1. Ice
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    Ice Member

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    Motives for the Mastermind Archetype

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Ice, Aug 6, 2009.

    I have this character who I'm beginning to think of in terms of archetype: Mastermind, Master Manipulator, whatever tongue-in-cheek role you want to call him. He's the guy behind the scenes, he may or may not have some sort of upper employer, his motives are never (entirely) clear; simply, he's an enigma. The writer leaks a little information about him over the course of several books or installments.

    The best example I can think of is the G-Man from the Half-Life computer games (shame I can't remember a literary example).

    My question: How much about his motives do I need to know? Let's say it becomes evident that he's trying to destroy a certain faction/sect/society. Do his motives need to be deeper than that?

    He gets little actual screen time.
     
  2. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    So he's a Chessmaster huh? His motives don't necessarily need to be all that deep and mysterious, just powerful enough to make things worth it for him. However, you need to know his motivations inside and out. It's hard enough to write about a genius when you aren't one , let alone try to write one when you don't even know why he's doing what he's doing. Down that path lies wallbangers and fridge logic.
     
  3. Ice
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    Well, they're mysterious for mystery's sake. The whole point is that we the readers don't know enough about him to sate our interest, so we keep turning the pages. Feel free to disagree with this, but you won't change my mind because I'm fascinated by this character, or rather this type of character. :p

    I want the motives to be mysterious. Depth is the problem. Why does he want to eliminate this faction? Is it emotional (does he have a history with the group that's conducive to antagonistic feelings toward it?) or business (eliminating the faction is necessary to advance an even bigger scheme, or maybe he has no scheme but instead has been hired, so to speak, by an organization at least as enigmatic as he is)?

    No, I don't expect responses to that childishly excited brainstorming abomination of a paragraph. I'm still in the pre-outline pondering stage of my WIP so this is as much self-therapy as asking you guys questions. Sorry for the rambling. (And yes, personal editor, every damn word you colored red was absolutely crucial to the concept.)

    Yeah, you're right about motivations.* I worded my first post poorly.* I'm aware that I need to know his motivations like the back of my hand. It's more a question of how deep need be his motivations? That's a hard question for me to wrap my mind around with this sort of character.

    * I am a genius. And who says masterminds need to be geniuses anyway? :p
    * Disclaimer: I word all forum posts poorly. You know, I should probably sig this.

    Also, don't click on the link unless you are in an indestructibly good mood, especially if you value your sanity.
     
  4. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    Most masterminds in fiction that I have seen are extremely intelligent;

    1) Kuze from Ghost in the Shell (or even Project 2501) - Kuze himself was a puppet of another manipulator who believed he was far superior to most people and therefore it was his "right" to manipulate the world from behind the scenes.

    2) Grand Admiral Thrawn - though not a "chessmaster" was certainly a deep thinker. His sole motivation was conquest. He didn't necessarily care about control or money or political gain. His only care in the world was pitting his intellect against the rest of the galaxy - and doing it artfully.
     
  5. Ice
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    Ice Member

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    I know, I know. I was being a jerk.
     
  6. Operaghost
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    Operaghost Contributing Member

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    Why does he actually need a motive? many crimes are classed as being motiveless and with reason, maybe he doesn't realise why he's doing these things, but simply does. think about the explorers who have claimed to climb mountains simply because they are there, maybe the motive can be as simple as that, or maybe its something they fell into through a series of circumstances and never questioned why?
     
  7. seta
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    seta Contributing Member

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    ~jfk
     
  8. CDRW
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    CDRW Contributing Member Contributor

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    Because that's the exact opposite of the chessmaster archetype. They always know where they are going and why, and then they manipulate others into taking them there. There's nothing wrong with him having a simple motive like in your example though, but he's probably going to try to make others think that it's something else.
     
  9. Ice
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    Yeah, you don't come up with an elaborate plan (hey, it even has a name; I so love tvtropes.com) involving manipulation, deception, and all that jazz just because.

    Can't say I know from experience, though.
     
  10. CharlieVer
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    CharlieVer New Member Contributor

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    Why am I picturing Dr. Evil from that Michael Myers movie, whose goal was to get "one... MILLION... DOLLARS! AHAHAHAHAHA!" ?

    Charlie
     
  11. Kas
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    His motive can simply be to prove he can. Guys like him always want to take it a step further. Do the impossible. It is all egotistical. Your character just has a huge ego that needs constant feeding, and that can be enough.

    The problem is sentence #2 up there. Once he achieves his goal, he will always move on to something else even more challenging. He will never be satisfied, because it is the challenge that gives his life meaning.

    Perhaps he develops a taste for cruelty, becomes somewhat sadistic. . That's up to you. His personality could go in several different directions. . But he won't stop until he is stopped by someone else. . . or until he ascends to godhood or something.:p

    This also has the benefit of being mysterious. The reader won't know just why exactly he's doing all this stuff. . . until events come to the boiling point.

    If you're not sure about the realism. . . I've basically just described myself (minus the sadistic bit). I've done a lot just to prove I can.

    Hope that helps.
     
  12. Ice
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    Have to catch a train, but curse you Kas for making me rethink so much. I'm trying to design his methods so that they're affected by his motives, so throwing in "egomaniacal" (which I guess I somehow overlooked) obviously spices things up and saps a little of his caution. (Maybe leading to errors due to occasionally reckless overconfidence? I have a lot to think about. :))

    Duh!
     

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