…and my characters should have their reasons.
It is really quite difficult to like a character, or even respect them, if they have no real reason for their actions. We may laugh at the cliche of an actor asking what their motivation is, but without it, things become pretty pointless, pretty quickly.
I recently started reading a book (it doesn’t really matter which one). Within two chapters I was incredibly frustrated with the protagonist. Mostly because they had wandered randomly through rooms and observed really strange things but hadn’t reacted to anything and had just made the decision to leave the building – though why they were there in the first place had yet to be established. The whole time, as a reader, I was wanting the protagonist to turn and figure out why something was in a certain place or doing something. I wanted to know why they were there, why they were so indifferent to the bizarre surroundings. I wanted to know what was going on inside their head so that I could figure out whether they were just really composed on the outside but freaking out on the inside.
Needless to say, I didn’t get much further into the story. I made the decision that whether or not the author ever explained what the protagonist was doing and why, I wasn’t going to continue reading it.
This is kind of an extreme case and there is every possibility that within the next chapter all may have been explained.
More commonly we find villains who are bad because, well, the protagonist needed someone in their way.
We find sidekicks who help because… They’re a sidekick. That’s their job.
We have hench men who hench but have no apparent personality or individual drive for anything and as a consequence fade into obscurity.
And the unforgivable – heroes who are good because they are.
How imporant do you think character motivation is? Better yet – have you got an example of a protagonist who drove you crazy because they seemed to have no motivation?
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