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?
Note from Cassandra: Thanks Alex for hosting me on your blog today and thanks for your guest post here on the realm. I hope everyone enjoys reading your thoughts.
In Tune with Writing
Every writer needs inspiration. We can envision a great story, but if we’re not inspired as we write, it falls into the neglected pile of incomplete projects. How do we maintain motivation for our characters and scenes?
It’s no secret I’m a music lover. Music moves me on every level. It uplifts me when I feel down or depressed. Music channels my anger when rage threatens to get the better of me. Since music affects my mood, I decided to use that to my advantage when writing.
Every scene possesses a mood. An action scene contains tension. A tragic scene boasts angst. A love scene… well, that one’s obvious! But regardless of the moment, there’s atmosphere and mood in every scene we create.
This is where music comes into play. A soundtrack sets the tone in movie; the tempo dictates the pace and flow of emotion. It can do the same for our writing. I always listen to music when writing, selecting the best composition for each scene.
When I need to amp up the tension or focus on an action heavy scene, I select something heavy and fast. The rapid tempo conveys a sense of urgency and helps me to focus on a dire situation. The music magnifies the moment. I pour the resulting energy into my words, letting the rhythm carry the story. As an added bonus, I write faster as well.
For emotionally charged scenes and intense character interactions, I select music that fits the mood. It can be slow or fast, but it must stir the emotions. The feelings provoked by the music help me channel a character’s frustration, despair, or jubilation into coherent phrases and words. I connect on a more personal level with my characters, adding depth to their personalities.
Music allows me to feel what I am writing. It places me in the scene and inside my characters’ heads. If you’re seeking inspiration or connection with your work, try music. It helps me stay in tune with my writing!
Alex J. Cavanaugh
Note from Cassandra: By the way, if you don’t know, Alex’s first book is going to be released in October. Check out the details and the trailer here.
I was visiting Elizabeth Spann Craig’s very amazing blog when she posted a list of links that she’d posted on twitter. One of the many links that caught my eye was a link to the blog Novel Journey where Robert Liparulo was sharing his 5 tips for making fantasy fiction feel real. As an avid reader of fantasy fiction and a writer of it, I found this a fascinating read.
More importantly, his number one tip, I thought was possibly the best bit of advice that could be given on this topic. So, his number one tip for making fantasy feel real:
Characters who feel. The way to a reader’s heart is through a story’s characters. Doesn’t matter if they’re fighting dragons or stepping into the Roman Colosseum during a gladiator fight, a character has to experience fear and courage, love and heartbreak, blood, sweat and tears—all of it realistically rendered in a way the reader understands.
As I said, I’ve read a lot of fantasy and as a reader I know this to be true. The world can be beautifully structured and described but unless the characters feel real the story just isn’t going to work. And it is the way that characters react to situations that make them feel real. Stories where the characters shrug off weird thing after weird thing are really hard to connect to because you want the character to look closer at something and they don’t, and you want them to ask the right question, and they won’t. It makes it hard as a reader to really get into the story.
Thanks Elizabeth for sharing this link and thanks to Robert Liparulo for sharing some great advice with us all.
What is with the labelling of characters emotionless? Is it even possible to exhibit no emotion?
Most of the examples I’m going to be discussing come from television, mostly because the books I read don’t tend to deal with this. There will be some spoilers.
The reason I criticise this is because in most cases the character that has just claimed to be emotionless (or been described as such) proceeds to emote their way through the rest of the plot. Admittedly they are emoting in really odd ways and respond quite a bit differently to situations than others would but they are exhibiting emotion.
Example 1 – Equilibrium
I don’t know if you’ve seen the movie. It stars Christian Bale and is actually not a bad action movie. The plot however is built around the idea that after the third world war the government outlawed emotion and developed a drug that essentially removed it from people as long as they inject it daily. Anyone who does not take the drug is executed. Fair enough.
What doesn’t work is the fact that they show us a flashback of our protagonist watching as his wife is arrested for feeling. As the guards move against her he firstly attacks them (defending her) and then, when they tell him that they have a warrant, he glares at his wife and the expression is contempt and fury and highly emotional. Skip to the future and the current guy in charge is issuing orders, which he does by shouting in rage and pounding his desk, and maybe we are supposed to believe that the higher-ups get away without taking the dose because they are the puppet masters, but surely someone trained to arrest people experiencing emotion would recognise that?
Then there is the question of whether experiencing emotions makes you suicidal because Christian Bale’s character does everything short of tie a flashing red light to his head to draw attention to the fact that he isn’t taking his dose. Watch the scene where he randomly reorganises his desk. Could he be anymore conspicuous?
Equilibrium – loved watching it, enjoyed the fight sequences very much. Are the characters emotionless? Not a chance.
Example 2 – Rei Ayanmai – from Neon Genesis Evangelion
Rei they can probably get away with as she isn’t technically described to be emotionless within the series, it is reviewers of the series who claim she doesn’t have emotions. Certainly she is detached and a little odd (okay, she is a lot odd) but she isn’t emotionless. She has a clear attachment to her creator, and as the series progresses her attachment to Shinji becomes significantly developed. She constantly exhibits a sense of duty and while she has no regard for her own life, Rei works hard to ensure the success of the mission. This is emotionally driven.
Example 3 – Dexter
I don’t know what Dexter was like in the books but in the television series he is a constant whirl of emotions. The fact that he is socially awkward is quite clear and the fact that he can’t read emotions in others is made apparent but he is constantly experiencing a flow of emotions. He feels confused and put-off quite frequently and experiences annoyance regularly. Once again we have a character who is off kilter with the ‘normal’ expectations of an emotional spectrum but he is most certainly experiencing emotions.
My conclusion: I don’t think it would be possible to create a truly emotionless character. I certainly wouldn’t be able to do it. As humans we’re too tied up in emotional responses to truly separate them all from the character.
What do you think?