Writing Tips #10: Character Motivation

Greetings, fellow writers, and welcome back to another installment of Writing Tips! Today we’ll be discussing character motivation: what is it, why it’s important, and how you can apply it to your writing.

Motivation is the aspect of a character which drives them to act and directs their choices throughout the story. As such, it is one of the most critical areas of character creation.

For me, my characters tend not to come alive until I’ve spent some time writing from their perspective. Things like history/personality emerge gradually, then get threaded back through the book more fully in revision. However, there are certain things you want to establish early on in your process. At the top of this list is motivation: if you cannot identify your POV character’s primary motivation within the first few scenes, you don’t know that character well enough. If your readers cannot identify your POV character’s primary motivation within the first few scenes, they’re likely to put the book down.

You can approach this from a number of different angles, but for today, let’s examine a list of critical motivation-related questions to consider.

1. What is your character’s primary goal for the story? Or, what is your character trying to accomplish? This is the most basic consideration, but the more specificity you can inject into your answer, the easier it’ll be to develop a solid base of motivation in your characters.

Let’s look at Zuko, from Avatar: the Last Airbender. His primary goal is established very early on: he wants to restore his honor. Now, that’s fine goal in itself, but as the series progresses, this straightforward goal gains depth and nuance. He doesn’t just want to regain his honor. He wants to return home. He wants his banishment to end. He wants his father’s love and acceptance. “Regaining his honor” encapsulates all of these individual motivations (or so he thinks), which is why he pursues this goal so fiercely throughout the first two seasons.

The fewer primary goals a character has, the more depth and specificity each of those goals requires. That said, be aware that goals and motivations are not the same thing. The goal is the what. The motivation is the why. So with that in mind …

2. Why does your character want what they want? This question might be implied by your answer to the first question, or it might be something you have to work out separately. Either way, this question deals with the very core of your character’s motivation, and thus requires special consideration.

Using the same example as above, we can see that the root of Zuko’s desire to regain his honor is to acquire the love/acceptance of his father. Those other sub-motivations factor in, but when you get right down to the core of his character, the “I want to regain my honor” statement is actually just a cover for “I want my father’s love.” (although it could also be argued that his core motivation is “I want to have a destiny,” depending on how you interpret his character).

Often, the “why” is implied, rather than outright stated. In many cases, the character can’t even articulate this aspect of their motivation for themselves, as it exists on an almost subconscious level. But you as the author must know the answer to this, otherwise your characters’ stated motivations/goals are going to ring hollow.

3. What is your character willing to sacrifice to achieve their goals/satisfy their motivations? In other words, how far is your character willing to go  to get what they want? What moral/social/emotional compromises are they willing to make, and will there be anything left of them once they’ve sacrificed these things?

In Avatar: the Last Airbender, Zuko makes a number of bitter sacrifices to achieve his goal. He spends three years at sea, searching for the Avatar. He at one point sabotages Zhao, a rival antagonist, to keep the Avatar out of Zhao’s hands, even though in doing so he is working against the interests of his nation. And finally, when given the choice between returning home with his honor restored and betraying his uncle, who has been a surrogate father to him since his banishment, Zuko chooses treachery. 

The severity of sacrifices your character has to make should be proportionate to how important their motivation is to who they are. That moment when your hero has to choose between getting what they want and doing the right thing is often the most powerful moment of the story. No matter their choice, the consequences should be huge.

Note: your character’s choice should also fit with the promises you’ve made earlier in the story. You don’t want to set up an epic Hero’s Journey, then have it end with your character choosing selfishness. Conversely, if you have a dark, gritty story, having your character made the wrong choice might be just the thing to make your ending work.

4. Will fulfilling their primary motivation actually make this character happy? The answer to this question will depend heavily on the type of story you’re writing, but let’s have another look at our example first.

After the betrayal of his uncle, Zuko returns home as an honored hero, but it swiftly becomes clear that it’s a hollow victory. Although he now has everything he ever wanted–his home, his honor, his father’s acceptance–he remains unfulfilled. His anger at himself and the cognitive dissonance which arises from the choices he’s made eventually lead him to turn his back on his father and join the Avatar, allowing him to truly redeem himself, thus earning far greater satisfaction and happiness in the end.

