13 May 2014

2 Plot Tips How to Tie Character Motivation to Theme

The better you are at creating tension through the use of antagonists in the middle of your story, your grasp of the true measure of your character's motivation becomes paramount. To believe she'd keep going forward even in the face of all the adversity you've created for her, your readers have to believe her motivation is strong enough to sustain her even during the darkest times.

Often, the motivation you set up for your character as you begin writing your novel, at the end of the draft you find isn't strong enough to justify her commitment through such a challenging journey. Sure, what you first envisioned is enough to get her moving, to cause her to act, to initiate change and guide her forward. As you dig for more a more substantial, more universal and emotionally connective motivation, you feel urged to think expansively and dramatically. Rather:

Tip #1:
Look at the other side of the character as a potential place to dig -- you created an external motivation for her to start with? Now consider what reward arises internally from within the protagonist to persist? You started with an internal motivation? What external motivations outside of the character pull her up when she falls? Is money, prestige, honor, revenge, social recognition, praise forcing your character ever forward? What is her reason for acting the way she does?

As you brainstorm ideas, you find yourself dismissing one and then another, always with the belief the next one will be better. Rather than jump from one idea to another:

Tip #2:
Sit with the ideas that come to you and consider each one in relationship to the prevalent themes of your story and if you have one, your thematic significance statement. Themes that start in the beginning and continue to the end of the story -- start there. How does her motivation tie into the themes your story explores? How can you more closely tie her motivation to your story themes, always coming back to meaning what? ...and explaining why?

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