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Tuesday, April 10, 2007


Living in South Africa sometimes puts me a bit behind the latest American craze. I’m just now watching a friend’s DVDs of the series LOST. Speaking as a writer, it’s one of the best shows I’ve seen lately that lets you get to know the characters in detail and especially the motivation as to why they react the way they do to each and every suspenseful situation.

One of the most important aspects of writing, to me, is the motivation behind the character’s action. You can have a character do almost whatever you want and it will work as long as the motivation is there. No valid motivation and the story tends to fall flat. Not every story we write will include volumes of back story like the TV show Lost, but we still need to know our own characters and their motivations. This is one way to make our characters jump off the page and into the imagination and hearts of our readers.

Take, for instance, the story I’m working on right now which is an international suspense. Chad, my hero, is motivated to do anything he can to help my heroine in her quest to save a young boy’s family--even as the stakes continue to rise and his life is in danger. But why is he willing to risk his own life? The reader will only see snippets of Chad’s back story, but it will be enough to show how he tried to save his sister and couldn’t. This in turn gives him a believable motivation to do whatever he can to help the heroine.

Some writers enjoy spending time interviewing their characters. Others, like myself, get to know their characters’ personalities and quirks as the story progresses. Either way, knowing your character’s past as well as their motivations are essential in making a story tug at our readers’ emotions.

Look at your own stories. How well do you know your characters? Do they have a valid motivation for doing what they are doing? For help in learning more about your characters, I’m including a link I found through Google for basic character charts to get you started.



Blogger :-)Ronie said...

What a great topic, Lisa! For me, the way I start a story is first with one scene that leaps into my head. From there, I take the time to explore the characters' personalities and archetypes (although I don't believe any one character fits perfectly into one mold). That helps me write tight and stay in character.

I have one character for my new spy novel who is especially tough to write, because she is rather snarky and confrontational, and I'm so not like that. LOL

8:04 AM  

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