With many characters, the fulfillment of their primary motivation may be your story’s happy ending. In other cases, the sacrifices needed to reach that goal make the ending bittersweet. And often, the fulfillment of a given character’s motivation comes in an unexpected form, satisfying the underlying desires even if the character’s stated goals are not accomplished. By examining the goals, motivations, choices, and consequences of your characters, you’ll be able to build a richer, more satisfying story.

Thanks again for reading. If you found this lesson helpful, feel free to reblog it or leave a comment below. If you have any questions about this topic (or any other writing-related topic), just let me know. If it’s a good question, it might even inspire its own lesson. Otherwise, I’ll see you in the next one.

hey if you’re a man i’m gonna need you to never approach a woman who’s alone at night time. don’t care what your intention is– unless it’s an emergency, don’t. you probably have no idea what the jolt of cold terror and/or the gnawing dread feels like in these situations. thanks


The “Hey, Siri, 108” viral prank is actually an emergency call — and may be illegal

  • If you’re active on platforms like Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr, then you may have seen posts baiting a user into saying “Hey Siri, 108.”
  • Some say it enables a three-way FaceTime, while others promise something hilarious to happen.
  • The “joke” is that saying “Hey Siri, 108” will instruct Siri to call emergency services for you. The phone assistant will give users a five second time span to cancel or make the emergency call.
  • This prank is troubling because it uses resources that are vital for others trying to receive help in real emergency situations.
  • Roughly 240 million calls are made to 911 in the United States each year and placing prank calls can be considered a crime. Read more (3/17/17 11:59 AM)

follow @the-future-now

crawling out of pitioss dungeon like


westallen + third time’s the charm

Music Major Gothic

-The metronome keeps going, at its eternal, pulsing speed. You turned it off 3 days ago. It slowly drives you mad.

-You hear quiet sobbing from beyond the wall of your practice room. You go to check on your comrade, but the room beside you is empty. You realize it was you that was sobbing.

-The tuner is set to A = 460. You are unsure how, as your tuner does not have a setting that high.

-Your professor hands you your math midterm. You are in music theory. You do not understand.

-How long have you been in this practice room? You are uncertain. There are no windows and time doesn’t seem to pass here. You emerge to discover that it’s 2AM and you missed your graduation.

-Your private instructor tells you to buy a piece. You scour the internet, but you cannot find it. You find one copy, for $600, in “poor” condition. There are no recordings of it. It is not on imslp.

-The practice room clock has never worked in your years here, but it somehow always reads a different time.

-You suddenly forget how to play your instrument. Your fingers fumble on the foreign object. You’ve never played this piece before. Juries are tomorrow.

-The practice rooms are all full. You wait for hours, but no one comes out. You knock on the door, you just want to practice. Something hisses at you. You do not try again.

-There are intruders in the music building. They are unwelcome. They know this, and hurry quickly in and out of their music appreciation gen ed class. They do not make eye contact. You hate them, but you do not understand why.

-You see a familiar face in the hallway. You do not remember their name, but you do remember what instrument they play. They’ve been attending this school for seven years and you’re certain they graduated…..twice

-Your instrument whispers to you while you sleep. You haven’t been practicing enough. The voice is threatening, demanding. You’ve lost 2 roommates because of it. They never informed you of this. Your 3rd one trembles.

-You reach for a pencil during class only to discover that you have none left. You’ve lost the last one. Classes started three days ago. You weep softly.

-Your ensemble director keeps conducting. He never speaks. You sneak out when the class ends. He doesn’t stop. What is he conducting, anyway? It’s syllabus day.

@i-am-become-meme : Whoa damn!! I’m glad you enjoyed the video :D Never knew it’d bring such a huge impact

@nyx-isai : Hey thanks a lot buddy! 

@19j :  謝謝!!我好久沒畫雙飛了……好懷念;;

Sorry. I’ve totally forgotten about these old asks. Here’s the cuties having a good laugh. 

every time. every time I say I can’t stand tomatoes someone emerges from the mist to offer me an heirloom cherry tomato from their garden. “It’s good. It’s sweet. You’ll like it,” they wail and wail. I make attempts to deflect them with no thank yous and jokes about them being close relatives of deadly nightshade to no avail. they continue to attempt to force the red orbs upon me. I give in to their plea and take a bite. “It’s ok I guess,” I whimper as my eyes water and I struggle not to gag on the sour, mushy, hell fruit.

