Got a free eBook code? Click HERE for instructions on how to download.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Digging Deep For Character Motivation

What truly motivates your character? I'm not looking for the easy answer here. I want you to dig down deep into their psyche and figure out what is really motivating them. Take my new main character for example. It's easy to say she wants to avenge the death of her brother. But that is what she wants, it isn't what motivates her. What motivates her is the tremendous hole eating it's way through her soul because he died fighting on the battlefield and she wasn't there to help him. What motivates her is that he was the only one in her family that saw her for who she was and supported her dreams.

To figure out what their motivators are look to their past. Is there something about the way they were raised that may affect their motivations? Is there a relationship that may be a driving force for them? Family, loved ones, or lack thereof all affect your character. What are their beliefs, culture, customs, occupation? All of those factors affect motivation and the way a person deals with life.

After you've figured out your character's motivations you must figure out what they want, which should be easier to do now that you've dug deep. My main character doesn't want to kill the man who killed her brother. What she truly wants is to feel supported and loved and to know that her brother didn't die in vain. Will she get that? We shall see. Do you know what your characters' motivations and desires are?
 
For more advice on characters check out this great post from Writer's Digest on How To Up The Ante For Your Character.

14 comments:

  1. Great character post, Heather! Thanks for the WD link. I'll check out the article. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. Heather, this is a wonderful perspective on true motivation. A very good friend of mine has been is killing herself, and relationships, to amass wealth. Now, her glass house is about to crash down, with the housing market. Everything is falling apart. Last night she told me she yelled at her mother for the first time, ever, for leaving her when she was 14. And she's battled with her Dad for his not acknowledging her wealth...ie., success. Wow. Her motivation through her life was wealth means security. If you have money, people don't leave. And they respect you. Now...her money is leaving and the past is surfacing as to why it was important.
    Now I understand her so much more about her behavior, and what to do with my novel.
    I'm going to dig deep and figure out how to show my protagonist's motivation because of her past. How do you do that without a lot of back story?
    Thanks for another excellent post!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Ooh, I like this post! I think it's easy to just do surface motivations, and that's usually what my characters have first off. But then, as I get to know them better, I figure out their deeper motivations. It makes them so much more interesting!

    ReplyDelete
  4. Thanks Shannon. You'll love the WD article!

    ReplyDelete
  5. Wow Karlene, that's exactly the kind of motivation I'm talking about! We need to infuse our characters with that. To avoid a lot of backstory I show reactions and the way they deal with things with a line or two of inner monologue or thoughts about why. Or you can always use conversation as a way to bring out their past, especially with developing relationships. I hope that helps!

    ReplyDelete
  6. Thank you Shallee! I find myself doing the same thing. My characters deepen with each re-write. It does make it much more interesting by the final edit doesn't it?

    ReplyDelete
  7. I didn't really do this for the first draft of my WIP. After I finished, I went back and dug onto my MC's past. From that, I found a lot of things that should have motivated her in my story (as well as the other characters), things that I left out. Now I'm having to go back and add those layers. It's hard, but the story is already so much better.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Don't feel bad Melissa, my last couple of books were the same way. I had to go back and add all the layers afterward. Now I make a point to add things like this to my outline and it saves me a lot of time!

    ReplyDelete
  9. Great insights. Motivation is so important. In my newest manuscript, the motivation is so important, I have to reveal slowly throughout where the MC came from and why she is the way she is. Vague huh? :D I like the sound of your new WIP. Strong female characters are always great.

    ReplyDelete
  10. LOL! Vague yes, but I get what you mean. Motivation is best when it is revealed slowly throughout the work. Thanks, she is going to be a strong one!

    ReplyDelete
  11. I've been working through this in my own WIP. Since figuring out all the little details the book has vastly improved. It's something so obvious yet so easy to overlook. I love how you laid it out and the next book sounds great Heather!

    ReplyDelete
  12. It is easy to overlook isn't it Lindsey? I never realized how much I overlooked or left out until I started outlining it all and digging into my character's past. Thanks, that's so encouraging to hear that my next book sounds great! :-)

    ReplyDelete
  13. Heather, this is excellent! I love it when you dig deep -- I always take away something incredibly valuable to use in my own writing. Thank you!

    ReplyDelete
  14. Thank you Linda! I'm glad it could help. :-)

    ReplyDelete

Comments are like good friends, the more the merrier!