Finding Character Motivation

Having an interesting, believable character is crucial to a good story. But it isn’t enough to make a story. Finding character motivation is what makes a story.

In creating a character the writer creates the looks, the emotions and the actions. But, if that well crafted character just sits around, a reader will wander away in a few pages. The character must do something meaningful.

People do not go rushing from place to place just to go rushing. They have reasons to go places, things they want to accomplish on the way and when they get to their destinations.

People do ultimately meaningless things like cleaning house. After all, even though the goal of a clean house can be realized, it is short term as dust and dirt quickly return. The purpose of cleaning is to keep the dust and dirt down to manageable amounts.

This is not a good story.

What is this new character going to do? Why would the character want to do whatever this is? Why does this matter?

Finding character motivation require the writer to answer these questions.

finding character motivation determined plot in "Edwina"

The answers may be as simple as adjusting to a new life normal, growing up a little as it was for Aleta in my book “Edwina”. The answers may be changes in the characters around the main character as it was in “Dora’s Story” where Dora’s purpose was to survive and live her life as a goat while the people who own her change because of her.

Emily from the goat novel Dora's Story
Developing Emily’s character was challenging as she appears as a young girl at the beginning of the story and later as a teenager.

In “The Carduan Chronicles” the characters have many layers of motivations as each must face the loss of their former lives, rebuilding their new lives and learning to survive on a new planet. As I write the Planet Autumn series, each of the main characters must grow up even as they find they are ultimately on a planetary quest.

Notice the use of the word must. This is important for finding character motivation. The character must accomplish or attempt to accomplish some goal that changes who he or she is in some way.

Then the character becomes part of a story. The motivation determines the plot.