Character Motivation – Answering Why

Last week we took an In-depth Look at Character Goals. This week we will examine the why of external and internal goals. At the end of the post you will find application questions to guide you on your way.

 

What is Motivation?

 

Goal and motivation co-exist. You cannot have one without the other. In fact, when defining our goal, motivation is taken into consideration. Motivation is the reason why they take action. It is what drives them.

 

The character wants his goal because of the motivation. It is the why.

 

 

Make It Compelling. Make It Urgent.

 

Motivation is important. It is a major element which helps us to empathize or connect with the character. My motto with motivation is “Make it worse.” This adds to the urgency of the goal.

 

The great thing about the fiction world is you can do what ever you want as long as the reader understands the why.

 

Your character has a loan they cannot repay? Make it worse. A bank will repossess your house and the items you own, but what a merciless loan shark would do can be far worse. Imagine how the plot would be different for each of those scenarios. Which story line will be more compelling to read?

 

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Taking Motivation a Step Further

 

Motivation shouldn’t only drive your overarching goal, it should drive your character’s every decision and action.

 

  • Why did honest Joe steal from the bank? Because his family was being held captive and would be killed if he didn’t.

 

  • Why did the rich heiress choose the even richer rogue instead of the man she loved? Because her family was in financial ruin and her little sister would not be able to receive treatment without his infuse of money.

 

Give a reason which will make your characters willing to risk anything and everything to achieve their goal. Give them no other choice. A weak motivation leads to a weak story.

 

One Last Tip

Character motivation needs to match your actual character. Make it possible. Your story can be wildly crazy and believable as long as you have the right motivation.

 

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Would a Union woman cut off her hair, pretend to be a mute boy in a Confederate prisoner camp, and secretly help Confederate men to escape? (If you are a history buff at all, you can imagine the risks that woman is taking. Doing so is completely against her best interest.)

 

If you give her the right motivation, it could be a completely believable story.

 

Application Questions:

  • What is your character’s goal?
  • What is their motivation?
  • How can you make it worse?
  • Is your motivation believable for the character? Would they really make that choice?
  • Do your characters have a purpose that moves them toward their goal for the scene you have created?

 

Share some of your answers in the comments below. I would love to hear your thoughts. Are there any other guiding questions you would add?

 

May God bless your journey to follow “The Write Call”,

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What is GMC?

The first step to developing a novel beyond the initial concept is to develop your GMC. If you are a newbie like me, you might not know what those three letters represent. Let me share what I have learned.

What is GMC?

GMC stands for Goal, Motivation, and Conflict. These three concepts are developed around your individual characters.

  • Goal – What does your character want? What is the reason they take action?
  • Motivation – What is driving them to achieve their goal?
  • Conflict – Why can’t they have what they want? What is preventing them from learning their life lesson?

Each character you develop will have their own external and internal GMCs. Just in case those old Literature & Language classes are fuzzy in your memory, external means you can touch it or achieve it without emotion, while internal revolves around the emotional.

Here is an example of Little Red Riding Hood’s external and internal GMC:

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Debra Dixon does a fantastic job of explaining each aspect in her book Goal, Motivation, & Conflict. In fact her book was so useful, I have included it and links to purchase it on The Write Resources page.

Over the next few weeks I will be using what I have learned from her book to explore more about GMC, but for now, why don’t you try your hand at GMC?

Today’s Challenge:

Take your favorite fairy tale character or even your own made up character and share their GMC. You can copy and paste the following into the comments if need be:

Character:

  • External Goal – 
  • External Motivation –
  • External Conflict –
  • Internal  Goal –
  • Internal Motivation –
  • Internal Conflict –

 

May God lead your writing,

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