…and Keep Asking!
It’s one little word, and yet it is vital.
Why does my hero want this goal? Why does my heroine go into that haunted mansion? Why does the bad guy in the book want the hero dead? Why…why…why?
The answer to why is the motivation for a character to act. In fiction, the reader has to buy into that answer. Fictional characters have to make more sense than real people. Real people can do odd things for seemingly no reason–but readers want their fictional worlds to make more sense.
Now when you ask that why, don’t settle for the first thing that pops into your head. Anyone who reads a lot is going to go straight for a cliche–meaning a overused answer to why–for motivation.
Oh, the hero has commitment issues because his girlfriend dumped him (cliche).
Oh, the bad guy is just crazy (cliche).
Oh, the heroine goes into the haunted house because I really need her in danger at this point in the story (cliche and contrived).
So you ask WHY? Then you ask again, and again, and again. About the fifth or sixth, or seventh or eighth time your brain will run out of cliches and you’ll start getting ideas that really connect to your specific character. That’s where the gold is–and you have to dig for it.
Which means next time your story is stuck, go back to WHY is she doing this? Or WHY is he acting this way? And keep asking WHY. It’s the most best question you can ask of your characters.