Each page of this worksheet should help you when you need your character to do something, but you’re not sure what their motivation for doing this thing would be: a person, an event, an environment or a set of internal beliefs & values?
This worksheet helps you explore 4 categories of character motivation:
- People: other characters who might have influenced the character (negatively or positively) or provided them with services or resources they needed.
- Events: experiences the character has lived through, and the memories and interpretations formed from them.
- Environments: places and situations that might support or suppress the character’s actions.
- Beliefs: the worldviews and priorities that the character activates during decision-making, whether correct or incorrect, empowering or disempowering.
Is the character consciously aware of this motivation?
- If the character isn’t aware of their motivation, they may be acting automatically, repeating patterns from their backstory when they need to change and adapt. These hidden motivations are usually revealed in the character’s behaviour or in subtle hints by other characters (or by the author). The character’s ignorance of their true motivation may keep them from making the change they need to make.
- If the character is aware of their motivation, it’s probably the conscious driving factor in their actions, perhaps their goal or dream. They will talk or think about it frequently and feel good about identifying with it, but this identification may also cause problems if it keeps them from making the change they need to make
Try combining conscious and unconscious motivations for a more three-dimensional character.
How do you ensure your character’s motivation fits in with their identity and with the story you’re telling?
If your plot requires your character to do something uncharacteristic, simply working out their motivation may not be enough. A motivating factor may feel forced or unconvincing if it isn’t integrated into the character’s backstory, their current state, and their development arc.
It’s important to have a storytelling structure that unites plot and character. I offer two online writing courses that teach you the writing techniques you can use to plot your novel and create your cast on just one sheet of paper. Click here to learn more.