Whose Story are You Writing?

Every story is someone’s story. Whether we are writing about war, child abuse, romance, murder, or any other topic, we must make readers care about a character. Readers want someone to root for, to bond with, to love. Once they have found that, they will be eager to read further.

Sometimes it’s hard for us writers to decide whose story we are writing. We create a lot of characters while writing our novels, and we fall in love with all of them, even the villains. We feel disloyal to our creations if we give one character more consideration than others, and we believe the story needs all those points of view. But the reader knows only what is on the page, not what is in our minds, and all those equally significant characters become confusing. Readers need to know whose story it is. Or whose story it mostly is.

One way for us to decide this is to figure out which character has the most at stake and which one will change the most. If we are lucky, the two will be the same, and we will know whose story it is. If not, we have to make the character who will change the most into the main story character while upping that character’s stakes.

A character with nothing to lose is not one people will care about. If someone in the story parachutes out of a plane for fun, readers might find it entertaining, but they won’t be concerned. But if someone wearing a faulty parachute jumps out of a plane into flames to save a child lost in the middle of a forest fire, everyone except the most curmudgeonly will care.

The same is true of character growth. A character who remains static, who learns nothing from experience, is not someone readers can love. A story is always about change, and since a story is also about a character, that character must grow, or should at least change in some small way. A timid character might learn to stand up for himself. An arrogant character might learn a touch of humility. The essence of the character does not need to change. A timid reporter who turns into superman is the stuff of comic books, not a realistic novel. But a character who grows, who learns, who comes back from his or her experiences with something to share, that is a character readers care about.

And that’s whose story it is.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Dealing with Myriad Characters

It’s amazing how much I have forgotten about my work in progress, the one that’s been paused for the better part of three years. (I’ve been writing it on again and off again for six years, actually. Life and death have so often broken me away from the work, that it’s progressing on an average of 8,000 words a year. At this rate, it will be finished in three more years.)

During the first third of the book, my poor hero was mostly alone as he dealt with the affects of a world gone berserk, which created many writing challenges. It’s much easier to write with two characters so they can play off each other, butt heads, have dialogues, or whatever is necessary for the story.

The second part of the book presented an entirely different challenge — too many characters. I’m typing up a stray chapter, one I wrote three years ago, and it astonished me to count fifteen characters: my hero, his nemesis, three starfish-like aliens, plus ten supporting characters. Ouch.

Luckily, I’d done research on group dynamics shortly after I started writing this book, and so I was able to give each human an identifiable role in the group. As I found out, at times groups act like a single entity, so that also helps in dealing with myriad characters. As I wrote in On Writing: Characters and Group Mentality:

massesThere are five stages of group development:

1. Coming together and finding roles
2. Defining the task
3. Disenchantment with the leader, each other
4. Cohesion, feeling like a team
5. Interdependence, acting like a team, becoming more than the sum of the parts.

Most groups unconsciously assign roles to the members, and once these roles have been assigned, tacit agreement maintains them. The most common group roles are: leader, seducer (wants to bewitch others), silent member, taskmaster, clown, victim, oppressor, conciliator, combatant, nurse, young Turk (wants to take over the leadership), the naïf, and the scapegoat.

Groups tend to isolate one person as the source of any conflict, whether warranted or not, and they deposit their negative feelings on that person. Because my hero keeps to himself, and because the others think he’s “teacher’s pet,” he becomes the scapegoat. I don’t think he cares, though, so if you don’t care, are you still the scapegoat? Either way, that’s the role the group has assigned him.

Well, the group didn’t assign him that role; apparently I did once upon a time. It should be interesting to see what other treasures I find as I rediscover this story.

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Without Changes, You Have No Story

Change is the reason for a story. Without change, you have an anecdote, perhaps a description of a life or a time, but no story.

Whenever there is change during the course of the story, and — more immediately — during a chapter, a scene, a page, even a paragraph, it advances the story. These changes should be interesting and compelling in themselves, but they should also worsen or improve the status of a character, raise new questions in readers’ minds as to the story’s outcome, and prepare for scenes to come.

Changes can be major alterations in a character’s life, such as the death of a loved one, or they can be as subtle as the touch of a hand. Changes can jolt the reader or give them a false sense of security so you can hit them with a major change later to better effect.

