Posted: February 7, 2011 in Writing

One of the things that I sometimes struggle with is motivation. I’m not talking about my own. I am plenty motivated. I am talking about portraying my characters motivations in a way that is less expositional.

Take the novel that I am working on now. In “Professional Development” my main character is a former crime scene investigator that has become a teacher. He did this for many reasons, but one of the largest reasons is because he faults himself for his family’s murders going unsolved. He hopes that by teaching in a high school he will be able to leave his old life behind. It all goes haywire, however, when there is a murder (or two or three) on school grounds. Someone is sending a message, and now Declan is back in the world he left.

He is interested in solving these murders for two main reasons:

1. He is slightly implicated in at least one attack.

2. He sees this as a chance for redemption.

There is also a part of him that wishes it would all go away, and he struggles with reconciling all of those things at once. Add to all this the idea that he is starting to date for the first time in five years, and you have someone dealing with more than he needs.

See, lots of motivation, but I am trying to show these struggles and not just state them. No one ever said that writing was easy, but I have managed so far. I know that I will have to go back and add some scenes in. I feel that this is a good thing. It wouldn’t be a draft if it was perfect. It would be published :).

What is my point? I am not entirely sure. I suppose I just wanted to point out some of the things that I struggle with so that others can know that I feel their pain and that they are not alone. Maybe I just want to see how you handle the situation I describe.

How do you show your character’s motivations?

  1. Marcia says:

    I’m glad to read this. I struggle with that too. I know what they feel and why, but writing it so the reader understands the character bit by bit is really tough. I suppose the problem just works itself as we continue to write and rewrite adding more of our own experiences or imagination to these scenes.
    I’d love to read an excerpt from your novel sometime.

  2. Gwen says:

    I am new to this writing thing…I hadn’t thought about what motivates my characters to behave as they do. I have been writing mostly from my head without an outline. It seems to be working at the moment but I have a feeling I am going to regret eventually not having this all mapped out. The more I read the blogs of real writers the more I learn. 🙂

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