I am excited. I have been waiting a whole week for this post. Since I realized that was going to miss out on an important topic on Characters, I wanted to write this post. One reason, is I am in the middle of developing my character profiles for my Forbidden Realm series. Besides, everything else I have talked about in this seres I have been thinking about their motivations. Let’s dive into this weeks Craft Post.
What does your character’s want? Do you know? You do, good. Do you know why they want it? Yes, no? I ask this question for a specific reason. This was the one question that stumped me for years when it came to writing. I understood plot, setting, Three Act Structure, and so on from the moment I started writing. Okay, maybe not completely understand, but I grasp those ideas from reading and movies. However, when it came to characters and their motivations, I was stumped. Why? Because I am plot guy. Plots come to me first, characters come hundred and twenty-three thing that comes to me.
Okay, that is really not that true. My characters don’t really come to me until the plot is developed, though I may have their name even a handful of secondary characters names, but there personalities and everything we have talked about hasn’t come to me. When I had to work on my characters, I could come up with personality, kinda, back history, friends relationships with people, but their goals… I always took it as what they want to achieve in the story. Yet, everything I ever read on this, was completely different.
First let me break this down a little more. You have character goals, and character motivations. These are different, but go together. It is possible to have one and not the other, but when you do, your characters are not complete. Let’s start with Character Goals
Character Goals: The concrete thing that the character
wants to get or achieve or become. – Randy Ingermanson
That seems simple, and I agree. Well, now I do. To me, this was confusing because I wasn’t thinking of my characters goal was always related to the plot. If this is what you do, awesome because it very well can. There are some really great books where the plot is doing this. First one that comes to mind is the 5th Wave, by Rick Yancy. Main character, Cassie’s goal is to find her brother because she made a promise the day he was take from her and her dad she would come for him. However, this is not always the case. I never thought about my character wanting to achieve anything beyond what the plot was.
While my character’s had other things they wanted to achieve they were never really seen or talked about. Being plot focus, everything my characters goals were plot related instead of interest or desires. I can go back through their profiles and fine I actually gave them goals, but I never realized it. When started to figure this out, I would change it to give my characters personal goals and story goals so I could keep them separate. I don’t really do this, anymore because I get it now. However, if it helps you, give your character a personal goal and story goal so you can keep character and plot clear. Let’s move onto motivation.
Character motivation is the reason why a character decides
to act one way or another, the reasons behind
the choices that they make. Yahoo Answers.
One quick question, do you see why this topic is perfect to wrap up this series with? I love the definition for character motivations. I am not sure I could have said it better. Character goal and motivations are two different things, but are linked, because the goal is what they want and motivation is why they want it.
Let me give you my motivations my lead character in Seeing Through the Veil, Kiana. Her goal is to get away from her over religious stepmother, and plans to save as much money she can to run away. I just gave you, Kiana’s goal and her motivation, did you catch it? Her goal is to get away from her stepmother by running away when she has enough money. Why she wants to, is because she is over religious. It is only a hint at why she wants. Without going deep into this, Kiana and her stepmother Valerie are at odds over this. Val wants Kiana to accept her beliefs and Kiana this beliefs as full of hate then love.
I am happy I realized I was going to leave this out, is because everything we have covered in this series, helps you figure what your character goals and motivations are. Something in your characters backstory leads to goal, and the reason behind them. Personality, that is effect by backstory also leads to how they will carry out those goals. A character who is being controlled by their parents who are living through their kids to accomplish what they wished they did, can give the character motivation to achieve the goal. If they are very close to the parent and want to make them happy. Especially, if the parent only gives them attention when they go along with what the parent wants for them. Here is an example:
Jenna wants to be social worker, because she wants to help people, because that is what her father did before he died of cancer. Her mother, Liz, who wanted to be an actress and was good but parents didn’t think it was a viable career path persuaded her to go to college to be come a lawyer. Liz, has been steering Jenna to get involved in theatre since she was five. Picked up and move to LA so she could take her to auditions and even got some commercials and guest roles on some Television shows. Now in high school, Jenna enjoys acting but not what she wants to do any more and has felt this way for a long time, but never told her mother because she knows how much it means to her. Finally, she tells her she is done acting. Liz and Jenna get into an argument over it, and Jenna follows through and stops acting. However, Liz stops paying attention to her. Their close relationship becomes distant. Wanting her mothers approval and is brings up trying out for the school play of The Odd Couple. Her mother takes interest in her again.
You can switch it around and have Jenna and Liz not have a close relationship, and when Liz tries to get Jenna to follow her dreams instead of what Jenna wants they cause arguments. Another if, Jenna is more introverted then extrovert could just do what her mother says because she doesn’t want to cause problems. The more you know about your characters, the easier it is to figure out what they want and why they want it.
Sometimes, you can know this all and still not know your characters motivations and goals. Natalie my other protagonist in Seeing Through the Veil, who is Kiana’s sister. I didn’t really know what her motivations and goals are. Now that I have written the first draft, I grasps her motivations better. Sometimes you have to write and see how things play out to figure it out. Oh, you want to know Natalie’s motivations and goal? Sorry, can’t. They a huge spoiler in the book, same reason why I didn’t go into more details on Kiana’s objection to Val’s belief. It goes deeper into a big spoiler for her.
I hope this post on motivations and goals helped, if you want to know more about it google it or go to amazon and search for books on character motivations. There a many books on the topic, oh wait I did it for you. Amazon Character Motivations Search. Check back on Monday for my weekly writing wrap-up. Next week, I will conclude this series with a wrap-up and hopefully, by then I will know the next topic we will cover. I have a few ideas so I need to narrow it down. Have good rest of the week, both writing and not.