We often put characters through changes we want to explore. Lately, the only fiction I can write (to the extent that I write fiction, which isn’t much) is if my main character experiences a grievous loss. Apparently, I need to explore this change in my life any way I can, hoping to find a more appealing outcome. Perhaps that’s why I’ve been sticking to blogging and an occasional (very occasional) piece of short fiction — I can’t find a more appealing outcome to the changes in my life, can’t even imagine any appealing outcome, so I can’t write it.

In quest stories, the hero has to transform herself into the person who can bring about the necessary outcome, so maybe I’m still undergoing my transformation, and eventually, this transformation will change the outcome of both my story and the stories I write.

Writing doesn’t just happen, nor does it happen in a vacuum. Our stories change us every bit as much as we change our stories, in an every tightening spiral. We create episodes of change so that the characters will change which in turn change the plot, which in turn change the whole focus of the story, which in turn changes our relationship to the story.

While writing A Spark of Heavenly Fire, I was researching Pingfan and the human experiments that were being done there (some on American POWs) and I thought I’d found something that few others knew. Afterward, in every novel I picked up, there was a mention of Pingfan, so I had to change the focus of the book, which in turn changed the characters and how they got to the end. (The end was a given — I’d written that chapter about halfway through — I just needed to find a way to get there.) Many of the conversations I had about this Pingfan oddity ended up in the book, which gave the story an added depth.

Some psychologists say we never change in any basic way. That our characters and essential personalities are our foundation. We can only change in small ways, such as changing our habits or changing our focus. This is at odds with writing coaches who say that a character must do a complete about face. That about face is possible if it is motivated, if there is a reason for your character’s basic change. Normally, a smart person doesn’t become stupid overnight and a stupid person doesn’t become smart, though abnormal situations can create such changes. Flowers for Algernon, for example, or Regarding Henry.

Although change is important, many characters don’t change — take detective novels, for example. Most of the classic detectives were the same from the first page to the last. But other characters in the stories changed, and the situations changed, which kept the detectives changing direction and focus. So while they themselves didn’t go through any sort of metamorphosis, the stories still seemed to be about change.

Sometimes a character’s inability to change is the story. For example, if a character was tortured and despite the horrors, never changed, it would tell you a lot about the character, and how his non-change changed the world around him. (This was the theme of several movies, though I can’t remember a single title. Can’t remember the movies, either. Perhaps this isn’t as compelling a scenario as I thought.)

Almost anything can bring about a change. Lies can bring about change, the truth can bring about change, a knock on the door, a trip. Even something so simple as losing weight. I once had a friend, a lively teenage who was quite obese. Everyone kept telling her she would be so pretty if she lost weight. She did lose a lot of weight. Started before school let out and spent the whole summer being active and eating right. She wasn’t more attractive. And she wasn’t more popular. About broke her heart. Became sullen and morose. And depressed. And regained all the weight. Which is an example of another type of change — where the character changes but ends up the same as at the beginning.

Some questions to ask yourself if you need to delve deeper into the changes that occur during the course of your book:

What changes do your characters undergo?
Do you keep the changes coming at an ever dizzying rate or do you throw small changes at your characters, changes that add up over time?
Are your characters the same at the end of all these changes? Is their situation the same?
Is the final outcome a major upheaval for the character or merely a change in focus?
Do all your characters change, or just the main character?
How do you bring about the changes?
Are the changes an intrinsic part of the story or just thrown in for the sake of change?

The Not Quite Good vs. the Not So Evil

“The story must be a conflict, and specifically, a conflict between the forces of good and evil within a single person.” — Maxwell Anderson, American playwright (Actually, he said, “The story of a play must be a conflict . . .” and that can lead to the first question of tonight’s discussion. Does a story/novel differ from a play in other ways besides simply the format?)

The best stories are, of course, conflicted, and internal conflict deepens one’s knowledge of a character and raises the stakes for the outcome of the story. But . . . does the conflict need to be between good and evil? If a character is battling it out internally between such disparate forces, then there’s a chance the story will end up being comic bookish and the character end up resembling Linda Blair in The Exorcist.

