Saturday, 2 February 2013

Depth of Character

I have a sister-in-law who has told me several times that I think too much.
          “You’d be much happier if you just accept things as they are,” she has told me.
          Maybe she’s right. I do tend to look beneath the surface and seek out deeper meanings behind problems. If I accepted the status quo I might lead a more contented life.
          But I wouldn’t be a writer.
          “Why do you think they they do that?” I ask when we get into discussion about some matter of current affairs.
         “That’s just the way they are,” my sister-in-law would reply.
         “But, why are they like that?”
         “Who knows? They just are.”
When things go wrong and people behave stupidly I want to know why. What motivates them into that behaviour? What psychologically drives them into doing what they did? If I know that, I can create characters in my novels who similarly go astray for reasons that are logical to them. That is what makes the characters come to life and seem real to readers.
          Too many times I have given up on a novel because the characters are cardboard cut-outs who act without any clear motivations. They are like that because they are like that and I can’t see why they are like that. A good novel holds me because I understand why the characters are as they are.
          So I carry on thinking too much.

1 comment:

  1. All human action is driven by motivation - otherwise we'd just be automatons. I agree, a great novel's plot is driven by characters doing what they have to do, because of their motivations. Character drives plot rather than the other way round.