Monday, August 16, 2010

Ain't No Mountain High Enough - What Does Your MC Want?


I would move mountains to save my child. I would swim oceans.  People, ordinary people, are capable of extreme acts if the motivation is right.

Desire can be anything that moves you to attempt the impossible if only for the smallest chance...

As fiction writers, one of the first things we need to look at in the editing process is desire, or motivation.

What does your character want?

Is their desire clear to you as the creator of the character? Can you explain it in a sentence? Why are they pushing forward despite all the obstacles thrown in their path?

Are they on a quest? Are they doggedly pursuing a killer? Are they attempting to rescue, escape, or exact revenge?  Ronald Tobias, in his book 20 Master Plots, goes beyond the typical 7 themes (man vs. man, etc.) in fiction. If you're unclear on your character's goal, then perusing his list might help you define it.

It's up to you, the writer to figure out what your character's goal is. Why?

Because it will color every decision they make.

We want our characters to arc into something else, something more than what they were at the beginning of the journey.  To do that, they have to want something enough to change for it. In your character's mind, is their desire worth a lie, a life, their life? Or maybe its dignity, or sanity, or safety that they must risk.

Ask yourself if the decisions your character is making are in line with their ultimate desire.

An advantage to truly understanding what your character wants is that revising your story is easier because you can see through the fat of the scenes you love, but don't really need, to the bone of the story.

A compelling desire, conflict to that desire, and consequences for not achieving it are what drive your story forward.

So get out your red pen and reread your manuscript with an eye toward clarity for the reader. They have to know what your main character desires so that for the duration of your book...they want it too.

Until next time...Go Write!

Photograph by Yasin Hassan


Mary McDonald said...

I always find just the right topic at the right time, when I visit your blog. This one was a perfect reminder for me to examine my character's goals and desires. Thanks!

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

My main character's goal motivated him throughout the book.

Roland D. Yeomans said...

What a fascinating post, Raquel.

Our main desire does color our perceptions, our goals, and each breath we breathe.

Samuel McCord yearns for his home back. Home for him is not a place but a person : his wife, Meilori Shinseen, born of stardust and the sea -- absent from his side for 7 long years.

Since he no longer has a home, he makes of his jazz club a home for all of life's wounded and wanderers. If he cannot have a haven, he will see others have it ... or die trying, finally obtaining for himself an end to his heartbreak.

Have a great week. I really enjoyed your post today, Roland

Eric W. Trant said...

Excellent post. Everyone has an agenda. Every MC, every bit part, every person who floats in and out of your book, they all have an agenda.

It riles me up to see books and movies that focus entirely on the MC's goals, with everyone around them aimlessly supporting the MC.

The side-characters only want to help your MC if there is something in it for THEM!

Don't forget that. As you point out, the MC needs motivation and goals, but so also do the little characters.

How does your MC motivate not only herself, but those around her...?

- Eric

Raquel Byrnes said...

Mary - Thank you so much.

Alex - I'd love to hear more.

Roland - McCord is one of my favorite blogfest fellows.

Eric - I'm convinced that morbid fascination with Raven's insanity is a major motivating factor for the peripheral characters.

Luli said...

when you can, go there in
Has a surprise for you!