"One day in the subway, James saw a red cat with a wound to the leg that likely resulted from a fight with another cat. It was obvious that the cat needed help. James could not pass and took the cat to the vet. With a little medical treatment and prescription drugs, the cat quickly recovered. At that point, James found it impossible to say goodbye to Street Cat Bob. Bob followed James everywhere he went. As James played the guitar on the street and Bob sat nearby, revenues increased dramatically. People found it difficult to pass when they looked at the cute kitty. James went on to write a book describing their adventures in the street which was full of life – both dramatic and comedic. In the book, James says that he could not have imagined how meeting Bob would change his life. His friendship with the cat healed him from a life that had been very hard. Most likely, if Bob could speak, he would say the same thing.”
The more I explore fiction writing, the more complex and multi-layered it becomes. Through the processes of brainstorming, outlining, researching, writing, and revising, I have discovered countless details that authors have to consider as they set out to produce a…
Character Motivation and Consistency:
So lets take a moment to talk about character consistency. This is something that I find a lot of people have a hard time with and a lot of it has to do with the actual development of the character in itself. When making a character, we pick out traits and experiences that define our character. All of these things including flaws and talents are important but something that people tend to forget with picking out a character is what their motivation is.
Author Orson Scott Card reminds us “We never fully understand other people’s motivations in real life. In fiction, however, we can help our readers understand our characters’ motivations with clarity, sometimes even certainty. This is one of the reasons why people read fiction—to come to some understanding of why other people act the way they do.”
Why is Knowing Motivation Important in Writing?:
This essentially, explains to us why characters act the way they do. Choices are determined by the motivation of the character. They are a guide in the choices they make because where they want to go or what they want determines what choices they are going to make. Very very VERY seldom does anyone make a choice at random. By knowing your characters primary motivation, the choices that they make will remain consistent (Even if they are not the ‘right’ choices.
Basic External and Internal Motivations:
Bold-face is obverse aspect (stuff in parens = goals, effects, or other association)
- Survival/safety; Fear of the world (food, water, escape from danger)
- Physical comfort; gluttony (shelter, warmth, good food, health)
- Pleasure; hedonism (sex, great food, culture, games)
- Dominance; tyranny (power, social standing, competition, respect)
- Acquisitiveness; greed (wealth, materialism, collecting, excellence)
- Curiosity; voyeurism (learning, searching, investigating)
- Mastery; perfectionism (excellence, conquest, discipline, achievement)
- Reproduction; profligacy (children, creativity, family-building)
- Autonomy; isolation (self-sufficiency, freedom, non-confinement)
- Affiliation; conformity (security, cooperation, loyalty, clan)
- Love; lust/ownership (connection, passion, sex, mirroring, approval, giving)
- Revenge; justice (righting wrongs, recognition of grievance, vengeance)
- Guilt; denial of guilt (responsibility, shame, punishment, redemption, forgiveness)
- Identity; self-centeredness (self-esteem, self-knowledge, self-protection)
- Surcease; conflict avoidance (peace, escape from anxiety, death)
- Spirituality; fetishism (religion, transcendence, transformation)
- Growth; decay, aging (learning, maturation, wisdom)
- Ambition; insecurity/anxiety (fear of failure, inferiority, stress)
- Vindication; rationalization (success, proving self, apology)
The Difference in between a Goal and Motivation:
The goal is like the flower… the motivation is the roots.
The goal is the outward manifestation of the motivation. It is concrete, measurable, and specific.
You don’t know when you’ve fulfilled the motivation: “I want success” isn’t measurable– what’s success? But you know when you’ve achieved a goal: ”I want to be on the New York Times bestseller list–” That’s measurable. You’ll know when you reach it.
Just keep in mind that while the goal is the external manifestation of the motivation, the connection is not always a straight or clear one. You can have a goal that is destructive and against your true motivation– “looking for love in all the wrong places” is an example.
Or you can have a laudatory goal for a selfish or twisted motivation– “I want to be first in my class to show my father up!”
Motivation is the past; Goal is the future; Conflict is the present.
Distinguish between MOTIVATION and ACTION:
Remember that motivation exists to inspire the character to make choices and take actions. If you’ve been told your protagonist is “too passive”, it’s likely what’s lacking is motivation that leads to action.
Every action, however small, should be motivated. If the motivation is obvious, then you might not have to show it (we assume that she’s running from that tiger for survival).
Compare the external (obvious) motivation to the goal and/or actions. If they don’t match, an internal motivation is probably in force. What hidden desire or fear is influencing actions?
