How To Figure Out Character Motivations - Page 3


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Thread: How To Figure Out Character Motivations

  1. #21
    Quote Originally Posted by Olly Buckle View Post
    I keep seeing this thread title and thinking 'Do I really need to?' . There are an awful lot of really good characters who do things without going into why they do it. People say it is to make them believable, but we all know that real people do totally unbelievable things, wilder than anything I feel the need to make up. Sure they have to be driven, but who cares what drives them? It's what they do with it that counts.
    I'm with you on this. I don't think your characters need motives at all. Life is an adventure and many people are lead on adventures they didn't expect and aren't equipped for. Those are the BEST adventures in my opinion. From the basics of 'conflict' it offers many more opportunities than a planned protagonist going through a story he's undertaken purposefully and is well equipped for. Those unforeseen adventures and never before encountered hurdles, are going to change your protagonist in interesting ways.
    Craft / Draft / Graft And Write To Entertain.

  2. #22
    Without motivation, the character doesn't do anything.

    They would sink into a lethargic state, which is exactly what can happen if they character feels powerless to affect the world to achieve their goals.

  3. #23
    Quote Originally Posted by EternalGreen View Post
    Without motivation, the character doesn't do anything.

    They would sink into a lethargic state, which is exactly what can happen if they character feels powerless to affect the world to achieve their goals.
    I can't agree. Anyone with a reasonably active life can suddenly find themselves on an adventure. Frodo didn't expect the adventure to come a calling and neither did Harry Potter. The very reason he's called 'Harry Potter' is because he's your typical 'ordinary' kid drawn into an extraordinary adventure. Arthur Dent, also an ordinary sounding name, just wanted his day to go as normal but it didn't work out that way.
    Craft / Draft / Graft And Write To Entertain.

  4. #24
    Quote Originally Posted by TheMightyAz View Post
    I can't agree. Anyone with a reasonably active life can suddenly find themselves on an adventure. Frodo didn't expect the adventure to come a calling and neither did Harry Potter. The very reason he's called 'Harry Potter' is because he's your typical 'ordinary' kid drawn into an extraordinary adventure. Arthur Dent, also an ordinary sounding name, just wanted his day to go as normal but it didn't work out that way.
    I try to avoid "the plot knows where you live" storytelling.

    And besides, Frodo and Sam want to protect the shire. Otherwise, they wouldn't care that orcs were destroying the world. (At least I think that's how it goes.)

  5. #25
    Quote Originally Posted by EternalGreen View Post
    I try to avoid "the plot knows where you live" storytelling.

    And besides, Frodo and Sam want to protect the shire. Otherwise, they wouldn't care that orcs were destroying the world. (At least I think that's how it goes.)
    The plot DOES know where you live. Why avoid it? I walk out of my house to go to the corner shop. On turning the corner, I collide with a young woman, knocking her handbag out of her hand. It spills on the floor. I nervously apologise, gather her things quickly into the handbag and give it to her. She smiles quickly, turns and leaves. Flustered, I pause for a moment, watching her disappear around a corner. Just before I continue on, I see a set of keys on the floor. Grabbing them, I pursue the young lady and as I round the corner, see her bundled into a limousine by two hefty looking chaps. I'm not the adventurous type and certainly not capable of taking on the two gorillas so ease back from the problem. The trouble is, I've still got the keys and there, written in clear view, is the number of her house. Now I have two choices: Do I remain ordinary and carry on as normal, or do I decide to write a story?

    I go to her house and start chapter 2.
    Craft / Draft / Graft And Write To Entertain.

  6. #26
    Quote Originally Posted by TheMightyAz View Post
    The plot DOES know where you live. Why avoid it? I walk out of my house to go to the corner shop. On turning the corner, I collide with a young woman, knocking her handbag out of her hand. It spills on the floor. I nervously apologise, gather her things quickly into the handbag and give it to her. She smiles quickly, turns and leaves. Flustered, I pause for a moment, watching her disappear around a corner. Just before I continue on, I see a set of keys on the floor. Grabbing them, I pursue the young lady and as I round the corner, see her bundled into a limousine by two hefty looking chaps. I'm not the adventurous type and certainly not capable of taking on the two gorillas so ease back from the problem. The trouble is, I've still got the keys and there, written in clear view, is the number of her house. Now I have two choices: Do I remain ordinary and carry on as normal, or do I decide to write a story?

    I go to her house and start chapter 2.
    That's a fine plot, but who is this guy?

