What types of general motives do you think are the most interesting?

Discussion in 'Writing' started by CausticDuality, Oct 30, 2012.

  1. CausticDuality

    CausticDuality The Autorecursive Void

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2011
    Messages:
    52
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Do you generally enjoy writing/movies/stories/etc that involve good guys "saving the world/universe"? Defeating an enemy who wishes to conquer all? Defending against some external source? Something revolving around love?

    What, generally, do you think makes for the most interesting story structure overall?
     
  2. Andrew Leon Hudson

    Andrew Leon Hudson sf-icionado / horror-ator

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2008
    Messages:
    1,688
    Likes Received:
    166
    Trophy Points:
    128
    Weighing in, maybe uselessly, I have to say that in my opinion there's no answer to this that isn't wholly subjective, interesting though that may be. I enjoy stories that run the gamut from galaxy spanning, cult-spawning sf to introverted, ideosyncratic character study - and the range of what motivates at either extreme (or anywhere through the middle) can be as similar or different as two peas in a pod. How the writer handles their material is more key for me than that material hitting a particular hook.

    On a side note, your last sentence threw me a bit - maybe it's because I've spent half the day planning a workshop on story structure for one of my writers groups, but I don't see how "motivation" has anything to do with story structure at all. Three Act Structure and The Hero's Journey haz teh win (as I understand the kids say), but using them says nothing about the nature of the tale you want to tell.
     
  3. N. E. White

    N. E. White tmso Staff Member

    Joined:
    Jun 11, 2009
    Messages:
    6,616
    Likes Received:
    307
    Trophy Points:
    183
    Personally, I like the soul-searching sort of stories mixed in with external forces pushing our heroine into morally questionable grounds.
     
  4. Igor

    Igor Ze vriter

    Joined:
    May 11, 2012
    Messages:
    279
    Likes Received:
    27
    Trophy Points:
    38
    Some elements are there, to some extent. You will always have a bit of that or this. The question is, what people do in dire circumstances. That's the interesting part. You can have someone bent on destroying the world, but if everyone opposes them, it's not interesting. Finding the little selfish things that drive us above all else is what makes is special.
    Igor
     
  5. CausticDuality

    CausticDuality The Autorecursive Void

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2011
    Messages:
    52
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Well I am more focused on the motivation side of things -- the reasons why characters do what they do that drives the main narrative.

    Care to elaborate with an example or two?

    Do you mean to imply finding something to relate to in every character, good or bad?
     
  6. RedMage

    RedMage There is no tomorrow

    Joined:
    Dec 7, 2009
    Messages:
    1,897
    Likes Received:
    244
    Trophy Points:
    98
    Noumenon, I read that last line from the OP as basically asking how our characters' motivations influence the plot of their stories and, therefore, the structure of the book. Hero's Journey? Is that not a structure based on some pretty strong motivations such as anger, need for revenge, desire for knowledge, love for the beautiful girl/boy, etc?

    I like the motivations of loyalty and betrayal. The exploration of those between two characters, often as a character study, are what I have been exploring for the past few years. Both, I think, can drive a person to some great and terrible things. Things such as throwing yourself in front of a car to save your friend's life, or turning your back on your best friend and handing him over to the the person who should be both of yours greatest enemy. And, then, what comes of that for the character? That is what I want to know.
     
  7. Riothamus

    Riothamus Registered User

    Joined:
    Feb 2, 2012
    Messages:
    264
    Likes Received:
    4
    Trophy Points:
    28
    Something that that holds social relevance or emotional effect like:
    A.Battling the evils of nationalism and statism
    B.Fighting to liberate the oppressed
    C.Trying to stop humanity from destroying itself
    D.Revealing and defeating blatant classism
    E.Trying to find out why a particular event happened
    F.The hero is trying to restore the balance of nature
    G.Revenge if it's well written
    H.Trying to stop the madness of fundamentalism of both the secular and theistic variety
    I.Fighting to show that the will of the individual must always be respected
    J.Keeping a promise they made to someone long ago(These stories have the power to make me tear up like few other things)
     
  8. CausticDuality

    CausticDuality The Autorecursive Void

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2011
    Messages:
    52
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Perhaps I misspoke (I apologize since I am often loose with my speech... not exactly a good thing around other writers!) -- I am asking more about the motives of the characters than the structure (e.g. Three Act Structure) -- I was using "story structure" in a very general sense (I could have just said "story" there).
     
  9. hippokrene

    hippokrene Peckish

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2007
    Messages:
    1,203
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Survival.

    (More than 10 characters.)
     
  10. Jon Sprunk

    Jon Sprunk Book of the Black Earth

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2009
    Messages:
    785
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    51
    (bold mine)

    I'm playing with your words, but I don't go for "general" motives. I much prefer specific motives, and they can be as simple as someone wanting to go home, or as complex as a young god's search for meaning in a life lived among mortal people, as long as they are specific.
     
  11. CausticDuality

    CausticDuality The Autorecursive Void

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2011
    Messages:
    52
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Well, by "generally," I mean to imply that some motives are easier to make more interesting than others.

    For instance, when hearing a story about a big-bad out to destroy the universe for the sake of power, such a thing is not very interesting.

    However, other motives might be much more versatile/interesting.

    It is those motives I am asking for opinions on.
     
  12. Andrew Leon Hudson

    Andrew Leon Hudson sf-icionado / horror-ator

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2008
    Messages:
    1,688
    Likes Received:
    166
    Trophy Points:
    128
    Okay, gotcha!

