Word by Word

Practical insights for writers from Jessica P Morrell

Join me Tuesday, April 4 Willamette Writers Monthly meeting at The Old Church

Written By: Jessica Morrell - Mar• 27•17

Why Characters Do What They Do

Motivation, goals, and stakes drive fictional characters to act, take risks, and get into heaps of  trouble. And then more trouble.  These devices also reveal and distinguish characters, propel character growth, and create drama and conflict because opposition will interfere.

Motivation stems from a potent brew of a character’s traits, beliefs, background, values and subconscious drives. Outer goals shape scenes and inner needs complicate the whole shebang. Stakes drive a protagonist, and the best stories result when stake are personal and high. If the protagonist can just walk away without personal consequences, anything he or she does can feel contrived. But when he or she must accomplish something important and individual, it’s more believable and gripping.

We’ll look at examples of all these devices from various genres using fiction, film, and television. We’ll also discuss tropes to avoid, how to create opposing and complex motivations, and how to mix things up with new plot developments.


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