Perhaps it’s better for the internal conflict to be a bit narrower? Say between one’s need to do the right thing and one’s tendency to be selfish?

I just read an article that said most people don’t particularly want to be good. They’d rather devote their efforts to other things such as being happy, successful, smart, attractive, healthy. Sounds like the makings of a good conflict. Battling one of these urges in order to do something selfless would make a character more real than one who has to battle their evil nature, because who of us is truly evil? Most of us are thoughtless, selfish, petty, pettish, angry, given to telling small lies and committing small dishonest acts, none of which are evil. Just human.

According to that same article, goodness is about a person’s character — integrity, honesty, kindness, generosity, moral courage. A story person with such qualities would seem shallow and uninteresting and too good to be true. On the other hand, some characters who are supposed to be on the side of good do as much bad as the characters who are supposed to be evil. In other words, in a fictional world, it’s okay to be evil as long as your intentions are good. That would make a good conflict, too — a battle between a character’s good intentions and what the character really does. But such a battle is still not a conflict between the forces of good and evil in the same person.

So, do you agree with Maxell Anderson? Do your characters have a massive internal conflict, or do their internal conflicts tend to be less dramatic? What are your characters internal conflicts? Does the internal conflict reflect or contrast the major conflict in the story? As for your villains — are they also conflicted but perhaps lose the battle to their less than stellar side?

If you’d like to discuss this topic live, you can find me at the group No Whine, Just Champagne on Gather.com on Thursday, October 15, 2011 at 9:00pm ET (8pm CT, 7pm MT, 6pm PT). Otherwise, we can just chat here.

Questions About Writing Stories

I received an email the other day from someone who wanted to interview me for a class project. I think he’s for real, but some of the requests I have been getting recently are questionable, so I thought I’d post my responses here to stake my claim. Feel free to respond to any of the questions. If the interviewer does, in fact, read my blog as he said he did, I’m sure he’ll be glad of the additional input.

What, in your opinion, are the essential qualities of a good story?

The most essential quality of a good story is the ability to take readers somewhere else and make them glad they went. It’s also important to make the writing easy to read, which means the writing must be grammatically correct. Nothing takes a reader out of a story faster than having to decipher convoluted sentences with improper punctuation. Ideally, a story should leave readers a bit better off than they were before, either because of what they learned about the world and themselves, or because of the respite from their everyday lives.

Do you keep those qualities in mind while you write?

The only one of these qualities that I keep in mind while writing is to make sure what I write is readable. Other than that, I focus on the story, setting the scene then developing plot and characters into a cohesive whole.

Which of those qualities do you think is the most important, if there is a ‘most important’ one?

Some people think character is most important, others think plot is the most important, but you really can’t separate the two. Plot is what happens to a character, what a character does, or both. You cannot have a character without a plot. To show who or what a character is, you need to show the character acting, and that is plot. You also cannot have a plot without a character. If an asteroid falls to Earth, that might be newsworthy, but it’s not a story until you have characters interacting with the asteroid. Who found it? What did they do with it? What happened to them as a consequence of their actions? That’s what makes a story.

How much of a story do you have in your head before you start writing it?

I know the main characters, I know the beginning of the story, I know the end of the story, and I know how I want the characters to develop, but I don’t flesh out the individual scenes until I start writing them.

Do you do any research for your writing? If so, how do you do it? (searching Internet, magazines, other books, etc.)

The research for Light Bringer, which will be published mid 2010, took me approximately twenty years. The research for my other novels took two to five years each. Sometimes I consulted maps or guidebooks, sometimes people told me what they knew, but mostly I read books on the various subjects.

How do you prefer to start a novel? For instance, do you try to start it out with a ‘bang’, or do you prefer to start out with a low point?

I start with a good hook, sort of a small bang, and I work up to a bigger bang.

How (or when) do you decide that you are done writing a story?

A story is done when it is published. Otherwise, it is never finished. The more one writes, the more one learns, and the more one learns, the more one sees how earlier works can be improved. The only thing that stops this cycle of learning and rewriting is getting published.

Do you have any specific pattern of writing, however subtle it may be, when you write? (Using specific plot devices consistently, for instance)

The only device I use now (though I did not do it in the beginning) is a theme. If I know the theme of a story, I can keep focused on the main concept and not go off on tangents. A story needs to be tightly constructed without extraneous scenes or exposition. If not tightly constructed, a story loses its power and impact, sort of like a comedian who tells a rambling joke without a punch line.

The term ‘well developed characters’ is extremely vague and the definition differs depending on who is asked. What, in your opinion, does it mean?

A well-developed character gives readers a sense of that character’s personality, feelings, and struggles. A well-developed character changes and matures as a result of all that the character experiences during the course of the story.

What is your goal for the story to be when you write? That is, how do you want your stories to say what they say?

My only goal is to write the stories I want to read. If my books do have a message, it’s that nothing is as it seems. We are not necessarily who we think we are, history did not necessarily happen the way we think it did, and what we see is not necessarily the truth. But all that is more of a side effect. Mostly I just want to write good stories with good characters.

Did I Really Write a Feel-Good Book?

It will be interesting to see what people say about my books; I’m beginning to think I have no idea what I wrote. For example, A Spark of Heavenly Fire is the story of four ordinary people who become extraordinary while struggling to survive quarantine and martial law in Colorado. It was supposed to be a hard-hitting novel with an edge, but my proofreader told me, “You might do well. I think people are ready for a feel-good book.”

A feel-good book? Where is the edge? The horror? The feeling of doom? According to said proofreader, “Those elements are in the background, but the characters are the story. And they are heartbreakingly real.” Oh.

I thought I couldn’t write good characters. Most books on writing (and many authors) say that a writer has to feel what her characters feel or else the reader won’t feel the characters’ emotions. If you don’t cry, neither will your reader. But I don’t feel what my characters feel. Writing erases emotion, takes me to a place of serenity. And serenity is not generally where you want to take a reader. But I am deliberate in my choice of words and in the details I include. Perhaps those elements combine to help overcome my lack of emotion.

Of course, I generally don’t feel the emotion in the books I read, either. Often, despite the blurbs and reviews that extol the great characters, the characters seem to be only props on which the author hung the story, and a banal story at that.

Perhaps, after all, I won’t mind if I haven’t written a book with an edge. There are plenty of those out there. But I do like my proofreader’s description of my book. He wasn’t the first to use the phrase “heartbreakingly real” about my characters, and with any luck, he won’t be the last.

I can live with that.

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On Writing: Characters and Group Mentality

I’ve been trying to develop the middle part of my current work. I have an idea of how my hero, Chip, will progress and how he will change due to the psychological problems he will be dealing with, but I still have to figure out how he will fit in with the group.

Groups take on a life of their own, with a culture and a group mentality that is different from the sum of the individual members. The group, in effect, becomes a character, so I need to develop this character while I am developing my hero’s character.

There are five stages of group development:

1. Coming together and finding roles
2. Defining the task
3. Disenchantment with the leader, each other
4. Cohesion, feeling like a team
5. Interdependence, acting like a team, becoming more than the sum of the parts.

Most groups unconsciously assign roles to the members, and once these roles have been assigned, tacit agreement maintains them. The most common group roles are: leader, seducer (wants to bewitch others), silent member, taskmaster, clown, victim, oppressor, conciliator, combatant, nurse, young Turk (wants to take over the leadership), the naïf, and the scapegoat.

In the first part of my WIP, where Chip deals with the loss of everything he loved, he meets three mentors, but he is mostly alone. Even his cat deserts him. In the second part, he has to become a part of a group that will escape the place of refuge, choosing freedom over safety, but he is still a loner. I know readers like forceful main characters, the go-to guys and gals (for those of you who hate the word “gals,” sorry, but I couldn’t resist), but I prefer the quieter types, the ones don’t take charge until they are pressed into it out of necessity. So, in the group hierarchy, Chip will not be the leader. He will be the silent member and he will be the scapegoat.

Groups tend to isolate one person as the source of any conflict, whether warranted or not, and they deposit their negative feelings on that person. Because Chip keeps to himself, and because the others think he’s “teacher’s pet,” he becomes the scapegoat. I don’t think he cares, though, so if you don’t care, are you still the scapegoat? Either way, that’s the role the group has assigned him.

