As writers, we are the puppeteers. We can make our characters do whatever we want. We also know that conflict is the fuel that drives every story. Conflict is so important, it deserves its own blog, so more on that later.
To create conflict, we make our characters run around and do things that will create tension. Right?
Wrong. We shouldn't just push our characters aimlessly into circumstances designed to create conflict for conflict's sake. If our characters aren't properly motivated, any tension coming from plot situations won't ring true. It will feel hollow and false to the reader. And our characters will look stupid stumbling about the story with no real reason to act.
If we don't properly motivate our characters' behaviour, they will seem like wooden puppets being pulled on a string, and acting on a whim. In other words, they won't seem like real people.
Your characters must act like living, breathing people, filled with emotions, doubts, and conflicts. If they don't, the reader won't care about them. And the reader must care about your characters, or they won't finish your book.
Motivation is what drives your characters. A properly motivated character will be believable to the reader. Motivation is the magic that allows your readers to empathize with your characters. Strong motivation will make characters face any challenge you throw at them.
Take The Wizard of Oz, for example. Why did Dorothy stand up to the Wicked Witch of the West, one of the scariest villains ever created? Why didn't she just throw her hands up, grab Toto and live in Munchkinland? She could have, easily.
But she didn't. Why not? Because she was a properly motivated character.
She wanted to go home. Why? Because Auntie Em was sick, and might die. They'd had a horrible argument just before she left, and she felt guilty about it. She loved her Auntie Em.
Facing up to a wicked witch and hundreds of evil flying monkeys is a lot to ask of a teenager. But Dorothy never once backed away from the challenges facing her. She faced every action-packed moment because she had a strong motivation to do it. She was prepared to move heaven and earth to get home. Behind every decision she made and every action she took, there was a strong motivation. Not just an author dreaming up exciting, tension filled scenes.
If you provide a strong enough motivation for your characters, your readers will follow them anywhere.
Are your characters properly motivated to face the wolves growling at their door? Or will they back out of the story and say ,"No, thanks. I think I'll pass."
Next blog - Dialogue