Monday, 9 October 2017

Motivating characters

I've been working on Rurik since the summer. I think I might have mentioned in previous blogs that I'm changing 'he' to a 'she' and working through some quite major plot holes which I discovered.

Now, bearing in mind that this story was written way, way back (it went through major editing in 2012 after the self edit coursewhich took place after it (and me) had been rejected by an agent I was working with), there were bound to be some issues. I accept that. Since 2012, I have changed a lot in how I write and what I write. Of course Rurik was going to need a polish. Or another edit.

Or, actually, an almost complete rewrite in places.

I've been slowly working through and making the changes I think the writing needs to bring it all into line with how I write NOW.

Three chapters from the end, I've found an issue. A real biggie; my MC has no motivation. I need to motivate her.

No, I said I need to motivate her, not Mr Motivator. (remember him?) * face palm *

I suddenly realised that my MC has been forced into a situation not of her making. From there on, she is carried by a series of situations through to the climax - which is where I'm at in the edit. Problem is, the MC is a spectator, an onlooker, pretty much all the way through. She does not affect the action by her decisions. Weeeell, she does a bit. But not nearly enough to give her an over-riding motivation to drive the story forward.

It's a classic rookie error - probably because I was a rookie when I initially wrote the story. To make the story really zing, I need, as the lovely Julie Cohen would say, to 'Make Shit Happen!'

The only problem is, how can you put motivation into a story in retrospect?

I've tried sitting with my notebook to work it out. I've written pages and pages of questions to myself about my MC and why she would do the things she's doing in the story. 

But maybe it's not myself I need to be asking... Maybe...I need to ask Reeka, my MC.

You might think that sounds a bit barmy, but I've spoken to several authors who, when they get stuck, interrogate their characters. I know from experience that when I get to know my characters well, they start doing their own thing in the story, and I simply write it all out for them. (If you want to see what I'm talking about, check out this blog post at The Write Practise, and especially read the comments. That's where authors have posted the answers to the interrogation they gave some of their characters.)

So I think that me and Reeka are going to have to have a little chat to sort this motivation thing out...

Hope she's still speaking to me by the end of it all.


  1. I have a suggestion, Squidgers, but it's a BIGGY! I know you're in a fantasy world with this but what's to say fantasy worlds don't have similar issues to the 'real world' - like I said, my suggestion is a BIGGY and a difficult subject. I'll PM the rest.

    1. Got the PM, Baz...gulp! Not sure I'm the best person to tackle that issue!

  2. Nothing useful to say Squidge, sorry, Is there something you can take away from her at the beginning that she wants to get back. Not necessarily a big thing - favourite scrunchie sort of thing - which intermittently becomes in reach again and gives her a shove?

    1. Hmmm...the only thing she really wants back is her father. But he's died...