This is a phrase I heard often when I was growing up courtesy of Professor Julius Sumner Miller, an American physicist and television personality. Whilst teaching at the University of Sydney he hosted a science based TV show called ‘Why is it so?’ which I watched after school every week.
His shows were a hit because of his “cool experiments, interesting science, and fantastic hair”. You could say his show and teaching style was an earlier version of ‘Myth Busters’.
I was thinking about the good professor recently as I was working on the outline of a new book. ‘Why is it so’ was the question that popped into my head as I struggled to come up with a strong motivation for the main protagonist. Without it I can’t move forward with developing the story arc. So for the moment I’m stuck.
This is a fundamental question that all writers have to answer – the impetus, if you will, that drives the story forward to some form of conclusion. It’s such an important part of the process that there are even online motivation generators for writers who need a few ideas. With the a click of the mouse you’re presented with random motivations. How simple is that! For example:
- Your character wants to clear their name.
- Your character’s greatest desire is to protect their business.
- Your character is trying to reunite with a major protagonist
There are even sites that focus just on the heroine or the villain. Just Google ‘character motivation generator’ to get a few ideas.
I also found this blog, The Psychology of Character by Fiction Editor Beth Hill from The Editor’s Blog, which covers the subject of motivation really well, with advice like the following:
“Knowledge of character motivation—knowledge of who the character is and why he is that way—helps the writer add layers and depth, veracity and cohesion, to story. It gives truth to fiction.”
To read more about Beth’s views on creating great characters, here is a link to The Editor’s Blog.