5 Motivations For Your Character to Cross the Road

September 17, 2010 at 5:25 am (Character, Thoughts on Writing) (, , , , , , , , , , , , )


We all know our characters actions need to be guided by some sort of motivation. A character that simply reacts gets frustrating, and characters that have no logical consistency are usually unbelievable. So here’s the question for your character. Why would they cross a road?

My 5 suggestions:

1. Greed – They realised that by crossing the road there was something in it for them. Either something waiting for them or something to be gained. Either way, greed is a powerful motivator and most characters would cross a road for it (some would cross deserts, mountains, or outer space for it).

2. Love – Isn’t that sweet? Their true love is on the other side or they will prove their love by crossing. Doesn’t matter, either way, love is a powerful motivator.

3. Loss – Someone who has lost their way or lost a love one may cross the road just wondering whether the other side offers them anything to take away the pain. Or they may have made a promise to someone who is now gone and crossing the road will help them keep it.

4. Curiosity – Not such a good motivator because usually it is used when there is no good reason for characters to act in a certain way and so they ‘just want to see’ something. Still, if you’ve established your character as someone who likes to stick their nose into other people’s business you can probably make curiosity work.

5. The next logical step – If your character is on route somewhere then crossing the road might simply be the next logical step on their journey.

The point being here that characters need a reason to do things and as long as you, the writer, are clear about why they are doing something and it makes sense to the audience, everyone will end up happy. We usually don’t wonder why our characters cross roads but the same could be said of opening a door, running up a flight of stairs, taking that trip somewhere, or any of the other decisions our characters have to make.

What is your answer? Why would your character cross the road?

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26 Comments

  1. Brown Eyed Mystic said,

    Normally it is greed, or the next logical step, for me.
    But curiosity takes the place as a last resort, true.

    Excellent post btw! Definitely going into my notebook and bookmarks!

    -BrownEyed

  2. Sonya Clark said,

    I’m actually using curiosity as a motivator in what I’m writing now, but the main character is a reporter so that may be one of the few times it would work.

    I’d like to suggest an addition – call it service, doing the right thing, helping someone in need, whatever. I love characters that use their abilities and gifts, whether natural or supernatural, to help people. Even if it’s a job like a cop or private investigator, they are going to cross that dangerous road to help someone in need. Maybe that’s too corny these days.

    Great post, Cassandra!

  3. Alex Willging said,

    I think most of my characters do what they do out of love, or to compensate for a loss, or curiosity (if they’re detectives, anyway). Not so sure about greed, but now I have to ask: can greed be a motivation for a heroic character? That is, for a character who isn’t, say, an antihero mercenary type?

    An interesting read, Cassandra. And great job with the blog tour!

  4. writerleerobertson said,

    Great post Cassandra. I love your description of these (especially loss). Gives me something to think about.

    My character crosses the road for love (and aww) and later for loss.

  5. Agatha82 said,

    Haved used it to get away from love, and to rescue a damsel in distress. It has never ocurred to me to use the greed point, that’s a good one.

  6. Cruella Collett said,

    That is a good point about curiosity. I hadn’t really thought about it, but you’re right – curiosity often tends to seem unmotivated. Character and plot motivation is so important, it is what separates a believable book from a completely disconnected one. I recently read one that at the end had me wondering where the “twist” I was expecting had gone. There was no twist. There never showed up any motivation. In the end, I was left with a big WHY?!? Not the reaction you want from your reader.

  7. Carol Ann Hoel said,

    Thank you for your post. As a reader I want to identify with a character, to understand why the character does whatever he or she does. If I cannot readily see the reason, I must believe it will soon be revealed. When the emotion behind a deed is concealed, the writer must convincing the reader that this information is coming soon and is important. If not, the reader will soon be too bored to continue.

  8. Lynn Rush said,

    Mostly love. My characters sometimes are driven by curiosity and curiosity as well. Depends on the story. But usually it’s love.

    Great post. Nice reminder to think about motivations like that!!

  9. AlexJCavanaugh said,

    My characters cross for reasons #1, 3, and 5.

    Still don’t know why the chicken crossed the road, though.

  10. Hart said,

    Great reminders! I am good about my MC, but think I could benefit from thinking about the motivation of my bad guys… I could probably benefit A LOT from that! In fact my current rewrite is focusing a lot on improving that…

  11. Jemi Fraser said,

    Awesome list! I think my main characters would cross the road the most quickly for revenge :)

  12. Barb said,

    Compassion – s/he is a healer and sees someone in need of help.
    And yes, revenge.
    Good list. Happy writing

  13. Carol Kilgore said,

    Great post. I’m working on revisions, but also thinking about my next project. And about character motivations. Great timing for me!

  14. Tooty Nolan said,

    Chances are that my characters would cross the road because there’s a public lavatory there. At my age I think I would too!

  15. Jane Kennedy Sutton said,

    Thanks for the motivation list. I’ve read a few books with scenes that left me wondering why the character did what they did. I know I don’t want to make the same mistake.

  16. Kyle said,

    Out of the stories I’ve written, the characters are almost always crossing the road for love. When this is not their reason, it’s greed. However, right now I’m writing a story where I’m trying to make the characters’ reason for crossing the road necessity.

  17. lbdiamond said,

    My character crosses the road because of lost love. ;)

    Great post! :D

  18. J. Elle said,

    great post!

  19. Stephen Tremp said,

    Greed is the motivating factor in my books. Greed is an ugly sin. Greed fuels many characters to do things that will enhance their lives while causing countless others to needlessly suffer.

    Stephen Tremp

  20. tahliaN said,

    So true. Motivation is the guts of everything, including our lives and why we write. And thanks for Twittering that post of mine.

  21. uninvoked said,

    Curiousity is a powerful motivator. Like for instance, pressing the big red shiny button that musn’t ever, ever be pressed. Imagine starting chapter one there! ^^

    • Smander said,

      I think you’re right. I need a bit more intrigue and curiosity to spice things up in my story…

  22. Smander said,

    CJ in the realm. Long time no speak. Teaching is doing my head in. Marking marking marking arrrgggh. Thank God for holidays. So this post is interesting cos it lists a lot of great emotions. I wrote a post today asking how to WRITE emotions. I wonder if you have any ideas? I’m a bit stuck at the moment!

  23. Glynis Smy said,

    Catching up as I’ve been away. Just checking to say hi. My character would cross the road to avoid another of my characters. :)

  24. Arlee Bird said,

    At least that’s the character I am currently focused on.

    Lee
    Tossing It Out

  25. Arlee Bird said,

    My character would cross the road to please others and to survive. This goes along with my disattached comment that appeared above.

    Lee

    Tossing It Out

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