Writing Song of the Day: “Motivation” by Sum 41
You see, we spent pretty much the whole time asking: “Why did she do that?” “Why did he do that?” “Why did they do that?” “Why didn’t we see Contagion instead?”
Every question (aside from the last one) had something to do with character motivation. Quita and I were clueless about what these characters wanted, and why they reacted the way that they did. On the plus side, it helped us reflect on the characterization in our own writing. This movie proved to us that CHARACTER MOTIVATION is crucial in making your story believable…and if you want yours to shine, here’s what you need to do:
1. Ask yourself what does your character want. Well, duh. But this does not always have to happen in your first draft. The first draft is for you to figure out everything–almost like a getting to know you phase with your characters. The revision process is when you really understand your characters. So help us, the readers, understand them through their thoughts, their dialogue, and their actions.
2. What is standing in your character’s way? At some point in the movie, something really awful happens to the Kate Bosworth character–and then she makes a decision that completely baffled Quita and me. We didn’t understand her obstacle because…well, her character was pretty muddled and lame. So once you’ve established what your characters want on the page, the obstacle should be just as clear. But it should also make sense. If your character has a terrifying fear of cats, don’t make him just enter a room with a bunch of strays to create an obstacle. Why does he need to be in that room?
3. What would your character sacrifice to get what he wants? If you’ve seen the previews to Straw Dogs, you can safely assume that there is a LOT of sacrificing going on. But Quita and I still didn’t get it. Again, this is because we were clueless about ANY of the characters’ motivations. So, if tips #1 and #2 were done in a clear, yet creative, way–we’re going to understand why your character sacrifices his safety and freedom to run his truck through a farmhouse (this may or may not have happened in Straw Dogs).
Quita and I aren’t fans of being spoon fed information in stories, but we have to understand the point in order to enjoy it. Oh, and since I did mention Mr. Skarsgard in the title, I only think it’s fair to include a small sample of him in the movie:
I’ve never been of fan of Eric from True Blood, but I’m telling you that scene had some serious eye candy.
Now where was I?? Oh yes–motivation! What are your thoughts on it, lovelies?