A Writer's Journey

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

Maya Angelou

Music expresses that which cannot be said and on which it is impossible to be silent.

Victor Hugo

Friday, April 15, 2011

M is for Motive

All characters, good or bad, must have that one driving force that compels them to act, think, and feel the way that they do. Every character has a back story, events that happened in his/her lifetime that shape who they become and how they perceive the world around them. Those events also help to create what drives them and how far they'll go to reach their intended goal.

Motive is a very powerful tool. It can be the difference between the protag and the antag: both working toward the same goal, but with different motives in mind.

What is a motive?

Simply put, it's what drives the characters to act a certain way, to think a certain way, to do certain things. An incentive, if you will. It's the drive that propels the character to achieve the ends to their means.

How important is motive?

This really depends on what kind of story you're trying to tell. Simply having a motive isn't enough to drive a story. It must be tied into the characters as a whole. It must have reason and must have enough importance that we can clearly see why the characters would act or react in such a way that makes the motive identifiable.

Some of my favorite books have some of the best motives that truly drive the characters. And because I'm such a fanatic, I'm going for the obvious - HARRY POTTER. Never have I read such a series that showcases the motives of each character so well, yet intertwines them all together to create a seamless story. The motives of the protag and the antag are so deeply rooted in every action, in every word, in every expression. The readers feel the drive and can either empathize, sympathize, or antipathize with the characters and their journey to the story's eventual end.

How important do you think motive is to driving character and story development?


  1. I think that motive is very important for developing characters and stories, especially in movies (since I don't write books that much and work on screenplays for my own films).

    Without motive, characters can become dull because they don't have any drive to reach a specific goal or achievement. Without these goals or character motivations, the audience can quickly become bored and lose interest in the story.

    The Madlab Post

  2. To me if there is no motive you got nothing...

    Motive drives all forces!

  3. I think motive makes up a good deal of the story and characters, so it's entirely necessary. Without motive, the story is empty.

    I did a shout out to you on my blog in the form of an award.

  4. I'm glad you guys agree. LOL I think the more interesting the motive, the better drive for the story.

    And thanks to Shannon for the bloggy award! Passing it on as soon as I get a minute! <3

  5. Motive is definitely HUGE! Its motivations that make a character compelling, whether the motive is good or bad. Going back to HP, look at Snape! One of the most awesome characters ever.