Wednesday, October 30, 2013

What Drives Your Characters?

What makes you get up in the morning (other than the alarm clock or the dog that needs to go outside)? What makes you go to the gym, or to work, or to even sit down at the computer? What you say for each of these questions may be different, but each is very similar. What we are talking about here is the motivation for doing something.

I do believe that many authors don't spend as much time thinking about the motivation of their characters when they write. Oh sure, they might draft out a single word idea in their initial planning stages, but as they write, the idea of the motivation for the characters moves a bit too much to the sidelines. In reality, the motivation of your characters needs to be out there all of the time.

When we talk about motivation, we are simply asking what it is that drives your character. The motivation likely comes from something that happened to them prior to page 1 of your book. The education they had, the family life, their religious upbringing, or some event that happened to them might be the starting point for this motivation. Your characters either want to duplicate that same experience, or potentially avoid that experience all together.

It is important to realize that all motivations do not have to come from a tragic experience in the character's past. This is, however, where most writers turn to.

  • A woman wants something better for her daughter because she was abused as a kid.
  • A hero wants a lot of money because he was in the foster care system and dirt poor.
  • The character doesn't want a relationship because of a negative relationship earlier in life.
There is nothing wrong with these motivations, but what we often find is that the motivation is often working against anything that the characters do in the story. If we look at the relationship one, we want the characters to get together and yet the motivation is forcing them apart. Yes, this is fine for conflict, but this scenario often creates a situation where the author has to force the relationship together in a way that doesn't seem natural.

But, if we take a more positive approach to the motivation, the solution doesn't come from an outside factor, but something on the inside. If, for example, the hero had a fantastic grandfather who he looked up to. This man might have been on a pedestal to the hero. He now puts all of his waking hours into trying to be as good as his grandfather. At this point, he has to get to a point in the story where he has to "recognize" that being that good is something that maybe he has already achieved. Like Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz when she is told by Glinda that she could go home any time she wanted. She had the power all along.

Really go back this coming weekend and explore your motivations of your characters. What is driving them? Is it real? Is it manufactured? Is it driving everything they do?

1 comment:

  1. A wonderful description of how to use positive motivation to move a story forward, rather than a get-over-something goal that deals more with the past than the future.
    Thank you. I enjoy your posts.
    Faye Lynn