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How To Figure Out Character Motivations (1 Viewer)

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AndreaStory90

Senior Member
hey folks, i was just wondering how do you figure out characters' Motivations? seem to be a bit stuck on this at the moment.
 

Taylor

Staff member
Global Moderator
hey folks, i was just wondering how do you figure out characters' Motivations? seem to be a bit stuck on this at the moment.

I think of real life people I know, or real life people I have researched. What drives them? And once I create characters their drive has to tie into the plot and theme.

If you are stuck, try thinking of what motivations they would need to fulfill your plot line. Can you share anything about your story? Maybe we can help.
 
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TheMightyAz

Mentor
It depends on what problems/hurdles you present them with. All you need is a character that needs to get to (c) but in doing so, has to get through (a) and (b). As long as you've got (c) in mind, (a) and (b) should present themselves as you write.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
I start with a character worksheet. I write out their description (obviously), what sort of clothes they wear, history, and most importantly their drivers - what’s important to them, what they’re afraid of, what their goals are. That’s how I get to know them.
 

Llyralen

Senior Member
hey folks, i was just wondering how do you figure out characters' Motivations? seem to be a bit stuck on this at the moment.

Are you at the beginning of your book? Do you know the plot? Or maybe you have a world built?
What themes do you like to read about? Redemption, forgiveness, betrayal, compassion, revenge, problem-solving? There are a bunch of others. Do you want romance in your story? Do you want adventure?
 

ironpony

Senior Member
I would say start with the theme, and whatever you want to happen to make the best point of your theme, have your characters act in a way, in which they will make those decisions to make the theme most effective.
 

K.S. Crooks

Senior Member
What is their overall goal. Then I go to what is the best way for them to achieve their goal vs the most likely way they will go about it. What are the consequences if they succeed or if they fail. I consider who or what is working in their favor and against them. Sometimes I make it that the characters doesn't know what's for their own good, so their motivation is actually not their best option.
 

JJBuchholz

Senior Member
I think of real life people I know, or real life people I have researched. What drives them? And once I create
characters their drive has to tie into the plot and theme.

I do that as well, and I also incorporate some of myself into certain characters, and use them to show scenarios of what I could do/could
be in a situation, as well as explore options I wouldn't normally think about. I let my characters explore the 'what ifs' and the human
element of everything, which also helps to give me insight from a different perspective.

-JJB
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
Most people's motivation is self interest, so what do they think is in their interest? To keep that lovely man hanging about? To get that bastard out the door? to be rich and not have to worry about money? To be poor and not have to worry about money?

If you know how they look at the world you know what they regard as being in their interest, and that will be what motivates them, but try and be honest about it. For example, they are not a hero because it is the right thing to do and they are good people, but because they are not very nice people who need to have people looking up to them as a hero. Much more believable and interesting on the whole.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
Motivations, life choices, and goals often come from the past. What were they missing in their childhood? An unstable childhood may drive some to seek security. Poverty in their past will drive them into a profitable career. Lack of affection could lead some into multiple relationships. Etc.

write up your character’s past on your worksheet and go from there.
 

Ralph Rotten

Staff member
Mentor
hey folks, i was just wondering how do you figure out characters' Motivations? seem to be a bit stuck on this at the moment.


For me, a lot of it has to do with simply asking myself "Would this character actually do this?"
I try to put myself in their shoes and imagine that if I were them, what would I do at that point in the story.
I also try to not assume that every character in the group will be interested in whatever quest the hero is on.
Everybody has their own agenda...and they do not always line up with the story.
I also talk thru my dialog as I am building a scene, so I can hear what it sounds like before I write it.

It helps if you base characters on real people or characters you have seen. This solidifies them. Real people come with values of their own so you can predict what they would do in a given situation.
 

TheMightyAz

Mentor
If you're stuck, reverse the process. Consider the story first and then ask yourself what traits the character needs to get through the story. Once you've done that, adjust some of those characteristics to add a little bit of conflict.

At some point my character has to rescue a young child from a burning building.
My character used to be a fireman.

At some point my character has to rescue a young child from a burning building
My character is a father.

At some point my character has to rescue a young child from a burning building
My character feels he needs to rescue the child because he lost a child of his own

At some point my character has to rescue a young child from a burning building
My character hopes that rescuing the child will atone for wrecking a marriage after losing a child.


John, used to be a fireman but quit after his own daughter died in a fire. He couldn't live with himself and eventually the pressure split the family in two. Having lived for 3 years alone, he understands now he should have been stronger. But he wasn't. Would he ever get a chance to pay back for his weakness?

Motive: atonement.
 

JJBuchholz

Senior Member
For me, a lot of it has to do with simply asking myself "Would this character actually do this?" I try to
put myself in their shoes and imagine that if I were them, what would I do at that point in the story. I also try to not assume that
every character in the group will be interested in whatever quest the hero is on. Everybody has their own agenda...and they do not
always line up with the story. I also talk thru my dialog as I am building a scene, so I can hear what it sounds like before I write it.

You do a lot of things I do when it comes to characters and their motivation, and I respect that. Because we are creating these
characters, we have to look at things from their perspective and most definitely put ourselves in their shoes. Visualize them and
their situations and find an answer to their problem that makes the most sense.

-JJB
 

Ralph Rotten

Staff member
Mentor
Putting myself in their shoes has caused many a course change in the story. I have it all planned out and realize that Bob would never do that because...
and the next thing I have to alter things a tad.

Pick a movie star who you identify with the character (or someone you know) and imagine them as your character, solidify their character in your mind.

Characters are everything in a story
The plot is just the stage upon which your actors perform.
 

Olly Buckle

Mentor
Patron
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.
 

indianroads

Staff member
Global Moderator
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.

For me, the key is getting to know my characters before I write them. They live in my head for a long time before they show up on paper. (Perhaps I'm a bit schizophrenic?)
 
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