Shannon Dittemore is the author of the Angel Eyes novels. She has an overactive imagination and a passion for truth. Her lifelong journey to combine the two is responsible for a stint at Portland Bible College, performances with local theater companies, and an affinity for mentoring teen writers. Since 2013, Shannon has taught mentoring tracks at a local school where she provides junior high and high school students with an introduction to writing and the publishing industry. For more about Shan, check out her website, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.
Writing exercises are back, you guys! And I've got a good one today. It's inspired by the edit I'm currently working on, so let me fill you in. Without, of course, giving away the guts of my story.
So! I have this manuscript, right? A book that I have "completed" a million times now. I was excited about it, proud, convinced it was ready to go out hunting for a publishing house. And then! THEN. My agent had this idea. Maybe we tweak this one thing. Doesn't sound like such a big deal right? Just, you know, a thing.
Well! Tweaking this one thing meant revisiting the motivations for nearly all of my main characters. And when you have a completed manuscript, a manuscript you love and genuinely believe in, it is a difficult thing to revisit the reasons behind each action.
Because my manuscript is so far along, I also have a framework I need to edit within. Meaning, my list of possible motivations must be limited to what these specific characters reasonably will and won't do within the structure of the current story.
So! Here's what I had to do.
I had to list possible motivations for each action I was adjusting and then consider how it affected the other characters. Once I'd thought through the possibilities, I narrowed the list down to my best, most suitable options and worked from there.
So, let's talk about it. What kinds of things influence a character's actions? Here are some of the motivations I considered:
We do a ton of things out of habit. We don't think about the why anymore, we just do it a certain way because we've always done it that way. Habits can be very telling.
I know you identify with this! How often to we decide to walk down a specific hallway at school because we're avoiding someone who hangs out on our regular route? On a larger scale, some people live their lives a certain way simply to avoid something they consider unpleasant. Lots of possibilities here.
Football season is starting and if you listen to any press conference this weekend, you'll hear coaches and players alike talk about the daily grind with the end goal being that Lombardi Trophy given to the season's Super Bowl Champs. That's why they play. Most of us have some sort of achievement in mind. Could it be a reward of some sort that has your character doing the things he does? What if it isn't a reward so much as an achievement? A life goal? A new goal spurred on by the situation your character finds herself in?
Empathy / Sympathy
Perhaps your character has been through a situation that allows him or her to empathize with another character's plight. Or perhaps your character simply feels the burden of another soul and wants to help. If you're careful to dig deeply here, empathy and sympathy can act as powerful motivators.
Does your character believe something that isn't true? Perhaps your character believes a lie. Many of us have acted on false information to detrimental consequences. Maybe this lie and your character's actions in light of it, is the impetus for growth? Our beliefs, real and perceived, touch everything we do.
NOW it's YOUR TURN. I'm going to give you an action and I want you to come up with five possible motivations for it. Keep it simple. We don't need a story here. Just a simple list.
In the comments section, give me five motivations for