1. maereth
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    maereth New Member

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    Main Character's Initial Goal

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by maereth, May 8, 2014.

    Hi everyone, I'm new to the forum and I was hoping I could get some advice :)
    I have outlined a story about a young girl who is working in an fbi-like agency and solving a murder mystery with her team. I have planned what kinds of things will happen to her and what she will find, but I'm having doubts as to whether it will all make sense if her only motivation is to do the job well? I have tried different backstories to give her some other motivation but nothing has worked so far. I know this is not very clear, but maybe someone could suggest something? Oh, by the way, it's a YA or NA fiction and I am considering putting some fantasy elements in there, which probably makes the whole story inconsistent and that's why I can't move forward with it. Anyway, any thoughts on the motivation?
    Thanks a lot!
     
  2. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    All motivations are fine, as long as they are realistic and human. So your current motivation for her is no problem, because look around you: so many people are focused on their work, totally career-orientated. But what you must remember to do is to show this motivation to the readers. This could be done by having the character stay at work late, by tired from lack of sleep, etc. Be imaginative. Just remember to show this motivation, because if you don't, she will feel very 2D.

    Also, it would be good if you established a goal for her. Okay, so she wants to do her job well (that's the motivation), but what does she want to gain from that (the end goal)? Fame in her job sector? Money? A promotion? Hoping she'll be noticed by the boss, whom she fancies? Figure this out, and it will ground your character even deeper into that world, and she'll begin to come alive.

    Welcome to the forum, by the way! :D
     
    Last edited: May 8, 2014
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  3. xanadu
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    xanadu Contributing Member Contributor

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    Character goals and motivations are critical to a story. So much so that you don't have a story without them. That's because people relate to people--when we read, we want to connect to the characters, sympathize, empathize, and understand them. We're reading their stories, after all. And while character motivation seems like such a simple thing, it's really a lot more complex (or should be, anyway).

    First of all, scope matters. If this is a short story, then character motivation can and should be simplified. There's just not enough space to do a deep-dive into a character in under 10K words without sacrificing story momentum. For longer works, however, character motivation needs to be much more intricate. That's because your characters are people, and people are much more intricate.

    Very rarely do people know what they really want. We think we do. We make entire life decisions based around what we think we want. Sometimes we're right and sometimes we're wrong, and that's because motivation goes much deeper than "I want a new job" or "I want to find love." We're driven by desires that are a lot harder to put into words, because they're so intangible. We're driven by the need to be accepted (usually by ourselves), by a need for redemption, vengeance, envy, etc. Feelings that aren't black-and-white (it's easy to tell if the character got the job or not...it's harder to tell if she's been redeemed).

    And it's these feelings that drive the conflict of the story, precisely because the characters don't fully understand them. So Mary wants self-acceptance (but she doesn't know it yet). She thinks getting the new job will make her happy, because she thinks her goal is to get a new job. She struggles and fights to get that new job and finally does. But she's not happy, because for whatever reason it doesn't give her the feeling of self-acceptance. She's conflicted. She has to do some soul-searching to figure out why. She (and we, the readers) learn more about what makes her tick deep down. And then she can find a new goal, one much closer to her deep-down goal, and struggle to satisfy it. And on and on until her core goal is satisfied at the end of the story.

    People are walking contradictions, because we think we're satisfying our goals when we're really self-defeating. We're not consistent. We make mistakes. We're illogical ("Why wouldn't you take that job?" "Because I feel like it won't make me happy"). In short, we're human. And our characters are human (for the sake of argument, even animal and alien characters need to be related to). We see ourselves fighting the good fight, vicariously, when we read about other well-developed people.

    All this comes down to the fact that you, the writer, need to understand what these deep goals are for your characters, because only you can decide which outer goals will foil them, which ones will lead them astray, and which ones will ultimately fulfill them. "Do the job well" is a very good outer goal. But why does she want to do the job well? What does she think doing the job well will get her? Validation? Pride? Or maybe something more tangible that can be further explored...like status or recognition. Then you can ask why she wants to elevate her status, and on and on.
     
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  4. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    what's 'NA' stand for?
     
  5. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    I'm just gonna throw out a scenario:

    MC was 6. Home one night with her older 16 year old brother, parents were out. A man breaks in, steals stuff. Brother tries to confront the robber, robber kills brother and escaped. Robber is never caught. Now MC is working with the FBI in a similar case. She doesn't want the family of the kid murdered in the new case to feel empty because the case went cold. She wants to avenge her brother and find justice for this family.

    Most YA books are coming of age stories (Hunger Games, Divergent, TWILIGHT??????, Ranger's Apprentice), so I don't know how you'll do that.
     
  6. maereth
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    maereth New Member

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    That's exactly the kind of scenario I needed. I mean i won't use it because that's not what my story is about but the example helps. And I know they are coming of age stories, but it's just a general idea, I will find a way to make it work :) oh and NA is new adult, 18-30 years. Thanks for the contribution everyone!
     
  7. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    NA would work. Like a new person working for the FBI or something. I don't know how well NA sells, I know Young Adult is the current cash cow it seems, which sucks.
     
  8. Lea`Brooks
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    Lea`Brooks Contributing Member Contributor

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    A teenager working on murder mysteries? I love YA books -- everything I write is YA or NA. But I don't buy a teenager working with an FBI-like agency. I've read YA novels where a teen accidentally finds a dead body then tries to take down the organization that killed the person. But I've never read a YA novel where that was their job. To me, it isn't believable. I'd definitely go NA. It just makes more sense.
     
  9. Ulramar
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    Ulramar Contributing Member Contributor

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    Well maereth could make it NA and have it be the new employees first case.... which relates to an event in their past
     
  10. Mckk
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    Mckk Moderator Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I presume New Adult.
     
  11. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    Just to quibble, "young girl" makes me think of, oh, age six. :) Something to keep in mind if you eventually write a synopsis of this story.
     

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