Character motivation

I was reading over at Diane Gallant’s blog about the frustrations of character motivation.  It seems that others have the same problem I have:  the characters do things that totally make sense to me and I assume everyone else will totally get it, when in reality, there needs to be a little more explanation.  This has been pointed out to me quite a few times by one of my beta readers, who is always telling me to show what my characters are feeling, to get into their heads.  I have to admit, it has made the book a lot better to show my readers what my characters are doing, instead of just watching them do it.  I think it provides a lot more character development, and it lets the reader identify more with the character — because they can feel with them, instead of just watching.  And as an additional bonus, I’ve added quite a few “showing” scenes that weren’t in any of the first drafts.  Some of those scenes are actually now included in my favorite scenes catory (if there is such a thing).

3 thoughts on “Character motivation

  1. This has been a real weakness for me. Now I need to add several scenes to my novel, too. I have to, even though I really don’t want to keep looking back. I’m using the lessons in a workbook I bought to help with characterization and character motives. And I intend to use a different approach with my next novel in order to avoid making this mistake again.


  2. “they” always say, “Show, don’t tell,” but it’s harder than it looks some days. kudos to you for taking the advice & plugging it in.

    as for character motivation, it seems that such things should be universal in nature. it seems so easy. but i’m struggling with it myself: when I’m reading a book, i hate it when characters refuse to be heroes. reluctant is ok, but downright nasty refusal? but i didn’t want a hero jumping at the chance either. so, what have i done? created a lukewarm iffy motivational segment. well, i guess i’ll go along with this. what else do i have on my schedule right now? and that, frankly, stinks.

    sooooo….if you two have any insight or ideas or magickal spells up your sleeves, zing ’em my way 😉


  3. Shari,
    Thanks for posting this entry. I always find it valuable to relearn the lesson of “show and tell.” But I too have recently struggled with character motivations and I have a new entry on my blog that explains how I managed to resolve it. It’s called “Why We Do What We Do: A Top 10 List.” I think Alex will find it interesting if he is, in fact, still looking for a magic spell 🙂

    Good writing to you!



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