Daily Archives: September 1, 2010

Character Motivation

My oldest son used to shower to wake up.  Now he showers to style his hair.  Did I mention he has a girlfriend?

My Dear Daughter began wearing make up the moment she really, really, really liked a boy.

Middle is growing his hair out.  Self expression is big in the third grade and says, “Hey, I’m as cool as you and I refused to cut my hair when Mom wanted me to.”

Youngest, who irrationally cries long and hard at the thought of wearing anything besides swishy pants and a t-shirt, bought three dress shirts during our school shopping endeavor.  Tony Hawk has a lot of pull and I feel like sending him a personal thank you for expanding my son’s wardrobe.

Motivation.  For every action, there is a reason.  If not, go back for a rewrite.  Your characters should never act willy-nilly, but should have some reason that motivates them.

It doesn’t have to be big.  Nor does it have to be life-changing.  But if your MC suddenly starts bathing, there better be a reason for this drastic, albeit fabulous, behavior modification.

Still not convinced?  Why do you shop at a specific grocery store?  Why do you line the shoes up in the coat closet? 

In real life, our every move is molded by our experiences.  Every change in behavior is dictated by a conscious or unconscious decision.  Nothing we do is random.  Even if everything we do seems random. 

Do you know what moves your characters, or did you simply give them a trait that sounded cool?  How can we as writers consciously learn the motives behind the movements?

I bet you’ll think twice the next time you pull on your swishy pants while your Significant Other buckles up his/her khakis.