Character Motivation

Hello Fiction Lovers!

First I would like to apologize for getting this post to you late. It’s midterm season and studying has made me busier than normal. This week I’ve been thinking about character motivation because on of my professors pointed out that writers, typically, seem to focus on more what a character fears or dislikes rather than what they love. She challenged us to come up with three things the main characters in the short stories we are writing for the class love. It was more difficult than I thought it would be.

The challenge served as a reminder that even though what a character fears/dislikes. what bad things happen to them, typically drive a story forward a writer can’t forget to add in good things too. You don’t have to force the good things into the story, just like it’s a bad idea to the same for more tragic things, but knowing what they are and keeping them in mind as you write can help flesh out a character and the story. The character will strive just as much, if not more, to obtain the things they love rather than just escaping the things they fear. Often too fear and bad decisions can come out of love and good intentions. Knowing those things can make your character’s motivation more nuanced and realistic. And that will be more interesting for your readers.

It’s good to remember to let the motivation flow from the story instead of trying to force a trope or other idea to work. It might take you a few tries but the character will let you know why they are doing what they are doing as you write and edit the story. It might seem clunky at first when you are getting the basic idea for the story down but as you flesh out the story and learn more about the characters their motivations will be more clear, and those motivations won’t always be a tragic backstory. A tragic backstory is good for some types of characters but others accidentally became involved with whatever the story is about and are trying to return to their normal life or want to make the best of it, a few had good childhoods and want others to have the same or got bored by it and decided to something a little more exciting. It all depends on the character. Write the story and listen to them.

Thanks for reading and let me know if you have any questions! I hope you all have a fun week.

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Story Prompt #24

Character prompt:

Write about a warrior who is tired of fighting, but ends up getting pulled into a fight regardless. It could be something as simple as bar fight and they step in because they don’t want the place that serves the best beer to be ruined, to something as large as war where they feel honor-bound to fight, to being ambushed and simply needing to fight to survive.

Think about your character’s motivations and needs, and what would push them into doing something they otherwise would take pains not to do.

Feel free to post anything you come up with in the comments or let me know if you have any questions.

Conflicting Emotions

Hello Fiction Lovers!

Lately, I’ve been reading the Last Herald-Mage series by Mercedes Lackey (whose interesting books I would recommend by the way) and her writing and characters have reminded me that characters–like real-life people–can have conflicting emotions. Sometimes when I’m writing I’m so focused on what the character is supposed to feel or how they are going to react that I find I forget that they can conflicting emotions. Having conflicting emotions can make them feel more like actual people and tie in other parts of the story to the scene you’re writing. No scene or dialogue is in a vacuum which means the emotions driving that scene or dialogue can’t be located in one either. People feel lots of different things at once about different things and more than likely they will feel those things at the same time.

Having conflicting emotions can also help with character development and motivation. It can help the reader know what is more important to the character based on what they are having conflicting feels about and what emotion they end up acting upon. A character who really wants a book but won’t go get it because they are afraid of the adult standing near it, and a character who really wants a book but doesn’t get it because they are worried about their financial situation are two very different people. The result is the same, but emotional impact and knowledge of the character is very different. Also, if the reader is told the character wants a book but doesn’t end up getting one without another emotional reason as to why the scene feels unfinished, lackluster, or confusing.

You don’t have to use conflicting emotions all the time but making use of them can make your story feel more cohesive and flow better. It can also break up the monotony of a character only being driven by one emotion–something that becomes unrealistic quickly and that becomes boring. Conflicting emotions can also point to internal vs external conflicts and pressures in the story.

I hope this post helped and let me know if you have any questions. Feel free to post your thoughts or anything you think I missed in the comments. I hope you all have a good week!