Apr 8, 2009
Internal vs External Motivation
As I struggle with finding the
for my Secret Novel, I return each time to the characters themselves. Many of you have given me the advice, "Listen to what the characters tell you."
I pondered this wisdom deeply and realized something profound. I have no frickin' idea what my characters are telling me.
Here's the problem. I know the shape of my story well... but only from the outside. I know what happens to my characters. But I don't know what happens within my characters. I realize this is odd. Usually, I know what my characters want before I know what will stop them from getting it. For various reasons, mostly because my secret novel is inspired by real events, I know all the obstacles but none of the aspirations.
My characters have external motivation. Bad things happen to them. But what is their internal motivation? What keeps them going despite the bad things? This is what I have to discover.
I usually write characters from the inside out. This time I have to write them from the outside in.
UPDATE: Apparently, this is Vonnegut's Third Rule of Writing.