1. Gammer

    Gammer Active Member

    Dec 13, 2008
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    Finally Figured Out the Problem

    Discussion in 'Character Development' started by Gammer, Mar 1, 2011.

    Hey all, I've been posting several threads asking for help about this fantasy WIP I have. And I have finally figured out what's been giving me so much trouble and why I keep changing the plot line every couple of days,

    My main character doesn't have a strong motivation.

    I finally figured it out during an exercise I learned in my writing fiction class a few days ago. i just sat down, wrote down all my main characters and underneath I just wrote down what they set out do over the course of the story. I came up with motivations for all the characters except for my main one. Suddenly it all made sense. He wasn't a strong character because he had no real goal that going on the journey would accomplish or a strong enough drive to carry an entire story.

    So now I work to fix that issue.

    But now I ask, what makes for a strong enough motivation that can carry through a whole story?

    Originally I came up with the MC goes on the journey so he could finally be a legendary hero like he's always read about or heard about in stories, only to find out it isn't as glamorous as he thought. But I felt like that wasn't strong enough.

    Any suggestions?
  2. w176

    w176 Contributor Contributor

    Jun 22, 2010
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    Luleå, Sweden
    I'm not sure you need the one big strong motivation. People and characters are usually multi faceted driven by a multitude of feelings, fears, values, relationships, experiences etc. Not just motivations and goals. How many people do you know who are driven by a strong motivation. A bunch of them surely, but you can as easily find examples of people in your life that live interesting life, handled the stuff of tales and have fascinating life stories without that strong motivation.

    You don't need a strong motivation, or goal, if your character is well rounded enough to have a lot of other things driving him or her.
  3. Ice Queen

    Ice Queen New Member

    Feb 27, 2011
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    The main thing we authors must remember about the goal is this: If the character doesn't care about the goal, neither will the reader.

    Your main character is the focus of the story, so they have to be so heavily invested in their goal that it's almost like... if the goal isn't accomplished- they will break. The reader must care about the character, care about their goals along with them.

    My current MC, for example. Her main goal ties in with the plot of the story. It starts off that her goal is to go to a certain city; what she doesn't tell anyone is that she wants to go there because her mother was from there- Her mother was murdered, and she witnessed it; she thinks that going here might give her clues about that incident, maybe even point her in the direction of the father she never met... It becomes much deeper than this when she realises that the City holds the key to her own birth (she shouldn't exist- for reasons central to the plot). etc. etc.

    :D I hope this makes sense.
  4. Preacher

    Preacher New Member

    Mar 1, 2011
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    Charlotte, NC
    I don't think you have to pick a single motivation that MUST span the entire work.

    People grow, situations change.

    A character can be on a mission of self-discovery and be strong, from a storyline development perspective.

    The trick is to make your character someone that the reader can identify with. A person with feelings, goals, dreams, real fears, hidden strengths and weaknesses. Perfect is boring!

    [Edit] Wow... I should have pushed the reply button faster... :)
    1 person likes this.
  5. Leonardo Pisano

    Leonardo Pisano Active Member

    Jan 21, 2011
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    Remember that some silent "weak character" people can be come heroes under stress, where people of authority have been known to crumble under likewise circumstances.

    So, to build on that... your "weak" MC can convert into a hero, say, by rescuing someone from a building on fire, or from drowning, or swooping a child from the street with danger of her own life. If you think this is more for male heroes - then use smth: like helping someone on the expense of her own luck (failing an exam for instance she wld otherwise have passed) or giving away money, setting her savings back for something she wants to have and saved for long-term.

