1. morphghost
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    morphghost New Member

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    Character With No Motives?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by morphghost, Mar 20, 2016.

    I have a real life enemy who hates me for no known reason. Many people including myself have asked her why she hates me and wants to see me and only me miserable and her reply is always "because I have no real reason. I just love seeing him miserable." Knowing this has given me the idea of an antagonist. The problem I encountered when developing this character and her hatred for the protagonist is that she has no actual motive as to why she targets this specific person and why she aims to make his life truly miserable. I know (from personal experience) that such a person is called a bully and bullies do have motives behind their dominance of power. Regardless, the real life person and her fictional counterpart are similar in having "no real reason" to hate this particular person.

    In contrast, I had a discussion with my writing mentor and she said that all characters must have a "why" that drives their every action in the story. I wasn't able to ask her if some real life situations, such as a person with no real motive, can be included in the novel without problems. Ergo my question.

    Can a character, even a main character, have absolutely no reason or motive behind what they do and the story remains sensible and comprehensible?
     
  2. NomNomKing123
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    NomNomKing123 New Member

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    I think a character can have no motives. Whether the fictional character's motives are entirely nonexistent, or if they just aren't told to the reader makes a difference. If i were reading a story like this i would think that the character may be insane, have some mental problem or issues in their past. I can't really think of many people like this, who are cruel or hate someone for NO reason at all. Every case i can think of the person has some hidden reasons or they are just plain crazy.

    If you haven't read/watched George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones series, this will be of no use to you. In the story, a character named Ramsay is incredibly cruel some people for no apparent reason, aside from him obviously being a sadistic freak who tortures people beyond recognition and treats them like animals. (He also likes raping people)

    I think in this story it could be possible to have the person hate another for no reason, however there would probably be questions as to why. If the "bully" is clearly not insane, there may be useless theories among readers that the "bully" has a secret motive, or something to that effect.
    In my own WIP story, most of my antagonists have some sort of motive, whether it be out of hatred, out of love, or even for political purposes.

    In short i think it is perfectly fine to have an antagonist with no motives at all. (not even unknown/secret motives) However, there could be issues, particularly with the resolution of the story. It would essentially eliminate a final confrontation between the Pro and Antagonist, because they would have nothing to talk about.
    For example, if the antagonist is about to die or is confronted by the protagonist, what will s/he tell the protagonist? If there is no reason behind the motives, i can see a plot hole forming.
     
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  3. morphghost
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    morphghost New Member

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    Much like the real life enemy doesn't want me to get fired because she would then have no way of having that satisfaction of seeing me so miserable, the character doesn't want the protagonist dead for the same reason: the antagonist wants to see the pro live a miserable life to the point the pro begs for death and the antagonist deprives them of such wishes. (Probably the cruelest thing a person can do to another, in my opinion.) I do see the ultimate climax having the protagonist kill himself along with the antagonist as somewhat of an equal justice. While the antagonist doesn't want the protagonist dead for obvious reasons, the protagonist wants to rid their life of the antagonist but has decided to go down with her since she essentially destroyed his life and his will to live. The only redemption he has beside death is to kill her along with himself.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    I don't agree that your bully has no motive. It's just that the motive may have nothing to do with YOU. If a person gets joy from hurting people, and they look around and randomly pick THAT person, then they have a motive--the motive is the sadism, the joy of hurting a person over a sustained period. The only reason that it has to be a particular person is because they already started "working" on that person, so if they move on to someone else, they'll have to do a bunch of work to hurt them just as much.

    So I don't believe no-motive. I do believe that the motive can be initially impersonal.
     
  5. Oscar Leigh
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    Oscar Leigh Contributing Member

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    There's also quite likely a frustration letting of their own insecurities or pains. It's common among bullies.
     
  6. WriterMMS
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    WriterMMS Member

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    Everyone has a motive for what they do, whether they realize it or not.

    plus what you posted is a motive, she gets off on your suffering.
     
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  7. Red Herring
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    Red Herring Member

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    Your bully has a reason. Either she is unaware of it or she doesn't want to divulge it to anyone. Do you know what goes on in her head? Do you know what she deals with or does beyond your gaze? Probably, No. But the thing this, you as an author know the inner psyche of your character and you know what they are going through or have gone through, you've created them. You should know why they would hate someone. That is if you want your character to feel like a human being.

