1. Langadune
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    Langadune Member

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    Is curiosty enough?

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Langadune, Jun 15, 2012.

    In my novel, the main character is part of a team trying to unlock/understand and artifact that predates humanity. While I'm still working on a conflict (something to drive the story beyond just the act of discovery) I'm also struggling with character motivation.

    Is simple curiosity enough to drive my MC? More importantly, is it enough to cause the reader to care?

    I didn't want the story to be about a race against time or a fight against political meddling but it's starting to seem like I might need more than scientific discovery to make this story compelling... although I think the mystery I present in the story and it's revelation are interesting.
     
  2. killbill
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    killbill Contributing Member

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    How about the MC's career is at stake if he doesn't unlock the artifact quickly (this can be race against time if you want to and I don't see any harm in that)? Nothing political, just plain old 'you have to perform to hold on to your job' kind of thing.
     
  3. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I assume that if your MC is part of a team, then he's a scientist or archaeologist. The artifact predates humanity. Darn right curiosity is enough! He's got hold of the find of a lifetime. He wouldn't be able to eat or sleep until he'd cracked the mystery.

    One of the reasons I hate books like The Da Vinci Code is that the MC doesn't have a reasonable opportunity to solve the mystery without being chased by everyone from cops to mad albino monks to powerful but corrupt religious orders to betraying friends. Plots like that become utterly preposterous in about half a page, all in an attempt to keep things moving, when all that was really necessary was to let the MC's curiosity carry the weight of the motivation.
     
  4. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Curiosity is the basis of science. It's a powerful drive, to which many devote their lives.

    For a novel, though, you need crises to elevate the tension, to drive plot. If you wish, you could add the threat of a cutoff in funding by backers who can no longer afford to pour money into an endeavor they no longer believe will gain them anything in return.

    You need a sense of urgency in the quest.
     
  5. Lemex
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    Lemex That's Lord Lemex to you. Contributor

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    Yes. I would say it is. H.P. Lovecraft did this all the time, that was one of his tropes, and a lot of modern horror is built on the idea that something simple like curiosity (especially curiosity) can go down dark routs. But the question is really: do you think having some other motive would cheapen your story?

    Honestly, I would say it would. Judging from what you have posted.

    Especially if your character is some sort of academic. And the three things that move those guys are money and love of the subject they are doing. Money does have a part, but it's mostly love of the subject. Very few academics actively try to become famous, especially through some great, world changing idea, because that would be fruitless and naive. Instead academics specialize in a subject that they particularly enjoy, and work in that field. Instead what appeals to academics, or at least the ones I know personally and respect, is making some sort of contribution to their field, and developing our understanding of it. Even if it's in some small way. If it's an artifact that pre-dates humanity then academics would be over it like flies. Not for personal gain exactly, but for the mere fact of studying it and publishing their findings to be per-reviewed.
     
  6. Mokrie Dela
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    Mokrie Dela Member

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    What about a more dynamic driving force? Starts by curiousity, but what about obsession? It starts as "Hmm i wonder..." and eventually it breaks him and he HAS to find it, he loses sleep over the thought of it. who put it there, what's it for etc.

    Then take it further, he's obsessed and it starts affecting the rest of his life, and his judgement, taking bigger and bigger risks, becoming out of touch with reality. perhaps relationships could take the strain. Then he's invested and if he stops now its all for nothing. he HAS to keep searchign for it.


    just an idea :)
     
  7. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    It's good in a character sense, but doesn't push the plot. The obvious resolution to the tension is to turn his back on it all, and you certainly don't want that.
     
  8. bo_7md
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    bo_7md Member

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    You could always have this be the second artifact. The first must explode, disappear or have something mysterious happen to it. This way there is always a sense of mystery and doom looming.
     
  9. Langadune
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    Langadune Member

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    Thanks for the input everyone.

    That's exactly what I'm talking about. I don't want to cheapen the wonder of the situation by having someone plant a bomb that will explode in a few hours. However, I do realize there needs to be tension to drive to story and make the characters grow.

    My MC isn't the original discover but his creative solutions reveal more of the mystery than the standard approaches. I'm thinking maybe he'll be driven by internal conflict within the team and maybe a drive to prove he deserves to be there.
     
  10. Mokrie Dela
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    Mokrie Dela Member

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    True. But that said, to use a gaming analogy, when you're playing a computer game that's hard, and you keep dying, you would be wise to turn it off. But most don't they keep hammering away at it, because there's a goal they want - have - to achieve. I have to disagree with whether it pushes the plot - though it would be contextual - if the protagonist is a quite proud person, and an academic, could he really turn his back on it? Could you turn your back on the greatest discovery of your life? I'll use a writing analogy: You want to be published but you keep getting knocked back. Your confidence dips. Easy solution: walk away, admit defeat. But you want to share your story and others, you want to be published. So you keep trying, you keep going.

    It would depend greatly on the character, the situations and the plot itself, even the writer's ability, but i think it would be a good enough driving force. I've seen films and read books where the driving force is less.
     
  11. Three
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    Three Member

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    For me? YES. But I'm a student of science so... *shrug*
     
  12. ithestargazer
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    ithestargazer Active Member

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    I think curiosity it enough. You can raise the tension and urgency through subplots and techniques like foreshadowing. I agree that forcing 'action' like in The DaVinci Code can be a little cheap but that's not to say you can't have it.

