Monday, April 21, 2014

Monday Motivation - Under Their Skin

Under Their Skin
Last week I wrote about how writers often choose how a character looks before they decide much of
anything else. We creative types typically picture a character before fleshing out everything else about them. So we have our shell, an exoskeleton, if you will. Analogies break down after awhile.

Underneath the skin are a lot of physical components of the human body. We can actually see some of our veins under the surface, feel the tendons, joints and bones. We can flex our muscles. Let’s think about our musculoskeletal system for a moment. Without these important parts, we would be blobs of flesh, going nowhere. 

Now, what gets our characters moving? How about motivation? What is motivating them to move forward in the story? Are they running from danger? Are they lonely and looking for their soul mate? A young man trying to escape the grip of pirates who have boarded the ship where he is cabin boy, will be different from that of an orphan looking for a family. Or will it? This could be two separate stories—or one. What if the pirates ask him to join and it’s the closest thing he’s ever had to family. Yet, he knows they’re bad people. Now we have a conflict too! Really we have both interior and exterior conflicts. He wants to get away, but they’re seeking to recruit him, make him feel like part of the gang. {PD} 

I’m only scratching the surface here. Next week I’d like to discuss personality types and tools to help make a good match. Our characters have many layers and we need to get to find out what makes them tick? What is at their core? Sometimes it takes awhile to get to know a character well enough to make these decisions, but greater depth will make a difference. You don’t want your protagonist to be a paper doll, but instead to give your reader the picture of a living breathing person who they can identify with.  We may get bored with paper dolls and put them back in the drawer after awhile, but you want to know more about real people, don’t you?

Food for thought: Think about what motivates your favorite book characters and compare that to your own characters. How can you give your characters more depth?


  1. Nicely said. I love developing my characters from the inside out. It's one of my favorite parts of writing!