Intensifying Motivation

A couple weeks ago, I taught a class in motivation and also wrote a post about it. The genesis for class and post was multiple discussions of motivation and how difficult it is to deal when there’s a lack of it during my time in France.  Since then, I’ve had my eye out for motivation techniques.

I’m reading a book in galley and in it, the  the heroine worries about dating a younger man. This is her main motivation for resisting him. (And, you know, the heroine must resist the hero or there is no story.) I thought it was a pretty lame motivation, to be honest. But then she takes it a step farther and tells why. Because in ten years the age gap will be worse.  Because she’ll be old and infirm long before him. In truth, I can’t remember the reasons, because I was so excited to see the technique.

In my current WIP, the main character’s motivation for resisting the dashing love interest is her business ethics. She’s a matchmaker, and she’s sworn never to marry a client. Never mind that said client is rich, charming, and perfect in every way. She cannot marry him because–business ethics. Yeah, I know. Every beta reader, as well as my agent and all her readers, thought it was weak, too.

So part of how I can solve the problem, which just occurred to me after much pondering and wringing of hands over motivation, is by intensifying it for the reader.  Not just saying business ethics but saying more. In Bridget’s head, she goes into all the reasons that falling in love with Cade will  destroy her integrity and impact her business.

This is illustrative of a thing that happens in writing: you either pare things down or add to them. Sounds obvious, but sometimes you think you have to dramatically change everything, when really what you need to do is intensify it.

And here’s another way to intensify motivation: have other people comment on it. For instance in the galley I just finished reading, the main character worries about dating a younger man, as mentioned above.  And what happens is that other people comment on it. Like a more “appropriate” aged policeman says, “Isn’t he a bit young for you?” and then hits on the heroine himself. This happens, in various guises, a couple of times in the book. It’s enough to drive home the point.

In my book, I could have people question Bridget’s decision to date Cade. As in, “But isn’t that sort of against the matchmaker’s code of ethics?” Or, it could be as subtle as someone asking, “Do you ever date clients? Or is that considered a bad thing?”

You get the drift, right?

Like so much in writing, these are somewhat subtle techniques, but very, very useful to put into effect. And, I came to them through reading. Which you should be doing as much as possible of, right? You are, aren’t you?

How do you deal with motivation in your characters?

And might you be motivated to come to France to study writing in September? We are getting close to full, but still have a couple of spots.

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Keith Crawford
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Keith Crawford

Thanks for this. For whatever reason, it made me stop, look at my WIP, and thing “can I intensify their motivation.” And of course I could. Instantly better story. Funny how simple things can make a huge difference. Cheers!