    What I am saying is that a "weak" character can meet resetting circumstances and suddenly your hero is born....
  6. Melzaar the Almighty

    Melzaar the Almighty Contributor Contributor

    Aug 28, 2010
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    My main characters have a big mix of goals - there's an overriding aim (breaking a curse), but it has a variety of effects on them, and they all have different reasons for wanting it broken. To add to that, the main character wants to do it to get back at his own father, or is motivated or demotivated in turns by his adoptive father so petty revenge towards HIM is sometimes the motivator. And he does it to save his friend, get the girl... And lies about doing it for a couple of more noble reasons too. :p
  7. HorusEye

    HorusEye Contributor Contributor

    Jul 25, 2009
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    Stories that have the One Main Goal defined and spoken out loud in a single clear sentence sometime before the 10% mark are generally stories of epic boredom. You know what's gonna happen during the remaining 90% of the story and sitting through second act is a pain, because it's just a big filler before the One Main Goal is achieved.

    That's how I have it with Lord of the Rings... Just get to that mountain already! No, I much prefer stories where goals and motivations unfold slowly during the tale, or seem to be one and is really another.
  8. JeffS65

    JeffS65 New Member

    Nov 17, 2009
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    Don't look for a character's motivation to be something grand. To make a character and by extension, a story, compelling, the motivation can be simple.

    As you mentioned, your character wanted to be a legendary hero. It is no different than someone wanting to be famous just for fames sake in todays society. Thus all the Hiltons and Snookis of the world.

    There is not problem in your character wanting that (legendary-ness) at the outset. The MC could even be a little disliked by the reader at the outset.

    Most people seek fame because they think they have something to be famous for. Actors, musicians and even writers. Key is, they all feel they have a talent and likely most do actually have some talent. From that talent, they feel they can become famous.

    The deal is, a character has to have some thing (such as a skill) that is core to the drive for fame.

    I've been lucky to have met a number of famous musicians and athletes (long story...). Any who have been around for a while realized that the fame lost its luster very quickly and that the talent they started with was what sustained them.

    So, for a character's journey, it less about being legendary but about the discovery of what is important. The journey is not about the story you create around the character but the evolution of the character.

    Quotes on fame below:

    “Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, and riches take wings. Only one thing endures and that is character.” Horace Greeley (American newspaper)

    “Fame is the thirst of youth.” Lord Byron quotes (English Romantic poet and satirist, 1788-1824)

    “It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely.”
    Albert Einstein
  9. Manav

    Manav New Member

    Mar 26, 2010
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    Imphal, India
    Like JeffS65 said goals need not be grand, and as HorusEye hinted goals need not be summarized and stated in a single sentence. Let the readers get a sense of his goal(s) throughout the story. It may be a single goal, or he might change his goals as the story progresses. As a writer you have to know the char's goal, and stronger you make the goal/yearning/desire, the deeper the readers will feel a connection with the char.

    I would say you can make any motivation a strong motivation. You just have to bring out how the chars feel about it, and why? Digging deeper into the 'why' can make his motivation stronger. In your case, sure he wants to be a legendary hero but his real motivation may be to become the opposite of his father whom he considers to be a loser (for example), or, may be he wants to proof everybody who doesn't believe in him wrong.
  10. Ellipse

    Ellipse Contributor Contributor

    Jun 8, 2010
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    Sometimes a motive isn't what makes the character interesting. Sometimes it is their perseverence in the face of all odds.

    Right now you know your MC wants to become a legendary hero. Next you need to interrogate yourself. Start asking questions about your MC. Why does he want to become a legendary hero? What inspired him? Was it a person, a place, a story? Did he meet someone who was considered a hero?

    Then move on to when the MC becomes disillusioned. What causes him to be disillusioned? Is it the death of a person? A plan not working out as intended? How does he handle the situation? Does he continue on his journey or is he tempted to pack up his bags and leave?
  11. SeverinR

    SeverinR New Member

    Feb 15, 2011
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    New Madison Ohio
    If the MC isn't a strong enough character, maybe one of the others should be and move this one into a supporting role?

    It is hard to generalize, but I agree with the others, it doesn't have to be one motivation.

    Maybe the motivation is the learning experience? Finding out a direction for his/her life?

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