Today I’d like to share with you a simple concept that can really help you see your characters and plot differently and ultimately add valuable depth to them.
MOTIVATIONS BEHIND MOTIVATIONS
We’re all clear about motivations – characters gotta have them so that their actions are justified or at least make sense…
However, sometimes we can only see the first motivational layer: money, freedom, revenge, etc. Characters do what they do because these things are their motivation – being rich, escaping prison or avenging something.
This can work for a while in your story, but if these are the only motivations then the plot drive is going to be a bit stale after a while. There’s bound to be more obstacles along the way, so how can we shake things up further rather than relying on that sole motivation?
DIG DEEP THROUGH THE LAYERS
What’s the motivation behind the motivation, and the motivation behind the motivation behind the motivation, and so forth? Digging deep like this can really help us see a different side to our characters, whether you are planning a project or improving one.
That character who is motivated by being rich? That standard villain? WHY do they want to be rich? Maybe they had a really poor childhood? Fair enough. But what’s the motivation behind wanting the opposite of your childhood circumstances? Maybe it’s not really about money, but about bad childhood memories? Or even good childhood memories? Maybe our villain who is hell bent on getting rich at any cost is actually just lashing out in the only way they know how?
That character who wants to escape prison? Why do they want to escape prison? It’s always good to think outside the box and away from the most obvious answers, so what if our prisoner wanted to escape for good reasons rather than selfish reasons? Maybe they need to save something; something that they caused (that’s another layer right there connected to back story).
APPLICABLE TO ALL GENRES
This idea of layers: motivations behind motivations, may come naturally for some genres which require the depth, but can sometimes be overlooked when the focus is more on the action or the scares, etc.
Yet, the layers are still important and can still benefit your characters, not to mention avoiding questions being raised in the reader/audience after the credits roll. It all helps towards creating a satisfying story.
WHAT’S THE REAL REASON?
So next time you’re planning or reading through your story/script, ask yourself what the REAL reason is behind character behaviours and how the plot develops because of it.
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