Do you ever ponder about what motivates the characters in your stories?
What I mean by this, is why do characters react a particular way to events around them? For the past I week, I’ve been doing just that. Nutting out the motivations for each of the characters in my new YA novel. I want to understand what makes them tick?
Now I’m not talking just about the protagonist and antagonist – but the side characters. There are many books I’ve read where these chaps are two-dimensional and are there for one purpose – support the protagonist with no life of their own. Boring!!
And that’s not what I want for my story. I want my characters to have something they strive for, whether it’s love, power, wealth, fashion, friendship etc
So, let’s take a girl who was born in poverty and only ever received hand-me-downs her entire life. That is bound to impact anyone!! As a teenager, there are a number of possibilities of what might motivate this girl when she makes decisions, along with how she reacts to different situations. (yes I know this is a cliché, but it works as an example).
– She strives to break out of the poverty and studies really hard – Motivation: not wanting to be helpless
– She enters the world of crime – Motivation: wanting wealth
– She decides to work as a volunteer in a third-world nation – Motivation: wanting to help others better their lives and not suffer like her
– She drops out of school and gets a job to put food on the table for the family – Motivation: food and survival are the motivators here
With such background details, each side character will react differently based on their motivations… Imagine the girl above becoming a successful thief. How would she react each time she sees homeless or starving kids? Sympathetic? Angry?
By understanding character motivations, I hope to drive their reactions to the events of the plot and what happens around them. At least that is the plan!!!
How do you tackle character motivations? Do you create them for each character?