This section is one of the reasons why every fiction writer should read this book. It cleaves craft from formula so deftly, so convincingly, that it cannot be refuted. Hills:
Motivation seems to have a key role in creating sequential, causal action, and formulas of fiction and drama speak of it as the “mainspring” of the action. Writers are always being urged to “establish motivation,” to make each character’s motivation as clear as possible, this seeming to be a good way of establishing both characterization and conflict.
Every writer confronts this kind of thinking at some point. It’s impossible to avoid. I was fortunate never to be exposed to formula as craft, but that doesn’t mean the issue of character motivation didn’t come up.
When I was in college I took multiple workshops in short fiction, playwriting and screenwriting. Concerns about character motivation came up most often in playwriting, less so in screenwriting, and least frequently in fiction workshops. While it’s possible my experience was the result of chance I don’t think that’s the case. Rather, I think it was influenced by the degree to which characterization dominates each medium. [ Read more ]