Motivation Part 2: The “Why” That Shapes Your Life

Last week I wrote about finding your core motivation for getting out of bed every morning.  Now I want build upon that and find the motivation that drives you to write.

That’s right.  Why do you write?

There are as many reasons to write as there are writers.

Some write for fame and fortune.  Some, out of a passion for their subject matter.  Others jump into writing as a tool to purge their soul of personal pain and terrors.

Do you write to inform the world of some atrocity?  Do you write to make people smile, sigh, and remember precious moments in their own lives?  Do you write to create a shared experience between yourself and the reader?

My “why” is that the characters living in my mind won’t allow me not to write.  They want their stories told.  They want to thrill you, terrify you, excite and inspire you with their adventures.  Words clamor for life on the page, knowing they will soothe or incite, warm or chill the reader, all in the way you choose to arrange them.

Everything that happens in our lives helps shape our choice of career.  The same applies to the characters we create.  Now that you’ve spent some time thinking over the “why” of your choice to write, turn your attention to the ‘why’ for the career choices your characters make.

Begin with your character’s core motivation, then dig deeper to discover his reason for becoming an international spy.  Has he always had a talent for deceit, which may come in handy when he’s in a dangerous situation?  Does he seek the adrenaline rush of danger to remind him that he’s alive?  Did he become involved in espionage because he seeks answers about the death of a parent who served as an ambassador?

How about your cattle rancher?  Is his the motivation of a man carrying on a family tradition hundreds of years in the making?  Or did he leave the lap of luxury, drawn to the hard work of ranching because of his love of open spaces and a pride in making his own success?

A Wall Street broker may be working solely to satisfy the expectations of parents, or perhaps for the power and money he can accumulate as he cheats his unsuspecting clients.  On the other hand, he may be a genius with numbers and patterns and there could be no better career allowing him to use those skills to help other people.

Ask your character why she loves to teach.  Perhaps her mother was a teacher and she wants to emulate that example.  Her third grade teacher, who took extra time to help her overcome a learning disability, may have inspired her.

The brainy scientist might be using her unique knowledge to create an artificial environment for space settlers because her father read their favorite science fiction aloud when she was a child.

Take the time to find the “why” of the choices your character makes.  In understanding what motivates him and forms his life, you’ll understand his values and desires.  And isn’t that what makes a character intriguing to the reader – being able to relate to the driving force behind his motives?

What have you discovered about your “why” that you can borrow to shape your characters’ choices?  Share with us in the comments.