Thursday, January 10, 2008

She did what?---Character motivation

I read something this morning about TV storylines that I found very helpful. The writer was discussing a primetime drama that I've never watched. She found herself hooked on this show in a short amount of time so naturally, as a writer, she tried to figure out why. The drama is full of characters--some endearing, some frustrated, some downright evil. Each character had something in common.

These characters--whether good or bad--have everything to lose. The show's writers have put each character into a situation where everything is at stake for them. Regardless of what we write we can learn a lot from that.

Is there enough at stake for my characters to compel the reader to keep going? I can always tell if I am into a good story because I begin to have physical reactions to what the character is going through. I will get tense as she tries to make a decision that will affect the rest of her life. My palms get sweaty and my heart rate increases as she speeds up to outrace the car behind her. I hold my breath as she slowly pushes open the door to find out the source of the noise she heard in the night.

Too often I read books where nothing happens. Not enough is at stake for the character. Not her marriage. Not her child's health. Not her personal safety. Not even her own happiness or well being. Yet the writer expects me to care enough to read all the way to the end.

Examine what you're writing today. Not every book involves car chases or boogeymen hiding in closets. That would be ridiculous to most plots. But something must be at stake at all times. Even something subtle, but it must be enough to keep the reader going.

I'll discuss more about character motivation in later posts. Stay tuned. If you'd like to see something discussed, give me a shout. Let me know if you've read something lately or seen something on TV that drew you in and you weren't even sure why. That's good writing, my friend.

Have a great writing--and reading--day.

2 comments:

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