By Ane Mulligan
Back on April 4th, I blogged about the 8 basic lies people believe. It can be as innocent as an ever-tired, exasperated mother wiping up yet another spilled glass of milk. “Can’t you do anything right?”
If the recipient of that rebuke is under the age of five, he believes it. After all, that’s his mother who said it, and Mama knows everything. He can do anything right. He’s not good enough. A parent who has no idea how to show love to a child can make the kid think he’s unlovable.
These lies color the child’s view of himself and the world. Add to that his ancestors’ worldview, and you’ve got a complex human being and motivation. The lie is the foundation of motivation and … the perfect beginning for a character. A character with family secrets and devastating events from childhood that still haunt him or her.
And these secrets, hurts, and the lie are what make up her motivation. If your character believes they never do anything right, they go through life not attempting new things. They’re afraid to leave that retail clerk job they finally mastered after four years to go to school to be a graphic artist, even though they’ve been told their doodling is fantastic. They don’t believe the compliment.
Or if your character believes he isn’t good enough, he will either fall victim to the lie or spend his life trying to prove it wrong. But it’s always there, just behind his conscious thoughts, telling him he really isn’t.
Find the lie and you find the character’s motivation. Find the motivation and conflict rises out of it naturally, both internal and external. Add the goals, and you have a plot. Even if you’re a SOTP writer, it’s fun to watch things unfold through the motivation. It adds a lot of depth.
If you’re a plotter, keep the motivation in the forefront of your mind. There’s nothing worse than reading a book in which the protagonist acts in a manner foreign to her motivation-at least before the character arc is completed.
Lies and motivation, they’re the key-the foundation-to great characters and story because you can plot through that motivation. It’s what drives the character, their decisions, their desires, and their actions, sometimes to their detriment; a great point of conflict.
So find the lie, grab hold of the motivation, and hang on for the conflict!
Ane Mulligan writes Southern-fried fiction served with a tall, sweet iced tea. Her debut book Chapel Springs Revival releases Sept 8th, 2014. She’s a playwright, a humor columnist and a syndicated blogger. She resides in Suwanee, GA, with her artist husband, chef son, and two dogs of Biblical proportion.