Why – Character Motivation

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by Anne Greene

Want to create unforgettable characters? Then find the WHY for what they do. Find the deep-down inner motivation that drives your character.

Character Motivation is vitally important.

Motivation engages the reader. Readers relate to character motivations. They make the character live in the reader’s minds.

Motivation leads to the character arc. It’s the WHY of Goal Motivation Conflict.

The Goal is what the character wants. Motivation is WHY she wants it. If authors provide strong motivation, readers will follow our characters anywhere, through anything. A character can behave badly, but if the motivation is strong enough, readers forgive the character. Motivation makes a character believable.

Motivation causes readers to empathize with the character. Keep the motivation important so the character must follow through when the conflict gets rough.

The author must find real motivation to build a great character. At times the author will be surprised at the character’s motivation. This way the character takes over the story and drives it. Characters become real!

In Christian fiction, characters can be too nice. No one wants to read about a too-nice character because she is not real…and she is boring. If her inner motivation is less than nice, but the character is really a good person, allow that sinful side to be seen in small ways. A character with a FLAW becomes a real and complex character. To create a character arc, characters need flaws in order to grow and change. A character flaw gives a character individuality. Show the flaw in her motivation.

Know your character’s back-story. Know her parents’ back-story. Because the way people are raised affects their view of themselves and their worldview. Know your character. Find their motivation. Ask WHY.

Why does your character fear commitment with the man she loves? Why does she think men are dumb? Why does she think she can rescue a man from self-destructive behavior? Why does she want to be independent and not have to depend upon a man? Why does she want no children? Why does she want four children before she reaches the age of thirty? Why does she spend money thoughtlessly? Why does she hoard her money and seldom spend it on herself? Why? Why? Why?
Marriage by Arrangement
Keep asking your character WHY she wants what she wants. Peel her character down to her basic motivation.

Often it’s a single word, a basic, human emotion, a desire, a need-love, security, family, fear of rejection, comfort, peace, etc. These are motivations your reader can relate to.

Once you know the motivation, the character comes alive. The reader knows why she makes the decisions she does and why she reacts the way she does. Now her goals make sense. And now she’s on her way to becoming unforgettable.

Then show the motivation in the character’s actions.

What you, the author, have done with the female character, do likewise with the male. Why he does what he does makes him real…and unforgettable.

Motivation often begins with the lie the characters believe about themselves. But that is another lesson.

AnneGreene3ANNE GREENE delights in writing about wounded heroes and gutsy heroines. Her second novel, a Scottish historical, Masquerade Marriage, won the New England Reader Choice award and the Laurel Wreath Award. The sequel Marriage By Arrangement releases in December, 2013. A Texas Christmas Mystery also won several awards. She makes her home in McKinney, Texas. Look for more lessons on Anne’s teaching blog, http://www.blog.annegreeneauthor.com.

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