How to Create Your Characters Goals and Motivations

For the past few weeks, I have been doing a mini-blog series of character development – here are the links Backstory and FlashbacksCharacter’s Voice and DialogueHow To Build On Your Characters Values and Beliefs

In the first post of the series, I mention there are five important factors to consider building your character and a well-rounded character. These are (not in ascending importance level):

  1. Back-story and flashbacks
  2. Voice and Dialogue
  3. Beliefs and values
  4. Goals and motivations; and
  5. Physical traits.

In the second last post of my mini-series, I will be looking at your characters goals and motivations.

Goals and motivations are commonly confused, and understandably so: they’re both things that relate to a character’s ‘wants,’ and they both can drive a character and their story.

  • A ‘goal’ is something that a character wants to achieve. It is a conscious objective like getting rich or finding their brother.
  • ‘Motivation’ is the underlying reason why a person has that goal, like the need to prove themselves as someone exceptional.

What Does Your Character Want?

As a writer, you need to be able to answer this question about your characters. Everyone in this world wants something and everyone in your world should want something too. If they don’t, look closer at each scene.

“Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.”

–Kurt Vonnegut, 8 Basics of Creative Writing.

Even if it’s a cup of water—every character should be working toward some goal. This can drive your story’s action and it definitely drives your characters’ action through that story. This adds dimensions to our character and gives them a driving force that should take them through the story.

Why Does Your Character Want This?

Now that you have your character’s eye on the prize, you have to be able to answer this question: “But, why, though?”

Without a motivation to reach their goal, your character is just going through the world, in and out of situations without purpose.

When you understand your character’s goal, ambition, and values, then you have a very good handle on your character’s motivations. If your character has multiple values that conflict, then you also have an unpredictable character. Actions are dictated by values.

If you want a plot-driven, complete story with plot and character arcs, you’ll need to give your character a reason for their actions.

Stay tuned for my next post about character development. If you want to read the last post, click here.

Until then, make sure you post your questions, comments or/ and answers below. If you think someone has an interesting point of view, questions or an answer, please invite them or share this post with them.

#DouglasWTSmith #characterdevelopment


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