Character Motivation #amwriting

Backstory Isn’t’ Enough

Don’t’ get me wrong. I’m not the master of the backstory, but I do know what not to do.  Too much too soon will have your readers dropping the book like a hot potato. Using backstory to show motivation is a delicate process. It should be spoon fed a few sentences at a time during dialogue, inner thoughts, etc.

Psychology Deepens the Backstory

I would like to claim that I understand the human mind completely, but I don’t. To write about people we need insight. Where do we find it? What do we share? I’m beginning to think I need to take Psych 101. But until then . . .

My scars came from my past. I still interact with many of the people that put them there. So what does that mean? It means I can use this.

For example:

MC1 was a victim of a practical joke back in high school which left a scar that has never faded. In fact, it festered. At their school reunion MC1 faces the instigator of the prank. Still angry and hurt, MC1 has a visceral reaction, then as MC1 thinks things through decides to play the same trick on the prankster.

Not letting the past go is logical to the reader and it leads to resentment which leads to revenge and the eventual decision to act out. Whether a person agrees with the choices or not, each step is easily understood and identified with.

I think we should add some more fuel. Let’s say the accused prankster was the actual target the first time around and the victim’s best friend was the real prankster. Why? Well, in my head the best friend has a crush on MC1 and was trying to knock a wedge between accused prankster and MC1.

And it backfired. Oh, and worked. They even got married and have a kid or two.

Going Deeper

Rarely does anyone have only one goal in life. So it follows that our major characters also have goals that result in conflicting needs. The deeper the writer understands human nature the deeper the characterization will be, adding infinite possibilities.

So MC1 and MC1’s spouse go to the reunion. How will that work? We have MC1 who wants revenge and make his spouse happy. We have MC1’s spouse who want to stop MC1, wants to confess to MC1 and wants accused prankster to leave the reunion. And the accused prankster refusing to go and constantly following MC1 because she has something on her mind.

Is there conflict? Are the motivations of the major characters clear? Will any of this work? Ha, I don’t know but this is fun. No matter what happens it’s going to be chaotic.

Characters need goals and motivation. Readers need an emotional link to the major characters. By understanding the logic and deepening their needs we create conflict, multiple story arcs, and the reader relates to all of them.

Villains—my Achilles’ heel

For me I don’t understand how someone can out right and with complete forethought hurt another human being. That is why I need Psych 101. Outlining it I can do, but until I can express a believable, not cheesy, motivator for evil doers I’ll never write a really great story.

I know the trick is to think of them as misunderstood characters that feel they are doing the right thing. Tell that to a vampire’s dinner, or a violent crime victim.3069040

Yeah, right. Easier said than done. If you have any suggestions that may make this easier on me please share. I really could use some help.


14 responses to “Character Motivation #amwriting

  1. Wow, a really great post. I don’t know why but I find writing the villians the easiest part for me. My brain always ges dark when I write.

  2. Really great information, Em. Like the previous commenter, I love to write villains and work out what happened in their past to turn them onto a dark path. People are a sum of their experiences. If their experiences are ugly, they have more chance of turning ugly, too.

    Oh, was really thrilled to see you comment on my blog post. **wink, wink** Please email me, I can’t find your email address anywhere.

  3. Great post, EM. Lots to think about. I would love to write using the Villain’s POV on of these fine days. Should be fun exploring his/her motivation.

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  6. Hi colleagues, its great paragraph regarding teachingand entirely defined, keep it up all the time.

  7. Thanks for passing the word. 🙂

  8. Sorry, don’t have a clue about it. I suggest Googling it. Someone else must have shared.

    Good Luck 🙂

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