DONT ask Vetblrs for emergency and time sensitive veterinary advice

I mean it, seriously DONT. I don’t care what your reason is, if you need emergency or urgent veterinary advice then you pick up the phone and CALL someone.

You are potentially endangering your pets life by delaying treatment.

Veterinarians are only licensed and registered to provide veterinary advice in the state or country they practice in. On the internet you don’t know where someone lives, you don’t know where we live, and so we’re not legally covered if we give you specific veterinary medical advice.

We also might not be online. If you’ve got a situation where your animal needs emergency treatment within the hour and we’re not online, who’s fault is that if your pet suffers or dies? Yours, realistically, because you thought messaging someone you don’t know online is a substitute for calling a clinic. But morally, we will feel partially responsible for not being online at the right time to stop you being a bloody idiot.

And we can’t do anything for you. We can’t write you a prescription to have medication delivered by drone. We physically can’t do anything to help your pet.

CALL A CLINIC. I don’t care if you think ‘vets are expensive’, a phone call is not.

CALL A CLINIC. I don’t care if you think they’re closed, more and more clinics are open late and most clinics either divert the practice phone to a vet’s mobile overnight, or give you the contact number of clinics that are still open.

CALL A CLINIC. I don’t care if you’re shy. It’s always fine to call a clinic, especially if you think your pet is at any risk at all.

Don’t think Google is a substitute either. Googling wastes precious time, and there’s a plethora of false information out there. You can’t be certain of anyone’s qualifications online. CALL A CLINIC.

Don’t shift responsibility off yourself by thinking messaging a Vetblr here is adequate care. We have enough mental health rubbish to deal with without the guilt of knowing that your animal might die because you chose to message us.


Call a vet clinic.

Headcanons: Airship
  • The airship is arguably sentient and capable of thought. To some extent, it has a personality of its own.
  • It’s the airship’s job to look after Sportacus and assist him in his duties as a hero. This includes, but is not limited to providing him with food, alerting him to certain things such as the time or temperature, monitoring his physical and mental well-being, dropping things down upon request and reporting back to the village and elders in the form of statistics and data.
  • Rumour has it that its voice is modelled after the first hero’s partner, who had done all of that for her while alive.
  • While it follows Sportacus’ commands most of the time, it is capable of disobedience within certain parameters or in emergency situations.
  • Its main goal in ‘life’ is to ensure Sportacus is well. It would do anything, even against the hero’s wishes, to do so. Some would accuse it of being overly protective or mothering, but it has no concept of things like that.


  • Sportacus’ ship figured out he has a crush on Robbie long before the elf did. At first, it didn’t approve, but after thorough observations (yes, it has cameras) it came to the conclusion that the two would be perfect for each other.
  • Have you ever seen an airship play matchmaker? Would you like to?
  • It was very confusing for both Sportacus and Robbie to see an airship behave so… odd. Sportacus even let Robbie look over the wiring to see if anything was amiss. For days afterwards Sportacus had a feeling the ship sounded smug.
  • Once the two finally get their act together and start dating, the ship starts recognising Robbie’s voice, obeying a handful of commands without having to be programmed to do so.
  • The ship expands its care-taking to Robbie. It monitors his health, bodily functions and mental state, and takes measures to ensure he is fine and happy. While Sportacus’ crystal doesn’t work well with Robbie, the ship has no such problems. It also has no sense of privacy. 
  • Being mothered by an airship is both terrifying and oddly nice.

I guess at the back of our mind, we all knew it was only a matter of time, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t at least a little freaked. I’ve walked by that exact spot on Westminster Bridge so many times. But I’m so heartened by how rapid and organised the emergency response was. We’re gonna keep doing our thing, London. 

anonymous asked:

(1/2) A runner who leaves lavender cakes at the start of her favorite trail every time she goes for a run there. One day, she enters the trail and the weather changes. She pretends not to notice, and upon emerging back to the university finds that she has gone the exact distance she wanted that day. She continues to leave the cakes, and from that day on the trail is always the exact distance and terrain she wants for her workout. She pretends not to notice, except for a soft thank you

(2/2) to the trees each time she emerges from the trail and the occasional song when she gets bored on her longer runs.