The trouble with writers is that they’re sometimes too nice to their characters. Unfortunately, while this is admirable practice in real life, it hardly makes for a good story. Use this worksheet to brainstorm ways to make the worst case scenario even worse. It’s character-building stuff!
A “ticking clock” is a great way to add suspense and purpose to your plot. Depending on your story, the clock can be the time of your character’s favourite TV programme, the last call for drinks, a big round birthday, the time at which the carriage will turn back into a pumpkin, or the countdown timer on
a bomb an oven.
If you’re working on a longer story, your plot will almost certainly include a whole series of ticking clocks, with deadlines (or “dreadlines”) of shorter duration. Cause each clock to trigger the next until you reach the end, and you’ll have the bones of an exciting tale. Time’s ticking, get writing!
Quick, before this message self-destructs!
Each page of this character motivation worksheet should help you when you need your character to perform a function in the plot, but you’re not sure what would drive them to act: 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.
If you found this worksheet helpful, please don’t forget to pin it for future reference!
I’ve recently found myself collecting russian doll stationery and couldn’t resist creating some designs for journalling spots and writing paper…
I hope these dolls bring a smile to your and your correspondents’ (doll) faces. The quotes I found for my cards are as follows:
“What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.” – Ralph Waldo Emerson
“Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.” – Carl Jung
Plot Twist Worksheet
Nothing makes me want to race through a story more than an idea for a great plot twist!
The best twists reframe the entire narrative and leave you spluttering in disbelief; Fight Club, Ender’s Game, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Birds Fall Down, and Murder on the Orient Express are a few that I always remember. Recently, I particularly enjoyed the twist at the end of the film, Transcendence.
I hope this 2-page worksheet will help you uncover the assumptions you, your readers or your characters make, and use them to construct a shattering éclaircissement. As the saying goes, “to assume makes an ass of u and me.”
For more help creating plot twists, try these worksheets: