When I begin a new writing project my mind spins like a turbine in a wind storm. So many ideas, so many possibilities. How do I weed out the ridiculous and pare them down to a workable core?
For me, those are the easy ones.
Identifying the character’s motives—that’s a whole different issue. Why do my characters do what they do?
It’s an interesting exercise that inevitably leads to self-examination.
Why do I do what I do?
Obviously, for me as a Christian the right answer is: because I want to honour God. There are times, however, when my desires are so jumbled I’m not sure that is actually the true answer. This miss-match is my inner conflict. If I put on my writer’s cap I can pull apart my twisted motives, examine them closely, and understand them better. I can even graft them into my characters.
Their inner conflicts won’t be clones of my inner conflicts. I tweak their motives to suit the situation my characters find themselves in. I play God by manipulating their fictional world until I’ve forced them into a corner where they have to confront their misplaced motivations and decide whose will they will choose. Theirs? Or God’s?
Frankly, I’m glad our real God is so much gentler with me!
This summer I'll be in pondering motives. What will you be doing?
Jayne Self is a mystery writer, former Director of Write Canada, and a ponderer of motives. She winters in Ontario and summers in Nova Scotia--not far from those wind turbines.