Wednesday, July 28, 2010


Motivation is one of those things that seems to come to me naturally when I write. I don’t spend a lot of time thinking about the need for a character to be have motivation. When a character does something I just naturally ask why he would do it. This works for me, but I’m not beyond making mistakes. The other day I found myself in a position of having about twenty pages that I could fill with things related to the subplots of my novel. The story is told from Sara’s point of view, so I decided I would have a particular character talk to Sara. The easiest way to introduce conflict into the scene was to have the character complain about her food and that’s the way I wrote it. At this point, the reader knows who the character is, but they know little else. If they knew her, they would know she actually a better person then her husband, but I don’t want the reader to know that yet. The problem is that because she is a good person she wouldn’t complain without cause and yet she has nothing to complain about because you don’t get bad food from Ellen’s café. In other words, she had no motivation to complain about the food, so having her do so could ruin her character.

It’s easy to see that the scene has a problem just by reading it, but talking about character motivation is a way to explain why the scene has a problem. A better solution to my problem may be to have Sara stumble upon something this character is trying to hide. Or maybe we have her asking questions that might make Sara thing that she is trying to do something against a particular person when in fact she’s trying to help them. Later in the novel, when her motives are revealed, the misunderstanding will be explained away and we’ll see that we should have liked this character the whole time, but we don’t want her to be mean just to be mean.