Saturday, January 7, 2012


One of the things that I've really tried to focus on throughout my revisions is motivation. Characters need motivation. This may sound like an obvious rule, but I'm always surprised by the number of manuscripts I read in which the protagonist lacks sufficient reason for their decisions. In order to empathize with a main character, we as readers need to understand why they're doing what they're doing, and whether emotion or logic lies behind the choice.

Here's what I've learned: in general, emotional motivation tends to be stronger than logical motivation. For instance, say your character is trying to save the world. "Trying to save the world" is motivation, but it's not particularly interesting. (I should know. In one of my earlier books, the main character had this exact same the world.) That is, unless there's some emotional component attached. Take, for instance, Harry Potter. Possibly not the best example in the world, but Harry's determination to take down Voldemort certainly has an emotional component: his parents. Voldemort killed his parents and deprived him of a childhood. This motivation is far more empathetic and interesting than a boy who simply wants to do the right thing.

At every moment in the book, your character should want something. Oftentimes a book's main plot might not start until a little ways into the story (i.e., Harry isn't determined to take down Voldemort until about halfway through Sorcerer's Stone). However, even before the character's most pressing goals actually surface, they should desire something at all times. In the beginning of Sorcerer's Stone, Harry wants desperately to escape the Dursleys. This want gives us the opportunity to connect with Harry through similar emotions.

Anyways. Those are my ramblings of the day. Hope everyone's had a great week!


  1. Here is another thing for me to add to my revision list. I already know what several characters want, but it's nice to have this in mind before I rewrite. Thanks, Kate!

  2. So true. That motivation! Sometimes as a writer, I forget that. ;)

  3. I enjoy your ramblings. :) I think motivations are always strongest when they are most primal. In Harry's case, he cared a lot more about saving Ronan and Ginny and Hermione than the world in general, and that's why it rang true.

  4. Good point! Drive keeps the reader invested :)

  5. Motivation is so important! Great post.

  6. Fantastic ramblings :) Weak motivation is horrid. It can make a story fall so flat, especially if the plot depends on the subject of this motivation. Robert McKee has some great advice on this in his book "Story".

    Oh, and since I'm new here - nice blog! I'm pretty much in awe of your publishing achievements already, and with the number of projects you've completed (and are currently tackling). It's nice to meet another teen blogger :) I'm a new follower.