1. laeth
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    laeth New Member

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    Can a characters motivation change?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by laeth, Jul 30, 2012.

    Hi guys,

    What are your opinions on a characters primary motovation changing?

    I'm toying with the idea of Character X changing her primary motivation about half way through the story when something dramatic happens which means her motivations moves from a purely selfish one, to something that will help thousands of others.

    Is this something that happens in other novels and works well or is it confusing for the reader?

    Thanks in advance,
    Kyle
     
  2. adampjr
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    adampjr Member

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    Nothing is particularly confusing about that. This happens to people all the time. You'd have to show the change coming about for it to be clear, but the concept in itself is not confusing.
     
  3. ThievingSix
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    ThievingSix Member

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    I've seen it work well, a classic fairytale example would be the huntsmen in snow white who is tasked with killing snow white, but upon seeing her cannot do it and delivers the heart of an animal instead(metaphorical "change of heart").

    Another example would be Oskar Schindler, popularised in the film, Schindler List in which he initially hires Jews to work at his factory as essentially slave labourers and is an avid member of the Nazi party and SS. However he appears to have a change of heart and protects many of his workers from the concentration camps and persecution. Some say he was motivated by money, but regardless of his motivation, he saved the lives of thousands. His change of motivation was leaving the ideals of the Nazi party.
     
  4. laeth
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    laeth New Member

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    Awesome, thanks guys. Much appreciated.
     
  5. GoldenGhost
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    GoldenGhost Contributing Member

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    Ask yourself these questions: Why can't it? Do your motivations change? Your moods? Your ideas of career? What you want in life?


    Why couldn't a character's motivation change? I'd say a character who doesn't think like I do and stays the same throughout the story makes for a rather shallow arc.
     
  6. MeganHeld
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    MeganHeld Senior Member

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    Think about people. People's motivations change all the time. If it happens in a book, nothing different than in real life.
     
  7. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    As long as the character sufficiently changes to justify the shift.

    In ya fiction , I always hated it when a selfish character suddenly became a giving character in order
    to advance the plot.

    I think because the writer assumes that everyone given the right circumstances will change ( a kind of didactic hope ) - but
    you can only change what you will acknowledge , and afterwards, it's a battle not easily won.

    There's a wonderful scene in the 1949 version of Little Women in which the girls give their Christmas goodies to a poor
    family - Elizabeth Taylor playing Amy is dismayed to give up her popovers - but when she feeds the children , lined up
    like birds , popping a small bite in each of there mouths she sings - one for you , one for you and one for me. Watching it
    you can't help but laugh because even though these children are dirt poor and hungry ( practically starving ) Amy can't help
    but pop a piece of popover in her mouth - plus she gets two bites down the line, to the children's one bite!
    She is a giving person - but that selfish vein is still there , it's still a battle.
     
  8. marktx
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    marktx Contributing Member

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    Absolutely! Yes! Yes! Yes!

    Here's one of the key secrets to strong character motivation: Your characters are learning about themselves in the course of the story. Think of your character as someone with different levels.

    (1) On the surface is the way the character presents himself or herself to the world.

    (2) Under this level is the way the character thinks of himself or herself. At this level is what the character thinks they want or need, and the story is set in motion as the character pursues this want or need.

    But under all this is (3) what the character really wants or needs. This is where the character's self-discovery happens. At the beginning of the story, they don't even realize this deeper truth about themselves. In the course of pursuing their perceived need or goal, they discover the real truth about themselves and end up finding meaning they had not perceived before.

    (None of this is my own thinking, by the way. Suggested reading: anything by Robert McKee.)
     
  9. Bagabon
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    Bagabon Banned

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    Haven't read anyone elses replies but I'll answer your question with a question. Do people's motivations change in real life? Yes. So why shouldn't a character in a book? It shows growth in the character as well, and most definitely in the scenario you are describing. Obviously there must be a reason for the character to change their motives, an event or slow progression. People grow up, they learn, they change.
     
  10. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Hi, Kyle!

    You've just stumbled on one of the most important parts of a story: the character arc. It's when the MC goes from A to X and the challenges involved. Sometimes the motivations change, attitudes, even from antagonist to protagonist or the other way around happen.

    Yes, characters do change their motivations during novels. What you describe is called a "transforming" event, which effect the character in life/attitude changing ways. Is it confusing to readers? No. Provided you have a good plot to go with it, it'll work just fine.
     
  11. Darkranger85
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    Darkranger85 Member

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    If it's something that people in real life do, than it certainly can be done in a book.

    In fact this happens all the time in real life, books, movies, etc etc. Han Solo anyone? :)
     
  12. jazzabel
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    jazzabel Contributing Member Contributor

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    As long as you can pull of good writing, there's nothing confusing about that scenario.
     
  13. Lemontine13
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    Lemontine13 Member

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    I think changes in the motivation of a particular character is a very good thing in any piece of writing because in real life, people change their mind all the time. People get hooked on a story 'cause they sympathise with the characters, realistic characters are much easier to sympathise with, so therefore somebody changing their motives could be a very good thing for your story, provided you make sure the storyline, character's personality and the reason for changing their motives make sense. The best characters are as far away from one-dimensional as possible, and throwing in some motive changing will definitely make your character more dynamic :)
     
  14. Holo
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    Holo Senior Member

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    Of course a character's motivations can change. In fact, I prefer to read about characters whose motivations and even overall goals change throughout the story. Not only does it denote character development and growth, but it keeps them from becoming static. It is easy to write about a detective tracking down a criminal, catching him, and saving the day. But it's boring. It is far more interesting to read about a detective tracking down a criminal, discovering something hidden from him, and perhaps even changing sides or changing his target.
     

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