Thursday, April 4, 2013

Character Development - Day 3: Finding the motivation for your characters

First of all, I am sorry for missing yesterday's post. Things got crazy around here and needless to say, I... oh never mind, you get the idea.
When we were last here, we were focusing our attention on the conflict between your characters. Today we focus on the motivations of your characters. In fact, much of the conflict that you end up creating between your characters will often come from their personal motivations not matching up with each other.

As you consider what motivates your characters, it is crucial that you, once again, return to the real world and think about what motivates most human beings. In all honesty, I do think that this is the one thing most writers fail to do. The motivations of your characters will stem from their personalities and their prior experiences. Something during their early years, created how they act and behave today.

Now, this is where you have to be very careful. I do think that far too many people feel the need to add immense amounts of back story to "justify" why their characters act and behave the way that they do. Unfortunately, this becomes too over-the-top sometimes. Consider these examples:

A heroine doesn't want to become involved in a romantic relationship because...she came from an abusive family, her prior boyfriend was also abusive as well as being an alchoholic...

A hero has immersed himself in his business because his dad was emotionally abusive and trained him that he wasn't worth anything unless he worked.

I think you get the idea here. But let's consider this in the real world. Could these situations have happened and would they motivate a person. Sure. But does it need to be at that level to be a motivation. I know I have a strong work ethic and can tend to be a workaholic, but that isn't because of an abusive childhood. I have always just been pretty business like about things. It's just the way that I am.

To create the motivations for your characters and let the readers know this is what the person is like requires the use of those secondary characters and introspection. No, you don't have to add in those backstory elements. Just toss the reader a few hints every now and then to provide the context.

It is that simple.

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