Chip’s eventual love interest will fulfill the roles of nurse and taskmaster. A serial killer will fulfill the role of clown. A woman who never quite fit into her other life will find a fit as the leader. The combatant and perhaps oppressor will be a soldier. A lawyer, an erstwhile ambulance chaser, will be the conciliator. But I don’t yet have characters to fill the other roles. So that’s what I need to work on — creating those characters.

This was supposed to be a silly book, a story just for fun, but in the development, it’s becoming something different, something I have to learn how to write as I go along. I keep promising myself that my next book will be one I know how to write. It would make it a heck of a lot easier. But then, where’s the challenge in that?

***

Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Follow Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.

Would You Like Me to Interview Your Characters?

I am starting a new blog, Pat Bertram Introduces . . .  where I will be posting interviews with fictional characters. The first interview has been posted: Pat Bertram Introduces Siegfried Marggrander, close friend and brother-in-law of Gus LeGarde, of the LeGarde Mystery series, written by Aaron Lazar.

If you wish a character to be interviewed by Pat Bertram, please answer fifteen to twenty questions from the Character Questionaire Page and submit them in the comment section along with whatever links you’d like included. Be sure to answer in your character’s voice, and be sure you mention the title of the book and who wrote it. If an answer to a question is yes or no, please explain why. (Example: Do you run away from conflict? Yes. Why? I don’t like fighting. See, there was this time in third grade where I got in a fight and . . .) Feel free to include your own questions. The character interviewed does not have to be the hero. Even if you don’t want your character interviewed, you can ask your characters these questions to help you profile them.

  1. What is your story?
  2. Who are you?
  3. Where do you live?
  4. Are you the hero of your own story?
  5. What is your problem in the story?
  6. Do you have a problem the wasn’t mentioned in the story?
  7. Do you embrace conflict?
  8. Do you run from conflict?
  9. How do you see yourself?
  10. How do your friends see you?
  11. How do your enemies see you?
  12. How does the author see you?
  13. Do you think the author portrayed you accurately?
  14. What do you think of yourself?
  15. Do you have a hero?
  16. Do you have a goal?
  17. What are your achievements?
  18. Do you talk about your achievements?
  19. Do you keep your achievements to yourself?
  20. Do you have any special strengths?
  21. Do you have any special weaknesses?
  22. Do you have any skills?
  23. Do you have money troubles?
  24. What do you want?
  25. What do you need?
  26. What do you want to be?
  27. What do you believe?
  28. What makes you happy?
  29. What are you afraid of?
  30. What makes you angry?
  31. What makes you sad?
  32. What do you regret?
  33. What is your biggest disappointment?
  34. What, if anything, haunts you?
  35. Are you lucky?
  36. Have you ever failed at anything?
  37. Has anyone ever failed you?
  38. Has anyone ever betrayed you?
  39. Have you ever failed anyone?
  40. Have you ever betrayed anyone?
  41. Do you keep your promises?
  42. Are you honorable?
  43. Are you healthy?
  44. Do you have any handicaps?
  45. Do you have any distinguishing marks?
  46. What was your childhood like?
  47. Do you like remembering your childhood?
  48. Did anything newsworthy happen on the day you were born?
  49. Did you get along with your parents?
  50. What in your past had the most profound effect on you?
  51. What in your past would you like to forget?
  52. What in your past would you like others to forget?
  53. Who was your first love?
  54. Who is your true love?
  55. Have you ever had an adventure?
  56. What is the most important thing that ever happened to you? Why?
  57. Was there a major turning point in your life?
  58. Was there ever a defining moment of your life?
  59. Is there anything else about your background you’d like to discuss?
  60. What is your most closely guarded secret?
  61. What is your most prized possession? Why?
  62. Do you have any hobbies?
  63. What is your favorite scent? Why?
  64. What is your favorite color? Why?
  65. What is your favorite food? Why?
  66. What is your favorite beverage? Why?
  67. What is your favorite music? Why?”
  68. What is your favorite item of clothing? Why?
  69. Name five items in your purse, briefcase, or pockets.
  70. What are the last five entries in your check registry?
  71. What are the last three books you read?
  72. If you were at a store now, what ten items would be in your shopping cart?
  73. If you had the power to change one thing in the world that didn’t affect you personally, what would it be?
  74. What makes you think that change would be for the better?
  75. If you were stranded on a desert island, would you rather be stranded with, a man or a woman?
  76. How do you envision your future?

