• know what makes your characters act, and how to ensure agency throughout your story

Characters need agency, they need to drive or propel their own story forward with what they want or need.

Their actions dictate the plot, not the other way around.

So, what will your character move the earth for? What will they beg, borrow or even kill for? Makes us feel how much they want it…the more you do this, the more we will so how much it means to them, and how much there is to lose if they don’t get it – we get STAKES!

So, where does motivation come from?

Motivation, like conflict, can be internal and it can external, and we all act based upon both primal and higher motivations. Sometimes it comes from within – I’d better eat because I am hungry – or from out with – you had better eat your dinner or their will be no dessert.

A classic definition of both main categories:

Intrinsic motivation is a type of motivation in which an individual is being motivated by internal desires.

Extrinsic motivation, on the other hand, is a type of motivation in which an individual is being motivated by external desires.

There are many, many theories of motivation and more specific types, such as:

Competence & LearningIncentive
Arousal TheoryAffiliation and Social

It’s not really necessary to go into this in too much scientific detail but knowing WHY a character wants something is vital as it will influence every decision they make, and ultimately what is to lose if they don’t get it. For example, we all know that fear is huge motivator! Fear of failure or fear of rejection or fear of loss. And it can have a negative effect, stopping you from doing something, but it can also have the opposite, galvanising effect on the character and act as a spur to keep them going.

It’s writing time!

Beneath where you wrote your characters want, write down the why? What is the motivation for the character to achieve this goal? What kind of motivation is it? Is it more than one? How do these work together, or perhaps do they come into conflict – if they do, great, you have a great source of conflict!