    The best books and stories are about the people, not the problems.

    When Luke Skywalker needs stormtroopers to burn down his house and murder his aunt and uncle to send him on his journey, I think that's bad writing.

    (This is arguably a tangent, why does an ostensibly "fun" story have to start with the protagonist's "parents" being brutally murdered? How would the story have been worse if aunt beru and uncle owen were alive and Luke just chose to leave based on his CHARACTER. They way he shakes this off and is jumping for joy by the end of the movie kind of disturbs me. Why is it so common for the "hero's" parents to be murdered?)

    Let me quote Villette, by Charlotte Bronte, regarding someone who doesn't at first want to do something that challenges her:




    One morning, coming on me abruptly, and with thè semblance
    of hurry, she said she found herself placed in a little dilemma ;
    Mr. Wilson, thè English master, had failed to come at his hour;
    she feared he was ili ; thè pupils were waiting in classe ; there
    was no one to give a lesson; should I, for once, object to giving
    a short dictation exercise, just that thè pupils might not ha ve
    it to say they had missed their English lesson?

    “ In classe, Madame? ” I asked.

    “ Yes, in classe: in thè second division.”

    “ Where there are sixty pupils,” said I; for I knew thè
    number, and with my usuai base habit of cowardice I shrank
    into my sloth like a snail into a shell, and alleged incapacity
    and impracticability as a pretext to escape action. If left to
    myself, I should infallibly have let this chance slip. Inadven-
    turous, unstirred by impulses of practical ambition, I was
    capable of sitting twenty years teaching infants thè hornbook,
    tuming silk dresses, and making children’s frocks. Not that
    trae contentment dignified this infatuated resignation : my
    work had neither charm for my taste, nor hold on my interest;
    but it seemed to me a great thing to be without heavy anxiety,
    and relieved from intimate trial : thè negation of severe suffering
    was thè nearest approach to happiness I expected to know*
    Besides, I seemed to hold *two lives—>thè fife of thought, and
    that of reality; and, provided thè former was nourished with
    a sufficiency of thè strange necromantic joys of fancy, thè
    privileges of thè latter might remain limited to daily bread,
    hourly work, and a roof of shelter.

    “ Come,” said Madame, as I stooped more busily than ever
    over thè cutting-out of a child’s pinafore, ” leave that work.”

    “ But Fifine wants it, Madame.”

    " Fifine must want it, then, for I want you"
    And as Madame Beck did really want and was resolved to
    have me—-as she had long been dissatisfied with thè English
    master, with his shortcomings in punctuality, and his careless

    method of tuition—as, too, she did not lack resolution and
    practical activity, whether I lacked them or not—she, without
    more ado, made me relinquish thimble and needle; my hand
    was taken into hers, and I was conducted downstairs. When
    we reached thè carré, a large square hall between thè dwelling-
    house and thè. pensionnat, she paused, dropped my hand,
    faced and scrutinìsed me. I was flushed, and tremulous from
    head to foot: tell it not in Gath, I believe I was crying. In
    fact, thè difficilities before me were far from being wholly
    imaginary ; some of them were real enough ; and not thè least
    substantial lay in my want of mastery over thè medium through
    which I should be obliged to teach. I had, indeed, studied
    French closely since my arrival in Villette; learning its practice
    by day, and its theory in every leisure moment at night, to as
    late an hour as thè rule of thè house would allow candle-light;
    but I was far from yet being able to trust my powers of correct
    oral expression.

    “ Dites donc,” saìd Madame, stemly, “ vous sentez vous
    réellement trop faible ? ”

    I might have said “ Yes,” and gone back to nursery obscurity,
    and there, perhaps, mouldered for thè rest of my life; but
    looking up at Madame, I saw in her countenance a something
    that made me think twice ere I decided. At that instant she
    did not wear a woman’s aspect, but rather a man’s. Power of
    a particular kind strongly limned itself in all her traits, and
    that power was not my kind of power: neither sympathy, nor
    congenialìty, nor submission, were thè emotions it awakened.
    I stood—not soothed, nor won, nor overwhelmed. It seemed
    as if a challenge of strength between opposing gifts was given,
    and I suddenly felt all thè dishonour of my diffidence, all thè
    pusillanimity of my slackness to aspire.


    " Will you,” she said, “ go backward or forward? ” indicating
    with her hand, first, thè smail door*of communication with thè
    dwelling-house, and then thè great doublé portals of thè classes
    or schoolrooms.

