M is for Motivation – Romance Writing from A to Z
It has been said by many that to write a riveting story, your character must have a great Goal, Motivation and Conflict (GMC). As such, there must be a strong GMC in each character, scene or chapter. Having a strong motivation for your character’s choices is on way to set your novel apart from the others. Knowing the GMC of your book and characters will not only help you write an awesome novel, but will come in handy when it’s time to write that pesky blurb or synopsis. When I first started writing, I got confused between the goal and the motivation, so I’ll outline the differences below.
How is the motivation different to the goal?
The goal is what your character wants, and the motivation is why your character wants it. So, think about the stakes and what will happen if she/he doesn’t achieve her goal. To help you understand, you can put the word ‘because’ in between your two sentences (one sentence for goal, one for motivation). I’ll take an example from my Urban Fantasy novel, Soul Thing: Roo wants to be left alone because if her mysterious powers are discovered, she’ll end up burned at the stake. Then you can add the ‘but’ which signifies the conflict (what stops the character from achieving her goals). So my sentence would then become: Roo wants to be left alone because if her mysterious powers are discovered, she’ll be burned at the stake, but when a witch publicly attacks, she must expose her powers to survive.
Motivation is what makes a goodie or a baddie
Robin Hood steals, but his motivations are to feed the poor. Your bad-boy CEO might be a jerk, but it’s because he’s been hurt so many times he’s only trying to protect his heart. Okay, that was a bad example, I hope you can come up with something more original. Think about your favorite books and movies, and write down the main hero and heroine’s motivations. Like Robin Hood, having a goal and motivation that seem like their opposites can have an intriguing effect. The same goes for your baddie. Perhaps your baddie is trying to create peace on earth, but when you dig deeper, you discover their motivation is to rule over the new mindless hoard.
Nailing your motivation will help you stick in character
As your book progresses, you can constantly return to that motivation to keep the plot moving forward. Motivations can change throughout a book, but choose this detour wisely. Would Harry Potter be the same if he decided half way through that he doesn’t want to end Voldemort because he changed his mind? If your character doesn’t have a strong motivation, there is nothing driving them to make choices, instead the events of the plot happen to them, making a passive and boring character.
Romance Note on Motivations
If your hero and heroine have differing motivations or goals, it makes for interesting conflict. For example, your hero wants to bulldoze a forest because his career is riding on the development he plans to put up. Your heroine wants to save the forest because it’s the only place that grows a herb she’s discovered that will ease the suffering of her grandmother. Pit these two differing goals and motivations together, and you’ve got explosive tension and conflict.
Don’t let your character fall flat, give them a strong motivation that drives the story forward.