So you want to give your characters great motives? We have all seen or read about characters who you want scream at for their stupid decisions or pointless actions. Maybe they are too bland or their ultimate quest just doesn’t make sense to an outsider or whatever the reason is they just suck!
If we are honest with ourselves we all know that ideas are easy. They flit in and out of our minds all day long. It is making sense of them that is the tricky part. What makes your idea a good idea? And how do you justify the reasons for what your character does on their journey?
Take my own ideas for example; throughout the day I will jot down numerous strands of inspiration or improvised dialogue. By evening they will have been discarded or changed. What started out as a novel about a girl merely surviving the zombie apocalypse ends up as a pilot episode for a lorry driving female (let’s just call her trucker girl) delivering supplies to outposts across North West England during a virus outbreak only to be raided by a group of bandits.
Now we have a basic plot line but it’s the ability to focus your idea and extend it further that makes a great story. Why does trucker girl deliver supplies across the North potentially risking her own life in the process? It seems pretty dangerous and pointless if people are dying everywhere anyway. There has to be some kind of reason for her seemingly selfless quest or she may as well have just hidden out in a cave during the outbreak. She needs a motive.
In this case we give her a young brother who was evacuated to a camp in the early stages of the outbreak. Her parents are dead, the camps have been overrun and now she has a reason to be on the road searching for him. This gives her a motive. Suddenly we, as the audience, emphasise and understand why she has to keep searching. It gives us a reason to root for her and travel with her on the ultimate epic journey to rescue her brother from the middle of nowhere.
Now think about your own manuscript. How can you give your characters great motives and keep the audience on tenterhooks? What makes your character better than everyone else’s? It might mean adjusting your initial plot slightly or adding in a new character but it will be worth it when you have characters that are true to life and an audience that is rooting for them. Afterall it is utimately your character’s motives that will drive the plot forward and give your a manuscript a sense of direction. TTYL.