Character Motivation Tutorial

When you study the plot lines of popular books and movies, it seems like the winning recipe is as simple as giving the protagonist an interesting but difficult goal. While a challenging objective is a critical ingredient, it isn’t powerful enough on its own to earn a spot in the coveted center of the storytelling table. To build a truly engaging premise, we need to go deeper, looking at not only what the lead character wants, but why they want it.

The WHY matters. In the real world, we all have personal goals, things we want to achieve. We put vast amounts of time and energy into them because they’re important to us. These goals make us feel stronger, happier, and more complete. Characters are the same way and should have reasons for doing what they do. Determining who our characters are, along with what they yearn for and why, allows us to build a powerful story frame. When we sit down to write, the protagonist’s motivation will infuse every word with meaning. Readers will buy in, care, and become invested not only in the character’s goal but in the journey to reach it.

Choosing the right goal (outer motivation) for a character is all about figuring out why they need it (inner motivation) in the first place. These two important pieces of Character Arc form the heart of a story, so let’s look at them in more depth.


Activate your free trial or subscribe to view this tutorial in its entirety.