Writing Dialogue

Dialogue is not conversation. It is an artificial construct that gives the impression of spontaneous and realistic speech without the ums and ers and repetition and stuttering and sidetracks into inanity that characterizes normal conversation. Dialogue shows the relationship between characters, and ideally should be so effective that any analysis of the relationship is unnecessary. 

Elizabeth Bowen, a British author, writes: “What are the realistic qualities to be imitated (or faked) in novel dialogue? Spontaneity. Artless or hit-or-miss arrival at words used. Ambiguity (speaker not sure, himself, what he means.) Irrelevance. Allusiveness. Erraticness, unpredictable course. Repercussion. 

“What must novel dialogue, behind mask of these fake rrealistic qualities, really be and do? It must be pointed, intentional, relevant. It must crystallize situation. It must express character. It must advance plot. During dialogue, the characters confront one another. The confrontation is in itself an occasion. Each one of these occasions, throughout the novel, is unique. Since the last confrontation, something has changed, advanced. What is being said is the effect of something that happened; at the same time, what is being said is in itself something happening, which will, in turn, leave its effect.” 

Dialogue also characterizes the speaker; we can tell who a character is by what that character says and how he or she says it. Each character the main character interacts with should bring our a different facet of the character. You generally don’t speak the same way to your boss and your best friend, your mother and your spouse. 

Sometimes when people talk to others, especially when they accuse the other person of doing or behaving in a certain way, they are talking to themselves. So, in effect, what a character says to another or about another reveals the character’s inner thoughts. Like dreams. Didn’t Freud say that all characters in a dream are facets of the dreamer? 

So how do you write good dialogue? 

Make speeches short.
Have speakers cut in on one another.
Answer a question with a question.
Ignore questions, or answer it after another exchange of words.
Instead of a character answering a question directly, have him tell why it was done: “Did you eat the cookie?” “They looked so good.”
Have characters play tug-of-war with words, each trying to get something from the other.
When editing, review every snippet of speech and ask yourself, “Is this the best, the wittiest, the most dramatic thing the character can say?” Dialogue is not life. In life, most of us can’t think of the perfect response until it is way too late. But in writing you can take your time and make each bit of dialogue a jewel. 

A perfect bit of dialogue from the seventh century: 

A foreign conquerors sent the Laconians a message: “If I come to Laconia, not one brick will stand on another.” 

The laconic reply? “If”.

On Writing: More About Character

Creating characters is one of the challenges and satisfactions of writing. We need to devise lifelike personalities for our story people, and we need to figure out why they act the way they do. Characters’ motivations for their actions are more important than their personality type. That WHY takes the character out of the ordinary.

In Practical Tips For Writing Popular Fiction, Robyn Carr states, “Some of the most common failures in motivating characters or plots occur from the following:

1. Foolish and or spontaneous actions.

2. Arbitrary decisions and/or behavior (making the behavior purposeful instead of arbitrary makes the motivation believable.)

3. Actions prompted by passive needs or emotions.”

We learn much about characters from their actions, but what the character does is not the defining element. Like with personality, the defining element is WHY the character does what he does. Characters can do anything, though they must be psychologically true and consistent. A character who is cowardly but does not hesitant to rescue someone from danger without any reference to fear or a believable reason for the action is not a well-written character.

Characters do change, of course, but the motivation for that change must be shown. Some basic personality traits do not change under ordinary conditions, so if a smart character becomes stupid or slow, he has to suffer some sort of trauma, as in Regarding Henry. Nor can a slow character suddenly become smart without intervention. The movie Phenomenon is a good example of how that can happen.

When it comes to storytelling, character is all. The plot and the character should be so intertwined that we never see them as separate. Character motivation, in many instances, is the plot — what the characters do and why.

In Story Robert McKee writes: “The revelation of true character in contradiction to characterization (the sum of all observable qualities) is fundamental to all fine storytelling. What seems is not what is. People are not what they appear to be. A hidden nature waits concealed behind the facade of traits.” And often, in that hidden nature, we find our character’s motivation.

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