Things I Learned While Attending My First Writing Conference, Part 5

This week’s post covers Character Motivation and many aspects associated with author choices in writing and character choices within the story.

  1. First off, the author should consciously know the character’s motivation. (That is to say, you need to make the decision of what motivates a certain character.)
    1. The character either knows what they want and runs after it or has no idea and uses the story to figure it out. As the author you must decide which of these strategies best fits.
  2. Make your reader feel something for your MC within the first 3 pages, get them emotionally invested early.
    1. Tap back into uncontrolled feelings. While in real life we–as adults–are expected to control our emotions (to some degree) in writing it’s important to know that the characters feel something. Their emotions do not have to be conveyed physically, as in slapping someone or weeping uncontrollably, but if internally, these emotions still must be expressed either in physical reactions, like heart rate and sweat, or in the brain (as in thoughts).
      1. It was said at the conference that every emotion you feel you’ve felt by age 8!
  3. Character Power: A character’s foundational trait, as in being funny, being an a-hole, or using their professional position to achieve their goals.
    1. When and how characters uses their power “tells” you a lot about the characters themselves.
    2. When a character refuses to use their power also tells a lot. Showing restraint in certain situations where previously a character would have overreacted is a good way to show character growth.
  4. Current cultural context can add motivation.
    1. Beliefs comprised of someone’s region or time frame will affect not only what they want, but how they go about getting it. Keep in mind the historical aspects surrounding your characters (if such things apply).
      1. A character’s personal history, ethnicity, and religious background will add depth to a character’s motivation.
        1. Someone’s personal code of morality will affect how they approach situations and how they react to them.
  5. Everything you don’t know is a liability. As the author you are in control of what happens. The more you learn about your characters and the world which surrounds them the better you can control not only the characters’ motivation, but the pace and excitement of your story.

So how do you go about crafting character motivation?


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