I’m going to tell you a story.
Hopefully it’s one you’ll actually see on a shelf someday and spend money on. But for now, you get it for free.
The novel I’m working on (It’s called Catalyst. Watch for it in the next three to five years) was once two novels. One called Catalyst and the other called The Oceanographer. I loved them both and everything was going swimmingly until I realized something about The Oceanographer. My villain, who I loved and who is now in the current version of Catalyst, had no motive. He was doing dastardly deeds and such, but when I asked myself why he was doing them, nothing came to mind. He just…was.
Every good character, evil or not, needs motive. No one does anything for no reason, and your characters need reason. Or, as the Mock Turtle said, “a Porpoise.”
For a bad guy, your possibilities are pretty much endless. World domination is always a good motivator, as is money, revenge, power and corporate greed. Old hat as all those things may be, there are innumerable ways to spin them to your devices.
I will take a moment to admit that one of the greatest villains of all time has no real motive. But your villain isn’t the Joker, so you need motive.
Good guys need motive as well. Readers tend to get bored with a good guy who is good for the sake of being good. Is he rescuing his lady love from the clutches of the dastardly wizard? Avenging his dead third cousin? Fighting for the greater good of all mankind while fighting his own personal inner demons?
Motivation is your first step toward adding depth to your characters, and gives them relatability as well as giving opportunity for side stories and subplots that, used well, add interest to your piece.
Also, don’t use huge sentences like I just did. Run-ons are bad.
Motivation is pretty much the spring from which all your character’s actions flow. It determines the choices they will make, the words that they will say and really, the direction your story will take.
So make it good.
What I’m Reading: Nothing, at the moment, although I did just read Munch the Dr. Suess ABC.