Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Tying motivation and plot together

So, it's clear I can't blog about the new Indiana Jones movie, 'cause it would all end in a big DWT cage match... Actually, that sounds kinda fun -- except it's two against one and I never go into a cage match without Sinead backing me up. She's freakishly strong. (Even if she's wrong about the movie.)

But what I've been thinking about this week--the few times I've had a chance to think about writing, because I've been busy (read swamped) with the three gazillion entries I received for my local chapter's writing contest--is something Molly said to me on the weekend.

We were hashing through some issues I was having with my hero's motivation in the middle of my book, because he was waffling and really he's not a waffling kind of guy. The waffling was all me, not him. And I knew what I wanted to have happen in the plot, but I couldn't figure out what my hero's motivation would be for making it happen... Then something Molly said made me slap myself upside the head.

This was her jewel of wisdom: Have your character decide one thing, but then have the plot force him to do the opposite.




M. said...

OK. I'll go add that to my notebook now.

I'm hoping tomorrow you'll specify the next step: how?

Anonymous said...

That is brilliant. It's going onto my bulletin board right now. Here's my question--along with M's how question--how does this play into character. I mean, how does this play into something being in character or not? I think it would make for a richer character for him or her to have to do something he said he wouldn't...is that what your friend is after?

Anonymous said...

Molly is smart.
Kathie, great question. I'm going to try and answer. A scene starts with one of the characters having a clear goal. For real tension, there has to be an impediment to that goal, and the character has to react to that impediment, probably by changing their goal.
But the goal usually comes from character, because the character decides what the goal has to be, and the impediment is usually an external force, so more plot driven.

And now I'm rambing.. but the whole what does the character want question is a really important start for me when I write each scene and usually I run into trouble when I don't have a clear goal for them.

Maureen McGowan said...

Sinead said it well. In some ways, Molly's advice was just another way to explain Dwight Swain's: Scene and Sequel stuff. The scene part: Goal, conflict, disaster.
Sequel: Reaction, analysis, decision

The disaster can sometimes force the character to react and do something out of character. Something they wouldn't have done if the disaster hadn't occurred.

More often they probably go through the analysis and decision part and find a new goal.

But in the case of my little problem.. I was having him analyze and decide to change his mind, and Molly's point was I was weakening the drama and his motivation by having him think about it. And I could just make sure the plot forced him to act. (I have a situation where the heroine is in danger. Doing what he'd decided against, will keep her from the immediate danger, even if it might put her in worse danger down the road... I was stressing over why he'd change his mind... and my light bulb was realizing he didn't need to. He could just act. And just acting from instinct to protect her TOTALLY fits with his character.)

Boy, now who's rambling? But writing it out this way has clarified the whole thing in my mind, even better. Now to go rewrite the fracking scene.

Amy Ruttan said...

I agree with M. Must write down.

I've had many a character surprise me with actions that are just so unlike them.

This is a great way to deal with it, because that is the point where I get stuck. REALLY stuck.

Hugs on the entries Maureen!!!

AND NO bad mouthing Indy. LOL!!

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