    We're all naturally curious, especially if it's about something we have a passion for. If your character is a scientist/archaeologist (or similar) their curiosity comes from their profession. You could also give your characters a personal reason for their curiosity, like something happening in their past propelling them towards this artifact.
     
  13. MickiMahoney
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    MickiMahoney New Member

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    I faced the same dilemma in the early stages of my novel-in-progress too. MC needed to discover something wonderful, but her curiosity didn't seem to be enough motivation for the action to follow and I didn't want to go the route of a Macguffin-chase, either. (Johnny Hero must find the Macguffin of Power before Doktor X and his gang can unleash its terrible power on the world! But Johnny must also fend-off the sinister Brotherhood of Herp-a-Derp who guard the secret of the Macguffin and are hot on his tail with an army of blah-di-blah-di-blah...) I don't use the term 'Macguffin' disparagingly, by the way; I deeply loved the first two Indiana Jones movies and many other Great-Whatsit-of-Power-type stories, but that just wasn't the direction I wanted to take.

    In my case, I eventually realised that the Big Discovery was just a backdrop. No matter how potentially momentous, all the interesting stuff was in the characters and what I was actually trying to say with the story.

    Is curiosity enough motivation for a scientist character? Absolutely. Enough to rivet the reader to their chair? It depends on the reader and subject-matter, I guess. If this prehistoric artefact is going to revolutionise the world, then it might hold their attention. If it's just going to revolutionise the world of dendrochronology or aboriginal cave-art, then maybe not. Perhaps, the MC is losing his wife through dedication to his work, (a bit clich├ęd, I know,); or maybe he has to screw-over his team-mates/trash a friend's work to get to the bottom of the mystery. Is it worth losing his wife/friends/moral standing over? The artefact is his obsession, but what is he really searching for?
     
  14. nhope
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    nhope Contributing Member Reviewer

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    People are interesting all by themselves. Look around.
     
  15. BFGuru
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    BFGuru Active Member

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    The Source by James Michener sort of did this. Not that it predated humanity, but the research for the sake of research was the driving force. The conflict came from the jumps back into history as those who actually lived at the dig sight through out time had their stories told.

    Take a look at him if you have time to read a rather long tale. I thoroughly enjoyed the novel though.
     
  16. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Curiosity alone, maybe not. But perhaps the if the curiosity were one that eats at the mc's mind. one that he or she cannot ignore, one that unless satisfied will leave the mc as an insane shell of him or herself... Or perhaps, if you want an external motive, make it a big pay out, but as he learns more about the relic he's determined to find it to destroy it. Maybe you could make it a hostage situation. or Maybe his Job is at stake. all are options, but Curiosity is not enough to make the reader care unless it will motivevate the MC at the extreme level :)
     
  17. nephlm
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    nephlm Member

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    Curiosity is enough, but there must be something to keep him from indulging his curiosity calmly and methodically over the next 15 years. Stay away from action if that isn't what you want but I'd look carefully at some form of politicking, but keep it low level, part of everyone's job.

    The dean assigns the superstar he just poached from rival university to also work on the project "collaboratively." Maybe the artifact is what got the superstar to move in the first place. If you can't keep up, or really lead, everyone knows you'll lose the project because the superstar is great at getting grants and the dean likes grants more than he likes to indulge individual faculty.

    When it became clear this project was going to be big, I think various people trying to attach their names to it should happen. When that happens the original scientist/researcher could easily loose control or even access. Even if you choose never to take that control away, having that shadowy threat adds urgency.
     
  18. Cogito
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    Cogito Former Mod, Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Curiosity is enough to motivate a character. But it is a poor choice to drive a plot, because curiosity isn't urgent, even if it is obsessive.
     
  19. Michipanda
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    Michipanda Member

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    I think curiosity could be the hook that draws the MC towards the conflict or even use the MC selfish desires to possess something that could dramatically affect humanity or greatly project his research/project. I find that the best characters are simple ones with a display of strong emotion in a concrete belief/ideal/goal and having said object shaken to its core. Nothing like finding out something "concrete" is just mud and sand.
     
  20. captain kate
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    captain kate Active Member

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    Curiosity can be a part of the novel's plot, but it needs something, like Cognito said, to drive the plot along and cause tension. You could always make is something found and, like been mentioned, have a threatened loss of funding. Or there could be a competing team that wants to steal the information to develop it for themselves.

    Tell me something about your MC? Is he happy? Sad? Smart? Dumb? Prone to anger? Phlegmatic? Character motivation comes from within their own mind and personality. Once you really understand his/her personality, then motivation will come. Does he or she want to preserve it? Does he/she desire to keep it to himself or herself? What does he/she do that gets them into bad situations at times? Bad judgement? Arrogance? What are his/her strengths?

    A good character arc (how they go from A-to-B, which is different in some ways then the plot's A-to-B) needs some sort of weakness/strength combo to deal with, along with some sort of issue to solve, are necessary for the motivations you want. Once you have your story arc planned out, or rolling in your head and you're flexible enough to change as it changes, the character arc will start to come alive and bring those motivations to life.
     

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