Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Character Motivation

(Eek! It's Tuesday! I forgot to post yesterday!)

I've been working on the outline to my story using a combination of the snowflake method and the phase drafting method and it's been a lot of fun. Even though I've already written the first draft of the story, the outline is helping me to flesh out characters and scenes that are wimpy, and is drawing my attention to plot holes I didn't see before.

What I've discovered: A character's motivation is EVERYTHING! You can't just have a character do what you want them to do without having an explanation as to why they would do such a thing. Outlining helps me to see further ahead. If there's an action that's essential to the plot, I need to make sure whatever character is going to perform that action has the kind of personality and motivation to take that action.

For instance, in my story the villain ends up becoming extremely powerful, escapes, and then purposefully performs an action that will kill him within 48 hours. I had to figure out a motivation for him to do all of these things.

Motivation for....
1. becoming extremely powerful: He's trapped on a planet and needs the power to get back home, thus he's highly motivated to gain power, even if it means becoming a murderer.
2. escaping: It's not how he wanted to leave, but he is strongly motivated by the group of law enforcement ninjas who are going to kill him if he doesn't leave his entire plan unfinished and left behind.
3. drinking poison: This is the most complex motivation of them all. There are several reasons he's motivated to do this, but the biggest is that he's a sociopath who unwaveringly has to accomplish his goal at any cost. He does this. As soon as his goal is accomplished, he doesn't care anymore. For him, the completion of the goal is what mattered more than getting home.

Now, if I were to create such a villain and have him be even keel emotionally, or unflappable, and suddenly show that he has an obsession with completing goals, it wouldn't work. But because I know what his final motivation will be, I can plant seeds early on about how the villain has a deep-seated need to complete goals regardless of any consequences or cost.

I'm hoping the reader will get to the end and be surprised, but still be able to say "I should've known that was coming."


  1. Dude, I can't believe you find plotting and snowflaking fun. I shudder at the thought. :)

    But you're beyond right that the character's motivation is huge in a story.

  2. Thanks for the tips, once again. :) I, seriously, can not hardly wait to read the book, once it is complete, of course. Are you planning on publishing this one anytime soon?

  3. I agree that character motivation is so important. AND you have to have really strong characters to make these motivations seem feasibly. Not strong in the sense that they're overpowering characters, but just that you have who they are and what they're about set up securely so their actions make sense.

  4. Hi Elana! Thanks for stopping by! Yeah, I do find outlining and such fun. But that probably means I'm horrible at summarizing or writing query letters. When I get to that point, I plan on looking up your blog for advice! ;)

    Gracia: Don't worry! I hope to have something for you by the end of February. Do I plan on publishing it any time soon? No. It's going to take awhile before it's publishing material. But someday I do aspire to see it in print.

    Hey Cindy. That's a good companion point. Hmm. Maybe I'll post on that next.

    Anonymous: Hi. Glad you found my blog.

  5. I agree motivation is essential. Sounds like you're working hard on your character building. Good luck on the outlining.


  6. I left you an award at my blog. Feel free not to play along, but have fun with it if you do.

  7. Thanks Donna. I'm glad you had fun with that. As a general rule I don't do chain letters/e-mails/blogs at all.

  8. i absolutely adore your writing taste, very helpful.
    don't give up and keep creating considering the fact that it just simply good worth to look through it,
    impatient to look at a whole lot more of your own web content, stunning day!