So you’re working on a shiny new project. Whether you’re a plotter or a pantser, you need a place to start. For some it could be a character or a scene. Or an entire outline.
Usually, I start by writing a query blurb. You know, a couple of paragraphs that resemble a query. I cannot outline to save my life. Then I always struggle to move forward.
Thinking about what motivates my characters often helps me figure out what they do, when they do it, and why they do it.
Motivation: (from Wikipedia) Motivation is a psychological feature that arouses an organism to act towards a desired goal and elicits, controls, and sustains certain goal directed behaviors.
So what motivates your character(s)? And how does that help you plot?
Some examples of motivation include popularity, wealth, happiness, security, fear, family, hope, respect, revenge, grief. I’m sure you can think of more!
Can you think of some things that might happen to your character if they are motivated by one of these? Clearly different motivations are going to bring about completely different plot lines. You might even play with different scenarios based on changing motivations. How do competing motivations (from other characters) impact the plot?
When you’re thinking about character traits, include motivation as one of your brainstorm pieces. What motivates your character?—it also helps with back story.
Last spring I took Laurie Schnebly Cambell’s Plotting via Motivation class – if you’re interested, she’s running it again in a few weeks (http://www.writeruniv.com/plotting-via-motivation/). I have a shiny new project that I plotted with the help of Laurie’s class last spring…I just haven’t written it yet.
What do you think? Is character motivation a good way to craft plot?