Character Motivation: What every story needs to fly off the page

Blue Angels MF


The more I write, the more my process changes. Lately, I’ve been alternating between developing scenes and perfecting my outline to make sure the tension points are spaced out correctly. I know exactly what needs to happen in my story and where I want it to go. But instead of flying by the seat of my pants and only writing the main plot points, I’m working on deepening my characters and developing my subplot.


  • What are their motivations?
  • What happened in the past to make them who they are today?
  • How does this affect the other characters?
  • Will the resolution provide enough setup for the next book without being a cliffhanger?

The ups and downs we experience in life shape who we are as people. How I react to certain situations is different than the person sitting next to me on the daily commute train. The same is true for fictional characters. I want my characters to not only be likeable and easy to identify with, but complex and flawed. Real people have issues.

Currently, I have a character who is afraid to let herself be happy. She fears that something will happen to derail her happiness. Why? This is a tough question to answer the third book into a series and still maintain a credible storyline, but the character deserves to be multi-dimensional. Thinking through the possible scenarios is fascinating.

  • Did something happen to her, before our story timeline that was hinted at in the previous books?
  • Will she have an epiphany on own or will tragedy help her see the light?
  • How does she get over this fear?

Discovering the deeper motivations of my characters has been an amazing learning experience and a technique I will continue to cultivate the more I write.

The challenge is how to develop enough subtext to tease the reader, but not giveaway all the secrets. I want the reader to think about my story after they’ve finished reading, and wonder if their theories about the characters are correct without confusing them, but that subtext still has to be plausible.

I’ll be honest, this current story is testing my limits, but I’m all about learning and growing.

The goal is to fill the tank with enough fuel to make the adrenaline pumping loop-da-loops that will hopefully keep the reader’s eyes glued to the page with oohs and aahs.

Wish me luck.

Have you ever read a book or watched a movie and experienced that moment where the lightbulb goes off and everything the character does suddenly makes sense?

Author Pic

I was born and raised in San Francisco, CA, and have a husband and two children. Music is an addiction. I can often be found in the car, singing along at the top of my lungs to whatever is playing. I work full time, and I split my spare time between family, reading, blogging, and writing. I’m a habitual quoter. Lines from films and TV shows constantly pop into my head—my kids are the only ones that really get it. I’m an only child, and so of course I married a man who is one of ten children. Other than English, I speak Spanish, Moroccan, and a little French. I love to travel, but don’t do enough of it. Reading has been a passion for most of my life and I now love writing. I’m klutz, and in my own mind, I’m hilarious.

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