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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Double Homicide... how do you motivate your characters?

Sad state of affairs on the way to school this morning. A possum lie dead, just inches from the green shroud of safety on the other side of the road. His would-be pursuer, a racoon, lay dead, just inches behind him. Both will be mourned by the twelve year old girl riding in the car.

Anyway- it started me thinking (of course) about motivation and how our characters are driven to make the choices they do. So, what do you do when that's all they 'want' to do- sit around and go in circles? I literally watch my characters wander around, in a circle, accompishing nothing. It's one of my biggest aggrivators. Of course,  I have a couple of suggestions, if you suffer from this same sad misfortune. Those of you with characters who do nothing boring and are interesting ALL the time, well, lucky you, tune in next week... lol. But for the rest of us~

1. Lists- Create a list of events that your character will star in- or conflicts they seem to have with other characters. Then, let your characters 'lead' you to that point in the story. It gives you goals in your writing, and keeps the characters on track. Mine would stop for a pastry and a coffee every chance they get, and never get anything done.

2. Use a writing program, such as Scrivener, to outline or plot some basics. I am a Scrivener fanatic- I love being able to create 'scene' titles and then write the scene, and move it around as needed. Sometimes I can just feel an argument coming on with a couple of characters, and this program let's them get it out, and allows me to get into down on 'paper'.

3. Observe life around you, and use it to your advantage. I find that morning radio is has a plethora of ideas just waiting to happen. One of my favorites is 'inappropriate Friday' - last week they were talking about inappropriate relatives, which gave me an idea for a character that will come into Tansy's adventure, and motivate her to get things done and get out of town- as quick as possible.

So, I know it's not a lot- but it may lead you to other ideas you may have when you are in need of some character motivation. I know I've got to keep Tansy out of the bakeries and out interacting and solving the mystery! If you have a motivational technique- please share in the comments! I know I can always use more tools in the old toolbox.

Oh, and P.S. I have a soft spot for animals- well, most of them. Possum's are on the list of 'not so much' but they did creep up a bit after reading a review of a book 'Possum Summer' by Jen K Blom. (If you like 'Where the Red Fern Grows' it's right up your alley.)


  1. Perhaps a character who wanders around in circles has one leg shorter than the other--several inches shorter, and is unable to overcome this affliction. Perhaps, in fact, she, since this affliction is congenital, has no idea that her life could be different. She could have observed the lives of other people, but the peripheral vision in her left eye, the lower one, has been nearly useless, since she sees only the ground to the left and only an occasional bird from the right, or a tree in blossom or a perhaps a building, thereby leaving her oblivious to other humans who might cross her path, though circuitous, as it marches slowly forward-ish.
    Also, the teacher in me (probably one-legged) must comment on the possum and raccoon. Since the paragraph described a past event, the possum "lay" dead because this is the simple preterite tense. The raccoon "also lay" dead because his action is in the same past tense as the possum.
    Also: thanks for the idea. It was fun to walk in circles.
    Also, you'll probably guess who this former teacher and newly current friend is, even though the posts are anonymous. I passed by your mom a few days ago as we both exited a store. Congratulations on your book. I'll get to it. vmh

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  3. Mr. H-

    This is a prime example of why I shouldn't write these blogs early in the morning :) Thanks for the grammar lesson, lol, obviously I am in need of a good editor! I do, howver, always remember my Greek and Latin roots!