Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Why Did You Do That?

Lately, I’m reading adventure novels, and they’ve got me thinking about character motivation. Of course, characters have to make poor choices, take chances and do things that set the ball rolling. Too often though, I find myself looking up from the page and wondering why a character acted the way s/he did. After a moment, I realize the action was intended to disguise a sagging middle. There are a million excuses for characters to do dumb stuff, or at least things their mothers wouldn’t approve of, but the story’s credibility depends on the setup and on previous character development.

I’m currently in the throes of rough draft ecstasy/despair for my own adventure novel, but when it’s time to revise, I’ll analyze each scene for believability starting with this list of questions.
  • Why did the character do that?
  • Is this reason plausible?
  • What does the character have to gain? To lose?
  • Is the behavior consistent with the personality I’ve established?
  • Has something happened to change the character’s behavior or personality?
  • Is that change believable?


Angela said...

Great questions to ask. Middles can be a minefield of random things that try to keep the tension going but don't add to the story.

TimInMich said...

Excellent observations and questions. I'm totally about realistic motivations for all of my characters, not just the protagonist. It's a big reason why I get so tied up in knots and have such a hard time getting to the end of the story. But it's all good, huh?