Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Characters Need Motivation - A Guest Post by Aimee Meester

Greetings. It is I, Aimee of To the Barricade! and Annika has made the mistake done the awesome thing of letting me onto her lovely blog today.

Today, we’re going to talk about character motivations. Specifically, why all characters need them.

I’m going to take a moment and shamelessly self-promote because it sort of ties in. I wrote a post recently about how villains are people too, and one of the things I pointed ever-so-helpfully out was how villains need motivation. There’s a trend with the general Dark Lord type villain, and most of them don’t have a motivation other than to be evil. Because EVILNESS, dang it.

This can happen to other characters, too.

Why does your hero want to save the world? What motivation does the angsty sidekick warrior guy have for following him? Why does the girl in the dystopian world want to join the rebellion, even when it’s nothing but trouble and danger for her and her family? We can often fall into stereotypes with these things, and one of the greatest stereotypes in my opinion is no motivation at all.

This is not a valid reason.

There’s a writing quote out there (several, in fact, but there’s one specifically I’m thinking of) that says, in short, that if your character doesn’t have a motivation, there isn’t a plot. This is 100% true. It’s also true that pretty much everyone in the story needs to have some reason to do what they do. Not to mention, motivation makes us care. I’m way more likely to be invested in a character that has a good, compelling reason to do what they do.

“Because NOBILITY, DANG IT” is rarely a good reason. Kind of like “because I said so” or “because I felt like it” or my personal favorite, “because reasons.”

So what are good reasons?

Katniss in The Hunger Games survives because she has to get home and take care of her little sister. (Motivation = taking care of her family.)

Edward in Twilight does everything he does to keep Bella safe. Yes, I went there. (Motivation = keeping the girl he loves safe.)

Thomas in The Maze Runner keeps all his attention on escaping the deadly maze with his friends, and then keeps friends safe, so he can find out what happened to them. (Motivation = amnesia and a need to find the truth.)

You get the point.

Character motivation is the driving force of the plot. We all have motivations for the things we do in real life — it shouldn’t be any different in fiction, really. These motivations are super important to figure out as you write, too. They shape how the character acts, what they notice and focus on, and so on.

Know what makes your character tick.

It’s that easy.

Thanks so much for having me, Annika! And thank you, all you lovely peeps, for reading.
Aimee out.

Aimee is a writer, reader, fangirl, homeschooler (and proud of it), Christian, Myers-Briggs ESTP, and many other things. She is fond of referring to herself in the third person, believing it makes her look cool. She blogs at To the Barricade! about writing, books, chocolate, gifs, life, and most importantly, sarcasm. You can find her on Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads.


  1. I like this post.

    *clears throat* Oddball, goals! Motivation! Any of this ringing a bell?

    Oddball: Shut up!

    I've been trying to get Oddball to find his goals and motivation at the beginning of the story. But alas, so far he is a indifferent, goalless penguin like myself.

    To clarify, Oddball isn't really a penguin. . . neither am I.

    But you are so right! Motivation moves the story, because it moves the characters to do what they do. I kind of found Oddball's motivation by default. I went in blind, and through what he thinks and focuses on, I found out what his motivation is. I think I did it backward. . . leave it to me to do it the hard way.

    "Why does your hero want to save the world?"- I thought, "Because I'm one of the idiots living in it!"

    1. Thanks! Hahaha, motivations CAN be hard to find sometimes, but I think it really is crucial. It's taken me several drafts to find the motivations for some of my characters. *sigh*

  2. Thanks so much for doing this Aimee. :) It was a great post.