Scenes: Character Motivation, #Preptober, Day 24

Today, you might be wondering why it seems like we’re dipping back into character development, as the topic of our prompt is Character Motivation. But guess what? Character’s motivations also affect your scenes!

Let’s explore.

When crafting your scenes, you obviously want to have logical actions following one after another in time – unless you’re playing with timelines and experimenting with telling the story backwards or out of order for specific reasons. In addition to building the story forward, one piece at a time, you also need to know why these events are happening. Why this thing and not that thing? Why now? Why these characters?

One suggestion that helps me a lot with my scenes is to think of these characters as if they were onstage. When a character appears on a stage, it has to be for some specific reason. That reason can be as simple as needing to ask another character a question, or it can be a lot more complex – like making the other character’s life a living hell for the rest of the story. But once their reason for being onstage (or in your scene) is clearly established and their goal is obtained (asking that question and receiving an answer, or maybe fighting about the answer for a good chunk of time, for instance), then the character can leave. But they can’t leave a scene BEFORE their goal is obtained, otherwise you’ve got a very confusing scene!

Think about it: why would Billy wander into your story, tell a random anecdote that relates to none of the characters or the action going on around them, and then walk back offstage as if nothing ever happened? Readers would ask who this Billy character was, and what he was doing in your story, and why the info in the monologue he just told never came up again. It would be puzzling, and not in a good way.

Now, you can certainly have your characters throw obstacles in each other’s paths, in order to thwart their achievement of those goals. This is called creating tension. And you could even mix it up, killing off the character before they attain whatever goal has brought them into the scene. But, generally speaking, you’ll usually want to end scenes when characters have obtained their goals – or with cliffhangers as they try to regroup, particularly if their goal is extra difficult to obtain.

Some things to think about:

    • What are your character’s goals in each scene?
    • Will they meet their goals, or be thwarted by another character – or something else happening in this scene?
    • If they meet their goal, what’s their next goal in order to move the story from its start to its finish?
    • If they don’t meet their goal, what will they try instead?
    • What kind of motives does your character have in this scene, and are they plainly obvious to everyone else, or are they attempting to conceal their true motives for some reason?

Remember that character motivations (or goals) create action, and action moves your story forward. So get those characters acting, and move your story along!

Want to prep with me?

Share one of YOUR character’s motivations in the comments, or post it on your blog, and be sure to use the hashtag #Preptober when sharing on social media so we can find each other.

Don’t forget to grab a free copy of my Preptober Prompts Printable, which you can print out for personal use.

See you tomorrow with a new prompt!

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