt. Mr. Knightly kindly guides her toward the truth, and the story comes to a happy end, with multiple well-paired marriages. …
… Instead, we all too often find ourselves in Hamlet’s shoes, weighing incompatible options, unable to decide, all too aware that whatever we choose the consequences are to some extent unpredictable, and that nothing will put a definitive end to our “problem.”
This is a long post, but well worth a look.