Saturday, August 24, 2013

Writing Tip #22/100 Motives

The next five writing tips are all going to be about motive. "Five tips?" you ask. "Seriously? Is motive really that important?" Actually, you wouldn't ask that, because you know motives are hugely important. How important?

Consider these stories.

What if Hunger Games was a story about a girl who had to kill a bunch of other kids to get everything she ever wanted? Would you still be rooting for her?

What if Harry Potter wanted to kill Voldemort so he could get his name in the paper?

What if Cinderella wanted to get the prince to make her sisters cry?

A lot of times when I talk to writers about their story, they tell me what the character is doing. But as soon as I ask "Why?" the character is doing that, they start to stutter.

Ask yourself this about your character in every story you write. What do they want most right now? What has happened in their life to make them want it? What happens if they get it? What happens if they don't?

Going back to Hunger Games, what does Katniss want most when the books starts? To protect her sister.

What happened in her life to make her want that? Her father died and her mother had a breakdown.

What happens if she gets it? Everything is cool.

What happens if she doesn't? Someone will pay.

As a reader, I need to root for your character. The motive is what makes me root for them. I may not root for a girl to kill a bunch of other kids. But I CAN root for her to take care of her little sister.

Can your character's motives change? Tune in tomorrow.:) Good night and good writing!


Jacob Meyers said...

I get what you're saying but I do have a question. Are motives the same as a backstory? I get a backstory can influence a characters motive but I've always thought that most people do things for multiple reasons. Using your example of Harry Potter (as it is the one I know best). Harry didn't start out wanting to kill Voldemort. He only wanted to kill him after he found out that Voldemort killed his parents, attacked him, killed his friend, attacked him again, etc. It wasn't just one thing. It was a unique selection of circumstances that all came together so that only Harry could kill him.

David Glenn said...

I think backstories can influence a character's motives. However they are most likely two different things. For example a character's backstory could be that their parents died before they were of age to their people's standards and their motive could be that they need to find some extended family to take care of them otherwise the government will separate them, or if the world the story is set in is not a very nice place the government could go on and kill orphans either because they view them as an inconvenience on the economics or they have some crazy belief that orphans are better off dead than without parents. Motives can come from outside sources as well as from a character's past. In Brian Jacque's Mattimeo many of the characters who joined up with Matthias had children kidnapped by Slagar. They all had the same motive: Get their children back from Slagar.

Jacob Meyers said...

I just finished the new Case file 13. I would have read it earlier but school as been a beast this year. I loved it. I wish there were more books like it out there. It really fits my personality. I could be a fourth Monsterteer. I was just like your characters when I was younger and I haven't changed much.

Mrgahoolefan said...

You have now officially passed your 100 day mark.