“No regrets? Really?” asks author Richard Power. “I have regrets. They are sacred to me. They inform my character. They bear witness to my evolution. Glimpses of lost love and treasure are held inside of them; like small beautiful creatures suspended in amber.”
In his Breakout Novel Intensive writing workshop, literary agent and teacher Don Maass works hard at getting writers to think about all aspects of character and how our characters’ emotions drive their action. One tool he uses is to ask students to think about a specific experience they’ve had of an emotion. “What do you regret?” he asks. Invariably, students say “Just one thing?” The same thing happened when I asked that question to students in a class I taught, which answers the question “Does every character need to have a regret?” quite nicely, doesn’t it?