Character Motivation

Heated Discussion

Heated Discussion


I’m told that people like the honesty in my writing but figuring out what is honest can be difficult, like trying to figure out what people mean with the words they choose and their motivations. Sometimes even they don’t know.

As humans, we are prone to ascribing motivations to people that may, or may not, be true. “Well, he said… but what he really meant was…”

Likewise, “Did he really mean what I thought he meant?”

As authors, we have the power to ascribe motivations to our characters, but we shouldn’t forget this ambiguity. Characters may not be sure of the motivation of other characters, they may ascribe motivation incorrectly and our characters may not even know their own minds.

We get to help them discover it.

And sometimes we have to step back, stop trying to figure it out, stop trying to be clever and just take things at face value.

At times like these, it can be nice to just sit down and write a story where events happen and we don’t have to ascribe meaning to them. We don’t have to try to figure them out.

People will usually try to ascribe their own meaning to the events anyway, as you may have experienced at one time or another.

A Novel Idea

Lots of thinking going on about my writing in the past week.  I’m enjoying watching the views add up on my Yahoo! Voices page as people read things I’ve written.  I had two items due on Wednesday that proved more difficult than I expected.  I wrote a four hundred word entry on Easter memories that took a little time to get started but then the angle became clear as I thought about how my memories center around going to my Grandmother’s for vacation the week after Easter and weeding her flower beds.  That became Easter Vacations in the Country.  It was my favorite place to be and where I’ve returned to live and raise my own daughter.

The second piece was a bit more difficult.  I decided to write a Western.  I don’t know what I was thinking.  It’s never been my favorite genre but images of Little House on the Prairie flashed through my head and I thought I could do it.  Actually, I had a halfway decent idea, about a strong woman who leads the family, but not in time to really write it properly.  It turned into something pretty hokey.  I’m still trying to decide whether to invest the time to save it or leave it as the hokey western romance it turned into and move on.

Thursday night was our writer’s group meeting and I decided to share a science fiction short story for feedback that I wrote for a contest, (which it didn’t win.)  I was surprised at the strong reactions it drew.  They generally thought it deserved to be a novel.  I’m really considering working on that.  If I could write one page a day even, that would be 365 pages in a year’s time.  But where to start?  I don’t have a big vision for this.  It’s going to take some thinking.


A Modern Classic?

Can anyone write what me might term a modern classic anymore?  Or are there simply too many people writing and too much being published for any one book to stand out that way?  Yes, one might point to Harry Potter but now that the books have all been published, it’s just a matter of time before the series of movies are finished being released.  It will be interesting to see how often the books are still checked out five years after that point. 

As I sort through books on the library shelves using the “dusty book” list and removing those that haven’t been checked out within the last five years, there is precious little that can withstand the weeding.  There are some books that I resist on behalf of, either because they are old classics or because it sounds too interesting and I think someone just might want to check it out when the shelves are weeded so people can see what is really there worth seeing.

Perhaps I’m just not seeing the modern classics because those books aren’t on the list, but I can’t think of one at the moment.

I love a good story…

People have commented to me in the past that they couldn’t imagine how authors came up with ideas for stories.  This dumbfounds me.

Stories are in the shade covering the barn door, that barn which was state of the art when it was built in the twenties but whose doors are rarely opened anymore.  Stories are in the sign beside the highway for a creek that I’ve seen hundreds of times as I passed on my way to work but one day it just sang to me.  Stories are in the community watch sign that I didn’t see on the side of a utility van, where I expected it.   They’re in the song lyrics and news headlines, in television shows and books that make me think… what if?  I’ve had essays come out of advice I found myself giving to three different people in as many days.

The problem, for me, isn’t getting ideas.  The problem is finding the time to turn them into stories.  The ideas are everywhere.