Character goals and motivations

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Character goals and motivations

Post by Sophie on Thu Jun 23, 2016 11:22 am

I was going to ask the question over on the camp chat but it turned out way too long and involved so I decided to ask it here instead.

So I was wondering about the motivations for characters. This is probably the biggest plot hole of all in my book. Everyone surrounding my main character has good motivations for traveling with him but his reason for making the journey is kind of flimsy especially since he's such a reluctant protagonist. But without a solid goal or motivation, his character seems a little erratic since there's no reason for him to act the way he does.

What is everyone else's character goals? What drives your characters forward? What makes them *have* to achieve their goal no matter the cost? How does that shape their personality or character?
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Re: Character goals and motivations

Post by Indigobolt on Thu Jun 23, 2016 11:36 am

Well I'm the definition of a pantser so some of the goals aren't figured out quite yet although since I've been working on my current story for a while, I sort of know most of the answers for once. Some of the answers might be a bit broad (see previous sentence). I should probably mention, the whole story is more urban fantasy so it all happens around a few cities and their surrounding areas.

My MC tends to accidentally fall into troublesome situations a lot as she doesn't want to put up with anyone's BS. Lots of times she reacts before thinking through the consequences. Her minor goals usually are solving other problems/doing her job. Major goals are really surviving from her not thinking and pissing others off.

What drives her forward (and others) is trying to figure out who she pissed off and why they're out to get her. That sort of answers the last question as well. In addition, I'm going to have someone appear to die and that's really going to get some of the characters going. The goals will eventually be more solidified when I get to writing that part.

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Re: Character goals and motivations

Post by Nekron on Thu Jun 23, 2016 1:59 pm

I love this subject! I actually did a small exercise a while ago where I wrote up the motivations/drive of my characters using one word. Because I'm a sucker for conciseness haha.

So far, we've got:
Clewan - curiosity
Daudis - nostalgia
Fhen - fear
Elver - spite
Swift - loneliness
The Firemage - resentment
Ajanouk - destiny
The Else - curiosity

It is intentional that the protagonist and the "antagonist" (loosely speaking) are both driven by the same thing, and they are both very innocent and genuine about it. They are not so different in the end, despite being a somewhat naive, happy-go-lucky young man on one end and an incomprehensible, sentient universe on the other.

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Re: Character goals and motivations

Post by Elowen-Astrid on Thu Jun 23, 2016 4:41 pm

This makes for great procrastination Razz But I think I actually figured out what drives my main characters. At least, the ones that are fleshed out the most.

Olivier: His father has fallen to a strange illness and he suspects there is some sort of foul magic at play since no one of the physician can cure him and there have been strange things going on in the castle. He is blamed for it at first and his mother sends him away, but his sister informs in the situation is getting worse and he sets out to find help. He is acting out of concern for his family and I suppose he also wants to prove magic in general is not bad or evil.

Maerwynn: She is mostly driven by curiosity and the prospect of gathering new knowledge. She also desires to help people and usually acts upon this too. So when she runs into Oliver she decides to help him, at first only for part of the way, but circumstances ensure she stays for the whole journey.

Rainulf: His reasons are his own, but he suspects the illness of the king is caused by some really bad magic or demon. Since he is one of the few with the knowledge to be actually of help he decides to come along. He also wants to keep an eye on his proteges.

Heliarde: She comes along just for the adventure. She has been confined to the mage village and the surrounding wilderness for most of her life and only has been to other villages a few times. Now that she has te chance to actually get out in the world she grasps it with two hands.

Tedwin: He is driven by revenge and is consumed by hatred. He blames mages for the dead of his wife and child and tries to do whatever he can to wipe out magic.
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Re: Character goals and motivations

Post by SerendipitySnape on Fri Jun 24, 2016 5:07 am

Sophie wrote:What is everyone else's character goals? What drives your characters forward? What makes them *have* to achieve their goal no matter the cost? How does that shape their personality or character?

To be honest, I've never really given my character's goals much thought. But after spending some time pondering, I've realized that for me its more of a chicken and an egg issue. Of my three MCs, their motivations (although directed by their individual identities, emotions and history) are purely driven by plot. And yet it turn, even as the plot drives their motivations, their own individual reactions to the plot actually drive the plot forward.

Example A: My dragon-girl, Lyriah escapes the clutches of Evil Wizard #1, and is motivated by the eminent threat he poses to her safety to get as far away as possible. Eventually, once the plot point passes, she continues running with the faint hope that she will be reunited with her family. Her choice to continue the journey is a plot point in it of itself.

My bear-girl, Kiara has a village which is attacked by warrior magicians, and her motivation is also directly plot connected (at first)... get away, find safety, save her family.

Eventually, both of their motivations shift (after their immediate plot-driven needs are met. food. water. shelter. safety) and the theme emerges. Kiara has to choose what she is willing to risk for the greater good, and her moral compass helps direct her motivation to a different variation on the same theme. Family and friendship is the central motivating idea throughout the manuscript, it arose subtly, but clearly as the characters developed and progressed.

Sophie wrote:So I was wondering about the motivations for characters. This is probably the biggest plot hole of all in my book. Everyone surrounding my main character has good motivations for traveling with him but his reason for making the journey is kind of flimsy especially since he's such a reluctant protagonist. But without a solid goal or motivation, his character seems a little erratic since there's no reason for him to act the way he does.

Anyway, my advice for you (hopefully reading about my process helped a bit... but sorry if it didn't make too much sense), is to try and determine why your reluctant protagonist acts the way he does. I think sometimes it might seem as if there's no reason, but it may take some time (a few chapters) to see his true motivation emerge. Maybe he has a backstory that hasn't been revealed yet? Maybe his lack of motivation is a mystery to him as well (and thus a major plot point). Maybe all of the other characters know his "unspoken" motivation for making the journey, and its only the readers who are left out of the loop. To help you figure out what compels him I'd have to know more about his character, and the journey he (and his companions) are traveling on. Feel free to reach out if you need help or just want to discuss!

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Re: Character goals and motivations

Post by Sophie on Wed Jun 29, 2016 10:22 am

SerendipitySnape wrote:Anyway, my advice for you (hopefully reading about my process helped a bit... but sorry if it didn't make too much sense), is to try and determine why your reluctant protagonist acts the way he does. I think sometimes it might seem as if there's no reason, but it may take some time (a few chapters) to see his true motivation emerge. Maybe he has a backstory that hasn't been revealed yet? Maybe his lack of motivation is a mystery to him as well (and thus a major plot point). Maybe all of the other characters know his "unspoken" motivation for making the journey, and its only the readers who are left out of the loop. To help you figure out what compels him I'd have to know more about his character, and the journey he (and his companions) are traveling on. Feel free to reach out if you need help or just want to discuss!

Thank you for this long response! I like that your characters are reactive but still being proactive about their situation. Even though she's just reacting to the plot happening around her (at first), she has very active goals that - it sounds like - drives the story forward. In fact, I think my MC is a little similar - except he's trying to find something (although not very actively), but he doesn't proactively do much because I think the circumstances don't really challenge him enough. Maybe I could look into that more. And thank you for your ideas! I will definitely reach out to you when I've given it more consideration!
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