Are you sometimes stuck with your main character or are you just unsure what some of the supporting characters are even doing in your story?
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Maybe it’s because they lack the motivation to keep the plot going, or maybe they have no reason to be there?
Your main character might meet other characters as the story unfolds, but the right tensions just don’t evolve or you think the plot could be deeper and more dimensional. Maybe you need some background stories for your characters but you’re not sure how to even begin to create them.
I often provide feedback to my sister (published childrens’ author Louise Lund Olesen) when she is stuck or needs inspiration. When she was uncertain where her plot was headed and was stuck with 4 supporting characters with no reason to be in the story, I came up with a writing exercise that quickly provided her with the information she needed – a basic character motivation.
This writing exercise, giving each character their own motivation within the overall plotline, suddenly gave a big push in the right direction and a load of extra material to work with. It also opened up the story, when Louise got a better idea of who the characters are and what they are trying to achieve.
The character motivation formula looks like this;
[Character] wants [goal] because [why that goal/reason] but [obstacle/-s to achieving that goal]
To give you an example, it can be used like this;
The little mermaid wants to go where the humans live, because she found interesting things in shipwrecks and she thinks humans are intriguing, but she has a tail that makes it impossible to walk on land and her father will not allow it.
This exercise can be used both when you are writing your novel or book or when you have an idea for a character but don’t know what it’s for yet – there are plenty of possibilities so have fun with it!
Remember that a character can have more than one goal and that there can be a big variety of obstacles in their way.