    “ En avant,” I said.





    Isn't this so much better than: "Madam Beck said she would fire me if I didn't do it"?

  7. #27
    Quote Originally Posted by EternalGreen View Post
    Without motivation, the character doesn't do anything.
    Quote Originally Posted by TheMightyAz View Post
    I can't agree. Anyone with a reasonably active life can suddenly find themselves on an adventure.
    I think both arguments warrant possibilities. Motivation clearly is key to do things and get involved in a possible course of action, or
    even an adventure of sorts. It's hard to do or undertake something if one is not properly motivated to do so.

    That being said, there is also the avenue of getting drawn into something you end up wanting to do, or an adventure per se by people
    around you. This could mean friends, family, or even an acquaintance.

    I've had days where I've either planned an adventure of my own making, or woken up one day and said to myself, "It's a nice day to go
    and do (insert thing here)". I've also had days where I didn't plan on doing anything worth mentioning, when someone called me and
    asked if I'd like to join them in going somewhere or doing something and it turned out to be an interesting outing.

    I believe that if your main character/protagonist isn't going to do something on his or her own, this is the reason why we've included
    a supporting cast. Use lesser characters to spark an adventure, or tell a different kind of story that involves the protagonist, but is told
    from another character's point of view.

    -JJB
    ​"Strong convictions precede great actions....."

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  8. #28
    Quote Originally Posted by EternalGreen View Post
    That's a fine plot, but who is this guy?

    The best books and stories are about the people, not the problems.

    When Luke Skywalker needs stormtroopers to burn down his house and murder his aunt and uncle to send him on his journey, I think that's bad writing.
    Under the circumstances, 'who is this guy?' seem arbitrary and somewhat pedantic. We're talking about adventure and how it begins. I could have easily mentioned who he was before I stuck that simple scene down. He's an ordinary guy, soon to be on an adventure. That adventure will build him into an interesting character.

    The more I think about this subject, the more I realise the majority of stories (at least 80%) start with your ordinary person, leading an ordinary life. It's only really characters such as Sherlock Holmes or James Bond that have adventure because of their chosen profession. The best stories are accidental heroes. The reader can relate to them much easier and regard them vicariously because of that. 'This could be me!' in this story.

    But, as someone has already said, both are viable options. Again, there is no set rule, and for some reason I see more and more threads that attempt to guide people down what is considered the 'right' path, which in actual fact is really the 'limiting' path.

    My advice would be: Nothing is off the table. Do whatever pleases you. Stop overthinking the process.
    Craft / Draft / Graft And Write To Entertain.

  9. #29
    Quote Originally Posted by Olly Buckle View Post
    I keep seeing this thread title and thinking 'Do I really need to?' . There are an awful lot of really good characters who do things without going into why they do it. People say it is to make them believable, but we all know that real people do totally unbelievable things, wilder than anything I feel the need to make up. Sure they have to be driven, but who cares what drives them? It's what they do with it that counts.
    Personally I find that whole Charlotte Bronte thing a boring and unlikely distraction, does anyone really go on like that in their head? I suppose so, but 'Do I want to spend time reading about it?' That is a whole different question.
    Can you imagine James Bond spending half a page deliberating about his motivations and capabilities? He would be dead on page two.

    Yes, Holmes has his 'black dogs', and Arthur Dent muses about life the universe and everything, but that is about the long and the short of it, they don't go into the fine detail.

    It can be done, 'The girl on the train' is all about some loser agonising over stuff, but it is not my sort of writing, and barely my sort of reading. I would much rather something happened, and on the whole most people can understand why so and so would do that sort of thing, or think they can.

    Yes, it needs some sort of motivation, we have to save the world, rescue our friends, or get out of prison and take our revenge, but that is enough, I don't need discussion of whether the world is worth saving, if my friends are really my friends, or whether it would not be more Christian to turn the other cheek rather than seek revenge. Let's take all that as read and get on with the action.
    Hidden Content

    A whole swathe of entertainment, all sorts of lengths, all sorts of stories, all with that 'Olly' twist.

  10. #30
    I just believe that action and contemplation should be fused together to build strong characters.

    "Lucy, I need you to be the teacher for this class." ( or "Lucy, je besoin tu au sont la professeur." However they say it; that's probably wrong. I apologize for the grammar.)

    "Bien." (good)

    ^That's a pretty bland exchange and wouldn't have made the novel famous.

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