Current Status: Stressed
Food Consumed: Homemade butter cake; one slice
On The iPod: Home; Via Tania
Word Count: Stalled
This blog post should really be titled, ‘Character Motivations: Major and Minor, and How Not Knowing the Motivation of One of Your Characters Can Lead to Writer’s Block,’ but I thought that was probably too much of a mouthful.
Not even a week into my third and, I had hoped, final draft of my long-suffering WIP and I’ve already hit another snag – a major snag, in fact, because I’ve only just realised (I can’t believe it’s taken me three drafts to see this!) that I have absolutely no clue what is motivating one of my characters.
The character in question – let’s call him ‘Character M’ for the sake of the discussion – isn’t my MC (him, I know almost better than myself). ‘M’ is what I call a ‘floating’ character: he’s sort of hanging on the precipice between what is considered to be major and minor characters. He’s not lost to the background, and is pretty integral to the plot, ie. if I don’t put ‘M’ in there, the story won’t work. He doesn’t get as much page time as my MC and his girl pal, but ‘M’ does form the cornerstone to a rather important thread, almost the backbone to the entire story, and without him there, the thread isn’t able to be tied off in a neat little bow at the end. But back to the movitation issue… or lack thereof.
‘M’ isn’t entirely without motivation. I know why he’s there on the page. I know the reason he’s needed, where he’s come from and where he wants to go. What I don’t know is the why or the how: why has he come to this particular place; why now; why does he have it in for certain characters and not others; how has he come to be here and how does it all fit together? As you can see, I’m pretty lost at this point. Short of writing out a complete character analysis on ‘M’ I’m at a loss as to what I should do.
Half my problem (or maybe all of it), I think, is that I can’t quite decide on what I want ‘M’s’ role to be. Without divulging too much information on the plot (I’ve always been fearful of doing that online; I like to keep my cards close to my chest), my main issue at the moment is: do I make ‘M’ a father or do I not? This is something I need to figure out in my own time and certainly not an answer I’m looking to any of you to give. Whichever I choose will greatly affect the outcome of the novel, so I need to choose wisely. I guess that’s why I’ve been procrastinating about it for so long.
How do you deal with character motivations? Do you write out a character outline during the plotting process? Or are you a pantser, like me, who has a general idea about a character and then just fills in the blanks later on?