What Does 'Character's Motivation' Mean?


2 Answers

Florent Lefortier Profile
In any story - be it a novel, a movie, a play or a TV series - a character’s motivation is the thing that makes them behave in the way they do.

Why Is Motivation Important?
Acclaimed novelist Kurt Vonnegut suggests that “every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.”

This means that each character needs to be driven by something, and have something motivating their actions. It’s not just the main character who needs motivation, either. All characters need it.

Take The Lord of the Rings as an example. The story would be pretty boring if Frodo wasn’t motivated to destroy the ring.

Without motivation, the reader or viewer is left wondering what the point of it is - can you imagine Frodo wandering around Fangorn Forest just because he was bored?!

A character’s motivation is vitally-important to a good story, because it makes the reader or  viewer care about what happens. When a character is motivated, they either have something to lose or something to gain.

What Are The Different Types Of Character Motivation?
  • Survival - avoiding dying is obviously a pretty big motivator!
  • Emotional Gain - this could be gaining a new friend, or falling in love.
  • Material Gain - a character might act because they want money, or a house, or even a new dress.
  • Power - in The Lord of the Rings, Sauron wants the One Ring because it would make him immensely powerful.
  • Psychological Gain - sometimes characters do things because they want to prove something to themselves, or to someone else. Maybe they did something in the past that they regret, and want to make up for it now, so that they can be at peace.
Think of your favorite book or movie - if you look at each character in turn, I'm sure you'll find that they all have something motivating them - even the minor characters!
Jo Nol Profile
Jo Nol answered
A character's motivation is a central concept in a novel, movie or story.

It refers to why the character does what she or he does. It can include unconscious reasons, psychological reasons, or reasons having to do with trying to stay physically-safe.

So, the superficial motivation for doing something might be just to have an adventure, but it could also have to do with the person wanting to prove something herself or someone else.

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