Friday, October 28, 2016

Understanding a Character's Motivations

Two Characters on a journey.Plotting for NaNoWriMo.
Who’s with me? 

With only five days to start, I had better solidify my ideas. I have a concrete plotting schematic I follow when outlining my novels, but sometimes events and specific scenes don’t come to me until I’m almost finished the first draft. And even then, sometimes epiphanies will come, and I’ll rush to include this new breakthrough into my story.

When I was writing Master of Time, I wrote out all eighty-something scenes on sticky notes and laid them out on my dining-room table. I preceded to label the scenes according to the plot points on my outline. It wasn’t as easy as I thought, and it wasn’t until later that I learned what I was doing wrong.
I was confusing my characters’ inner and outer motivations and trying to fit them onto one linear line.
The two are completely different.

The characters’ outer journey manifests in the physical things that the reader sees happen. The actual events that open the doors between acts. In Master of Time, my first plot point occurs when Meuric and Catrin set out on their journey. Fifty percent of the way through the novel, BAM! Another course-altering event takes place. And then 75% of the way through, another door opens and the characters’ journey takes another turn.

This is not the inner motivations that drive the characters or the characters’ emotional trek. The outer journey has a continual uphill climb until WHACK, the characters reach the apex of the story and it all goes downhill from there.

Not true with the emotional journey. Both Meuric and Catrin went through so many ups and downs that their paths looked more like a seismograph wave. 


Just remember—three catastrophes and an ending. That’s plot point one at 25%, plot point two at 50%, and plot point three at 75%. The ending is the climax, somewhere around 90-98%. All the other way points pertain to the characters’ emotional journey or are there to propel events forward, like with the Hook and the Inciting Incident. The All-is-Lost Moment is another pivotal scene. They are events, but not the KEY events.

Think of the plot points as answering what and when while the inner motivations answer the how and why.


Once the distinction is made between inner and outer motivations, laying out your outline and mapping your plot points is a piece of cake.