An alternative reason for motivation/action mismatch: You’re trying to make an original character act in stereotypical ways.
And keep this in mind:
Heroism and villainy are in the action, not the motivation. Heroes do heroic things, they don’t just intend to do them. And villains do bad things even if they have the best of intentions.
Taking all of these things into account, here are three exercises that I found a while back and use to help figure out character motivations:
1. Real People as a template:
Make a list of 5 people you know really well. Beside each, make notes about how they:
- react to stress
- experience happiness,
- treat other people.
After that, list what motivates each of these behaviors. Try to be as factual as possible, drawing from things you know; for things you’re unsure of, use common sense to hypothesize.
A person might make it their goal to treat others with respect because of religious beliefs, or maybe because they were disrespected in the past. Someone might react poorly to stressful situations because they have a deep-seated fear of failure, stemming from a past experience.
2. Characters from Literature:
List 5 characters from literature and what motivated their actions throughout their respective stories.
For example, Shakespeare’sHamlet. His thoughts are motivated by revenge (because his uncle secretly killed his father), along with anger, sadness and confusion (because his mother married his uncle so soon after his father’s death).
Add to this a host of other factors, and you have a well-developed character you can understand.
3. Self reflection:
Write paragraphs to describe
- your most frightening experience
- your happiest experience,
- your most stressful experience, and how you reacted to each situation.
After, list all the factors that motivated your behavior. How is your personality shaped by your motivations?
During the story (Or role play) it is important to remember these character motivations when your character makes choices. That is really what this is about; identifying the motivations that make your character act the way that they do.
During the plot, motivations may change, and should actually shift for the character to develop, but never all at once and never out of the blue. Still the back story that drives your characters motivations will always be part of them.
For instance; I write a character whose past has made her a survivalist but over the course of a year she shifts to protection of the family that she has developed. However this took a full year to happen and her motivation of survival was never put on the back burner. Instead it just expanded to protection of the group and not just herself. Her fear of lose over this new family is what really drives her.
And there you have it: Keeping your character consistent through their motivation.
A massively extended version of ruthlesscalculus’ post, collabed by Imsirius. This should help all roleplayers and writers, of novice level to advanced level, in practically any setting, even in the processes of designing their characters! While not an article…
This is actually a test showing how sponges pump water through themselves for filter feeding
They simply colored the water around them so you could easily see the process
So you want to make an OC?: A Masterpost of Ways to Create, Develop, and Make Good OCs!
i made this masterpost in hopes that it helps you in making your own OCs ah;; it can also apply to developing RP characters i suppose! if you’d like to add more resources then go for it sugar pea (´ヮ`)!
How to Write Better OCs:
- basic tips on how to make your oc even better
- tragic backstory? learn how to write one/make yours great
- writing specific characters
- a wordier, great guide on how to develop your character
- kick out those vague descriptions and make them AWESOME
- how to actually make an OC
- Q&A (to develop characters)
- more Q&As
- giving your character a backstory
- how to write an attractive character
- adding more racial diversity
- avoiding tokenism, AKA, how to add diversity to your cast not just because you “need” it
- writing sexuality and gender expression (doesnt include non binary, if you have a good ref to that, please add on!)
- masterpost on writing more diversity into your story
- cultures of the world
- guides to drawing different ethnicities (not just a great art reference, but also really helpful in appearance descriptions!)
Mary Sue/Gary Stu
- Test to see if your character is a Sue
- Explains subdivisions of Sues/Stus
- Powerful Characters Don’t Have to Be Sues
- villain generator
- need an evil sounding name for your evil character? bam
- villain archetypes
- what’s your villain’s motive for being a villain?
- character perceptions (What your character thinks of themselves and what others think of them)
- how to write strong relationships between two characters
- 8 ways to write better characters and develop their relationships with others
- OCxLove Interest Handbook
- develop your couple with good ol’ Q&A!
- how to write realistic relationships
- how to write relatives for your characters (this is more OC related to a canon character, but will help in writing family members in general)
- 12 common archetypes
- 8 archetypes for male/female characters
- female archetypes (goes pretty indepth from two main categories)
- a list of archetypes
- tips for better design
- basic appearance generator
- pinterest board for character design (includes NSFW and images of skeletons/exposed muscle (?) so tread carefully!)
- clothing ref masterpost
- give your character better powers
- a list of professions
- proactive vs reactive characters
- positive and negative traits
- interest generator
- skills generator
- motivation generator
- 123 ideas for character flaws
- list of phobias
again, this is to help inspire you or help establish your OCs! i hope you get a lot of info and help from this ahh ( ´ ▽ ` )ﾉ