Friday, March 11, 2011

Character Motivation

I love you, Friday!! Hallelujah! Hoping all of you have a wonderful weekend. Got some crazy weather going on lately over here on the east coast. Just when you think Spring has sprung, it rains for 24 hours and turns cold. Fine with me, since I've not been motivated to rake all those crunchy brown leaves presently carpeting my yard. Speaking of motivation ...

I've got five activities for you:

1.  Describe your MC's primary motivation in one word
2.  Describe your MC's goal in one sentence
3.  Describe your antagonist's motivation in one word
4.  Describe your antagonist's goal in one sentence
5.  Describe your MC's blind spot in one sentence

This takes some genuine thought. You may be quick to answer, which is fine. Go ahead and answer them. But then really think about it for awhile, and you may find your answers will change.  Mine did. I had to dig deep. Got out the shovel and everything.

Motivation is an important factor because it's what drives the character toward his/her goal. Motivations come in layers that are peeled away as the story escalates in conflict, and the character is under more pressure. These layers are all present at the beginning of the story, but the character is not aware of them. There is a surface motivation driving them, but this motivation will shift as the layers are peeled away.

It boils down to the basics:

*  What does the MC want?
*  What does the MC really want?
*  What does the MC really need?

The reader must believe what the character believes: that all will be lost if they don't achieve their goal. Motivation is the most important factor to consider when having your MC make choices. Once you have a feel for your character's motivation and they come alive, you lose a certain control over your story. (I love it when this happens.)

*  Motivation comes from a concrete goal
*  Make the goals clear, so the reader can see if the MC reaches his goal
*  Don't confuse their motivation with the goal


I'll have more on character development next time. Again, these are from the workshop I'm doing with Bob Mayer, which you can find hereThanks for stopping by and taking the time to comment. It gives me warm fuzzies all day long. :)

22 comments:

Melissa said...

I really like this series you have on characters. It's really getting me to think about mine!

welcome to my world of poetry said...

Motivation is essential in life, sitting down thinking about what you should be doing rather than doing it is all down to motivation.

Loved your post on the subject.

Yvonne.

Mary said...

Thanks for sharing these with us! I hope to take some time this weekend and go over these posts with pen and paper (and my current character) in hand.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Excellent exercise! I planned out many of those things before I even began writing.

Elizabeth McKenzie said...

These are all good outline ideas. Thanks for sharing.

Stina Lindenblatt said...

I've had only 2 hours of sleep (yeah, I know, so why am I blogging?), but I'll try this out with my new wip later today. After I've had enough caffeine. :D

Jules said...

Move. MC needs to clean house. Procrastination. Make MC believe the dust bunnies are decoration. MC does not have her glasses on.

My Friday, but I love the exercises :)
Jules @ Trying To Get Over The Rainbow

Dara said...

Great questions! I'll have to put these in a little word doc and apply them to all of my MCs in my WiPs.

Florence said...

I love the idea of these exercises and have something similar in my Donald Maass workbook and second writing book ... The Fire in Fiction ...

I am curious to see if as he progresses with this class, he will ask you to dig deep and come up with a new character and what you want that Mc to represent, do or be?

Love these posts, PK :)

The Golden Eagle said...

Great questions. It does take some thinking to say it in only one sentence or word!

Julia Smith said...

Hmm...now you've got me thinking...

gideon86 said...

Very good exercise....

Those are some basic and right to the core questions.... Well done.

A no brainer for my second book, but my first... hmmmm.


Have a great weekend. The sun is out in Florida today.... YAY!

Nathalie Schiltz said...

This is good stuff to help write a query letter! If you can boil down your story to a sentence, the MC's motivation and character to the basics. You're already halfway there!

Regina said...

Really phenomenal stuff here PK. This will help me out a lot. I hope the weather perks up to a nice warm and sunny persona by next week. We are heading down to St. Pete. I need to borrow some of your sunshine for a week to get my Character Motivation...um motivated. Have a great weekend.

Nas Dean said...

Thanks for sharing this great series with us all here!

William Kendall said...

Great questions, PK... a handy thing to make use of as a writing exercise.

Tracy said...

You know what was great about these questions? For the first time I realized that my MC and the antagonist have the same exact motivation and goal. They both want to be with the guy they love (just so happens he's the same man). What separates them is their perspective and the way they're willing to go about achieving their objective.

Kinda neat!

Susan Kaye Quinn said...

This is really a great series! Thanks for sharing it with us! :)

Roland D. Yeomans said...

This is a truly thought-provoking series on characters and how to flesh them out into life. I thought since you're a follower of Jodi Henry, you might want to take a look at her blog today since she is interviewing me about my character, Hibbs, the bear with 2 shadows.

Have a great new week, Roland

Carol Riggs said...

Great questions! I had to run my last novel through the sieve of these questions. :) Thanks!

Julie Wright said...

Hey there! You won my book/mp3 player contest for Hazzardous Universe's launch party! Please email me your address so I can get it shipped to you! Congratulations~! And I love your blog. Fleshing out characters is sooooo important. Great thoughts.

Maria McKenzie said...

Excellent post! Now I've really got some thinking to do!

PK, you have an award waiting at my blog:)! Have a great weekend.