    Can characters have no motives? Sure. But if you make characters with no motivations then they are no longer human beings, they are just a force of nature like a tornado or hurricane. Well all have reason for doing what we do, whether that reason is known to us or is at a subconscious level. If you want your character to feel believable, memorable or relatable then motivation is the foundation that you must build on.
     
    Last edited: Mar 23, 2016
  8. Wreybies
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    Wreybies The Ops Pops Operations Manager Staff Contest Administrator Supporter Contributor

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    Yup, yup and double yup. Also, just asking this person for an explanation suffers from the "emic-only" kind of data collection error. This is a concept used by sociologists and anthropologists when referring to how we gather data about a person or groups of people. Emic data is what you get when you ask for an answer directly from the subject. Etic data is what you get when you only observe and don't ask. Both kinds of data - when taken alone - suffer from different kinds of drawbacks. Emic-only data suffers from social lying. We lie all the time in ways that we don't really think of as lying. White lies are one kind of social lie. Another is the lie we tell ourselves because we need to perceive ourself in a particular way that may be either individually, socially, or culturally imposed. When doctors and nurses ask patients about medical histories, they get lied to on a constant basis concerning cigarette smoking, alcohol and drug consumption, lots of things. These are also social lies. They all have a reason behind them.

    To echo those above, your bully has a motive. Your bully may not wish to admit it or express it, or may not be able to admit it or express it, but the motive is there.
     
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  9. Sileas
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    I saw/see this with two of my sisters. The older one didn't talk to the younger one for several years, for no apparent reason. She just pretended like the other one didn't exist. My personal theory is that she's projected her hatred of some aspects of herself onto another person. There are 2-3 people out there that she hates for no reason other than this, and it seems to be randomly applied. It's people who take it out on others because of what they see in themselves. You also could consider the fact that hatred is not the opposite of love---it's a deeply twisted form of love. The true opposite of love is indifference. Not sure how that plays into your story, but.... something to think about.

    edit---both me and my younger sister own t-shirts reading "Careful, or you'll end up in my novel."
     
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  10. Jeni
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    Jeni Member

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    I think that misery loves company but even that could be construed as a "motive".
     
  11. KokoN
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    KokoN Active Member

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    I agree with others have said, that everything we do is for a motive. I think that we can see it as being "no motive" when the motive is just "because I want to." Sometimes we just want to do something and we don't really know why--but that's still a motive. So, obviously your bully has a motive for doing what she does, even if she doesn't actually know what it is. She wants to bully you, so she does. There probably is some reason why she likes bullying you, and maybe she secretly knows why and is lying, or maybe she doesn't know. It could be due to literally anything; chemical imbalances in the brain, life experiences, some kind of character flaw in herself, and so on. However, you need to know why your character wants and does what he/she wants and does because you know everything about your characters because you invented them. So even if you don't reveal all your characters motivations to the reader, you still need to know them. Although sometimes characters will reveal their motivations to you as you write them and get inside their heads more.
     
  12. tonguetied
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    tonguetied Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think if I read a book where the motive for the antagonist was never revealed at least at some level, I would be very disappointed and certainly not recommend it to anyone else. I also would try to avoid that author in the future. So my thought is that it is not a good plan for an author to take. Make the motive a deep mystery, provide misdirection and multiple thoughts that don't seem to really work out, etc. but give me something to hash over in my mind.
     
  13. GuardianWynn
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    GuardianWynn Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well, didn't read all the posts.

    I happen to think everything and everyone has a reason behind actions. The falacy I see in the reasoning here is understanding that reason isn't needed for it to exist.

    If you didn't understand why rain fell, doesn't mean it fell without reason.

    I also think it is perfectly fine to include a character with no clear motivation. If done well, the reader may want to try and understand them, which can be a big appeal to a book. Under the whole "less is more advise."

    Personally, the only drawback is it sounds hard, as if you have no clear motivation it might easily seem like they have no character and are doing only what the plot needs. That will kill a story fast/ So it is a style with a high risk and reward.
     

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