I have wasted sooooo much ink and waaayyyy too much paper making notes, note after note after note, on my main character’s goal, motivation and conflict.
I get what a goal is (or do I????). A goal is the “what.” It’s a desired result, a purpose or an objective. Got it. Check.
I get conflict; who doesn’t. Conflict is the reason your character can’t have his goal.
What I don’t get is the motivation part. I know that motivation is the “why.” Why do your characters want their goal? Why do that do what they do? Why, why, why. My head aches. My eyes cross. What the heck is motivation??? Arrrrgggg!!!
As soon as my inner angst has subsided I go to my massive library of writing books and pull from the shelves my favorite book on the subject, Goal, Motivation & Conflict, by Debra Dixon, Gryphon Books for Writers, Memphis, Tennessee. 1996.
Ms. Dixon says that, “Motivation is possibly the most important of the three elements of GMC because you can do anything in fiction. There are no limits. Everything truly is possible as long as you help your reader understand why your characters do what they do. Why they land themselves in impossible situations. Why they make the choices they make.”
Okay. Wait for it. Nothing. I still don’t get it. What is the motivation for my characters in my story. Why do they do what they do?
Note that my inability to grasp the seemingly simple concept of motivation is by no means the fault of Ms. Dixon. I just don’t get motivation. I read and I read and I just don’t get it. Nada. I wait for the “click.” Nothing. Silence.
I get that failure to motivate properly will break your book. This motivation thing is hard. It’s difficult for the character and it’s really difficult for the writer!
Me: Please, Ms. Muse…help me understand motivation! Please, please, please…
Me: Because…I want to be a writer. I want to finish this book. I want readers to love my characters and I want my characters to effect my readers just as much as they have impacted me.
Muse: Ask your character’s why…get them to tell you their “because.”