How are authors like three-year-olds?
We ask WHY all day long!
Why would we do such a thing?
An excellent question.
It’s because it gets us to the heart of a character—their motivation. And motivation is a primary concern for a writer. To make a character real, we have to consider not just what a character does, but why they do what they do. There needs to be a reason for the characters’ choices. Whether they are making a good decision or a bad one, the choice is not made in a vacuum. It’s based on their background, their experiences and their goals. In short all the “whys.” And not just the hero and heroine.
The villain needs a reason for doing evil. A baddie who is bad for no reason isn’t all that compelling. He’s a flimsy placeholder, flat and unengaging. BUT if we can make a reader understand, even a little bit, what makes him tick, then he becomes much more frightening, because he is us.
Digging deep is hard work, but it pays big dividends. When done properly WHY makes a story come to life.
Motivation is important in real life too. Hebrews tells us that God’s word is sharp enough to divide between soul and spirit and also our thoughts and intentions.
More times than I can count I’ve done right things for the wrong reasons. I might as well have saved myself the effort. God often cares as much about my motivation as he does my actions.
But sometimes I’ve hidden my real motivations so deep between layers of platitudes and justifications that I don’t even realize what they are. The work of digging through those layers and exposing my heart to scrutiny is tough but it’s worth it.
I think that’s why reading a really good book can be so cathartic. The exploration of the human heart is a mirror we hold up to ourselves. We learn and grow nearly as much as the characters in the story.We know non-fiction can teach us things, but what novels have you read lately that made a real impact on the way you viewed yourself or the world?