I wrote this story over a year ago. I really had no clue about motivation at that time. I’ve learned so much since then, yet I know I still have a long way to go. So, today, I’ve decided to blog about motivation. Not only do I hope this will help you, but I also think it will help me get a clearer picture in my head.
As you can see, the lower level is the largest, and the most important. You have to have this foundation before you can move up to the higher needs. Without it, the pyramid would collapse.
So, why do I have my characters doing things when really, they should be doing others? Because, I didn’t follow the rules. I haven’t met the more basic needs first. No, I don’t have my characters starving, but I do have them worrying about things that are less important to them at that particular time. No wonder they’re confused. I would be, too.
I have to step back and find out what their goals are. Once I know that, I can find the motivation behind it. If their goal is to keep their job, then I need to know what motivates them to reach that goal. Why do they want to keep their job? Is it because they need it for food, bills, living expenses? Well, yes, to one degree that’s why we all work, right? But, why this job? Why can’t they just find another job? There are other jobs out there. Okay, I’m not talking about the economy here, I know it’s bad, but that’s another story. Why do they need to keep this particular job? Maybe it’s a job with the family business. They don’t want to let their family down. That’s a higher level need, and as long as they’re basic needs are met, then they might worry about that. As long as there’s food on the table, then these other motivations can be important to them.
Right now, though, those needs are being met. So, why this job? It provides her with respect, something else she never received at home. Could she find that at a different job? Yes, but not as quickly. She’s worked her way up through the company. If she loses this job, she’ll have to start over, which means she’ll lose the respect she’s already gained. She doesn’t want to lose that. That’s another motivation.
My hero, on the other hand, wants to solve a crime. Why? Because that’s what he was hired to do. Why this particular crime? His motivation isn’t as basic. He doesn’t worry about needing food or lodging. His motivation is also a respect desire. He wants to be respected for his work. After becoming injured in the military, he was unable to pursue his dream of becoming a cop, like his dad and brother. So, he has to win respect as a security specialist. He doesn’t think he’ll ever be able to measure up because he doesn’t wear “the uniform”. So, solving as many crimes as possible gives him the self-respect he wouldn’t have otherwise. Even though his family doesn’t look down on him, he looks down on himself. And, he thinks maybe they don’t respect him as much as they say.
What do you think? Would you care about characters whose motivations are weak? How do you get deep into your characters motivations? Leave a comment and let me know what you think.