Jude Hardin

Author, Drummer, Turtle Whisperer

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Location: United States

Monday, September 25, 2006

Splitting The Scene, Part Five: A Supersonic Smart Bomb Named Desire

What makes you get out of bed every morning?

Think about it.

Why bother?

I’m out early many days and witness thousands of cars lined bumper to bumper, each of them eager to get somewhere.


Is it a matter of survival? Some primitive force that drives these people to leave the comfort and safety of their own homes? Are they just trying to satisfy their basic needs of food, shelter, clothing, and cable TV? Are they motivated by money, fame, a sense of responsibility, of purpose? Do they really believe what they do on any given day is going to make a difference? That anyone gives a damn?

Why don’t they just stay home in their PJs and sit at the computer or something all day?

Okay. All you folks lucky enough to write for a living can stop gloating now. Even you have to be somehow motivated to drag your fuzzy bunny slippers and a mug of coffee to your workspace. Why do you do it? Do you consider yourself an artiste? Would you do it if you knew for a fact that you would never get published or paid for your efforts?

I’ve heard some writers claim that they have to write, that it’s the same as breathing for them. I guess that’s true in some cases. When Hemingway ran out of words, he took a shotgun to his head. Is that how you feel? Or would you give up today if you thought there would never be any sort of reward? Are we merely Skinner’s rats? Pavlov’s dogs? Did Freud have it right? Are we all simply motivated to get laid? Or does something deeper keep us on track?

I don’t think there’s any one answer as to what motivates us to do what we do. Mostly, I think it’s because we derive some sort of pleasure or some hint of future pleasure for our toils, be that in the form of material embellishment or psychological validation for ourselves and our loved ones. Or, if you’re very spiritual, the reward might be something completely beyond your grasp until your physical journey is over.


Stop thinking about what motivates you.

Think now about what motivates the characters in your novel. Motivation, my friends, is of utmost importance to your characters’ success. And to yours.

In the context of the story, what does your character want more than anything? To find true love? ROMANCE. To save the world? THRILLER. To solve a heinous crime? MYSTERY. To exhume and destroy their inner demons? LITEREARY. To investigate and reveal physical or supernatural monsters? HORROR. Etc.

No matter the genre, your character(s) must want something, and want it badly. If they’re not successful, then their lives will be irrevocably changed for the worse.

So what makes your characters tick? Why do they do what they do? Are they merely puppets on a string that you’ve thrown into an extraordinary situation called plot, or do they drive the story with their motivations? Do they seek their desires like a heat-seeking missile, or does fate and contrivance control their destinies?

What do your characters want? What sacrifices are they willing to make in order to achieve their goals?

If you haven’t already answered these questions, it might be time to go back and do so.


Blogger Erica Orloff said...

WOW!!!!!!! Great post. In my wip, my heroine's motivation is to save the life and soul of her brother, pure and simple. The hero's motivation is to save the world. Mine is to love and leave the world a bit better than when I found it. :-)


6:55 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Thanks, Erica!

Your personal motivation is just awesome. If everybody thought that way, what a peaceful planet we would have.

7:48 AM  
Blogger Aaron Paul Lazar said...


Before I comment on the topic, I must say that this is beautifully written. What a great piece. Engaging, moves right along, thought-provoking, and entertaining. Bravo!

Great questions about motivation. Really made me think. I use several books to help me dig deeper into my characters (who I always think I know and am surprised when I "discover" something new about them!) entitled "Building Better Characters" and "What would Your Character Do?" Good tools to enrich and deepen your understanding of them. Since my books do a bit of genre crossing (mystery plus literary with some action/suspense thrown in) my characters are not singly motivated. Basically, Gus's prime goal in life is to take care of his family. When they're threatened, or when an innocent is in danger, he jumps into action to save them or solve mysteries surrounding their dilemna.

Erica - love your motivation.

Great post, Jude. Keep 'em coming!

8:00 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Thanks, Aaron!

Loyalty to family is a great motivational factor for a character to have. How many seasons did that theme carry TVs Little House on the Prarie? Love that show.

12:29 PM  
Blogger Erica Orloff said...

Because Pa Ingalls was so different from my decidedly ROOFER-esque dad, if you know what I mean . . . that show always made me cry with . . . poignant feelings. Like . . . "Wow, there are families that NICE to each other?!?" Loved that show!

3:02 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Me too, Erica. I remember seeing Michael Landon at a rodeo back when I was 5 or 6 years old, back when he was Little Joe Cartwright.

I've always been a fan of his. Loved Highway to Heaven too!

3:46 PM  
Blogger Aaron Paul Lazar said...

Me, too!!! We still watch them on cable and they're still just as moving. What a genius that guy was. I adore the small town life, sharing the hardships of frontier living, and the wonderful, colorful characters. Good stuff. Wish more little kids could see shows like this. Oh! What about the Waltons! I loved that one, too. G'nite Jude. G'nite Erica.

8:02 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

G'nite, Aaron. :)

8:27 PM  
Blogger Bernita said...

"Does fate and contrivance control their destinies?"
Sometimes it does, and it makes tham damn mad.

10:35 AM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Hi Bernita:

Many stories do start out with some sort of contrivance, coincidence, or "happy accident" if you will. Have you ever seen the movie *The Gods Must Be Crazy*? Someone carelessly flings a glass Coke bottle from an airplane, and it's found by a primitive tribe of people who have never seen such a thing. It ends up being a great tool for them, but ultimately causes more grief than good.

Something like that is useful to get the ball rolling, but I think after that the best stories allow the characters to make things happen.

4:30 PM  
Blogger LaDonna said...

Good golly, Jude! I just read where you saw little Joe C. at a rodeo when you were about 5 or 6. Me too! LOL. It could've been the same rodeo. I reached my hand out and touched his horse. What are the chances? Ah, forgot what the topic was.....

4:37 PM  
Blogger Jude Hardin said...

Hi Ladonna:

Well, it could have been the same rodeo (if you were in Louisville, KY at that age). I'm sure it was the same tour, anyway. Cool!

4:24 AM  

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