First off, I have a summer cold, so if ideas don’t always blend together in this blog, my head’s a little fuzzy. But here goes:
I just finished reading a book that I loved, but sometimes, I had to MAKE myself keep turning the pages. Sounds contradictory, doesn’t it? It was, and I had mixed feelings about it. I loved every scene, every character. The villains were deliciously complicated, and sometimes, I actually felt sympathetic to them–the sign of a good writer. But sometimes, the decisions the main character made felt forced. They worked for the plot and led to tension and battles, but I kept thinking there might have been a better way to handle the situation, and that the character was smart enough to think about something less dangerous. True, the bad guy is forcing her hand, but the story felt like she was reacting to one threat after another without ever saying, “Hey, what if…..?” But then that might be just me. I usually think first, act later. My daughter read the same book and said it was her favorite in the entire series. But then my daughter has no fear. Just goes to show you. But my reaction to the story made me think.
A character’s motivations have to feel REAL. He has to want something enough that he’ll take risks to get it or achieve it. But the risks have to make sense. It’s hard for me to follow a hero who doesn’t care, who’s so blase’, he just goes through the motions to see what happens. I have just as much trouble following a hero who takes risks he doesn’t need to, someone who puts himself and his friends in trouble when there’s a better way to solve the problem. Conflicted motivations are really hard to pull off, and that’s where I ran into trouble in the book I read. People are complicated, and I like that. But when a character is so complicated that I can’t decide what he’s trying to achieve, I waffle.
The other thing that slowed me down in this book was the nonstop action. After three fight scenes back to back, I just got tired. I had to put the book down to take a break. Don’t get me wrong. These were some of the best fight scenes I’ve ever read. But there were a LOT of them. Books need tension, and that tension has to build and build and build. But sometimes, I need to catch my breath.
Did I love this book? Yes, but not as much as the last one. Will I read the next book in the series? A big yes. Did this book make me think about writing and what works for me and what doesn’t? A resounding yes, because I kept asking myself, How can each scene be so good, and I need to put the book down for a minute?
Reading other writers, really good writers, are such great learning experiences. Hope you find authors who push you to be a better writer.
4 thoughts on “Writing: What motivates your character? Does it work?”
So sorry you have the sniffles! Summer colds suck. It’s interesting that you continued to read this book, even though it had issues. Not many readers are so forgiving. But just saying that makes me pause and think- why aren’t they? Why do we writers have to make every book outstanding? When does it simply fall into the readers hand to finish a book regardless of small flaws? I’ve forced myself to read more and I’m so glad for it! It’s time for all writers to fall in love with reading again!
Hope you feel better soon-
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A year or more ago,I used to spend more time on Goodreads, and the readers’ generosity always amazed me. If they saw potential in a book or an author, they’d wade through the novel and review that they just knew the next book would be better. And I think a lot of writers take a while to get their “legs” under them. If given the chance, and if they listen to critiques, they keep getting better and better. When the potential’s there, it’s easy for me to overlook a few flaws. And thanks for the sympathy. I hope this cold goes away fast.
I wish I had known you when I was still teaching creative writing at the uni. I could have used your tips! Get well xxx
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Thanks, still sniffling, but better. Bet you were one awesome teacher!