    Yes, I would substitute "plot" for structure in the OP. I'm not sure I agree with your and, therefore point though (and I don't know if this is the place to get into it!)(but what the hell). Plot could be described as "structure" in the sense of the sequence of events in the story, but use of a Three Act Structure can be entirely independent of plot - hence the affection Hollywood has for it.

    I suppose that in a longer text, such as a novel, the structure could include more acts than just three, but typically this simply means additional dramatic reversals within what would have been "Act 2" in the standard 3AS. The danger would be treating each "act" as a discrete adventure in the larger story, which might make the overall story feel episodic.

    In any case, The Hero's Journey can apply to any narrative, regardless of the number of acts. The particular driving emotion is moot; the H'sJ is just a structure, and could be fleshed out into a story about apathy as easily as passion. The sole intention is to make the story clear, but what the writer chooses to do with it unconstrained. Of course this can include subverting the H'sJ, but that's just a different way of using it...
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2012
  13. Jon Sprunk

    Jon Sprunk Book of the Black Earth

    Joined:
    Oct 2, 2009
    Messages:
    785
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    51
    Not sure I agree. It all comes down to the execution. Motivation A is not inherently more interesting than Motivation B. If the Big Bad has a specific, compelling reason to want the power granted by seizing control of the world/universe, that motivation will be interesting.
     
  14. CausticDuality

    CausticDuality The Autorecursive Void

    Joined:
    Jun 13, 2011
    Messages:
    52
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Okay, so, for example, consider the following:

    -Big Bad wants to control the universe because he grew up with oppression and is basically lashing out (a sort of Magneto motive)

    Would this be an "interesting" motive? Because even to me, I am not sure I'd find it interesting even though it is a specific/compelling reason. This is my main difficulty -- finding interesting motives.


    Generally speaking I tend to find that conflict is usually between good vs. evil or everyone vs. some external force, where good and evil are binned by selfishness versus what's best for everyone. Would you agree with this?
     
  15. Andrew Leon Hudson

    Andrew Leon Hudson sf-icionado / horror-ator

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2008
    Messages:
    1,688
    Likes Received:
    166
    Trophy Points:
    128
    In isolation it might not be - but no-one's motives exist in isolation. The villain plays against the hero, and both struggle in the context of society (which can have its own "motives", in conflict with all those of various individuals).

    Anyway, what you describe for Big Bad has an empathetic aspect: he was once oppressed. A strong enough motivation to fuel the drive for racial, gender, sexual and international equality for a start.
     
    Last edited: Oct 31, 2012
  16. hippokrene

    hippokrene Peckish

    Joined:
    Jun 14, 2007
    Messages:
    1,203
    Likes Received:
    0
    Trophy Points:
    0
    Would you say then that 'BB wants to take over the kingdom because they make the best sandwiches in the world and he's a foodie' is as inherently compelling as 'BB wants to take over the kingdom because he believes it's the only way to protect it from conquest by a hostile nation?'
     
  17. KatG

    KatG The Bony Hand of Death Staff Member

    Joined:
    Mar 22, 2003
    Messages:
    12,576
    Likes Received:
    149
    Trophy Points:
    198
    Yes, why wouldn't it be? What you're talking about are scope and tone of a story and one sort of scope and/or tone is not inherently more interesting to everyone than another. One sort of story, character motivation, structure, theme, style, etc. is not more interesting or important or more commercial than another. It's all story.

    Also, motivations are always complex and interact with structure (and plot, etc.) to shape structure and scene. It's true that you can use a basic play/film story structure and use it for characters with different motivations, but it results in different stories that build on both and they are not separate.

    So Caustic Duality is trying to find motivation of personal interest and asking for votes and experiences about comic, horror, searching mystery, romance, etc., none of which will particularly help. What if we all say we want a comic motivation and like the very cool sandwich idea hippokrene proposes? Does that mean that CD must write a comic novel to be interesting? What if comic stories bore CD?

    So we're back to the personal. What things in life in general most interest you, Caustic?
     
  18. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2007
    Messages:
    2,442
    Likes Received:
    18
    Trophy Points:
    73
    Generally speaking, there are two sorts of motivation: intrinsic and extrinsic.

    Intrinsic motivations are the basic and persistent forces a person has. Some authors go on the idea that every character has a single central attribute that asserts itself in every situation -- a core intrinsic motivation. So, when The Big Bad Chef takes over on the surface because his sandwiches are better than everyone elses, but perhaps there's an underlying reason for his hubris -- perhaps he seeks praise from women to replace his mother, or is trying to please his father who never approved of any of his creative efforts. Or maybe he has a Philia for cured meat.

    This intrinsic motivator asserts itself constantly though, which is why its intrinsic. Big Bad Chef has an interaction with Heroine Food Critic -- their playful banter has a subtext, built around the intrinsic motivators for each character. The thing with the intrinsic motivator is that the characters can't help it -- it's just how they are. A mean streak isn't simply a mean streak -- it has a trigger, or type of trigger, that makes it worse.

    Personally, I like any intrinsic motivator that ends up genuinely contributing to the plot.

    Extrinsic motivators are the plot points, natural forces, and situationally-forced interactions between the characters that force the characters to react to each other. These are your more standard "story" components, especially in SFF. The Big Bad Chef seeks success in the sandwich biz in a society ruled by hyperhygenic psychopaths, the Food Inspection Officers dressed in gas masks and spraying ammonia on everything. The Big Bad Chef attempts to spread his sandwich empire across the deep space stations of the far future galactic frontier. Forces outside the Chef have to be overcome.

    But the two types of motivators need interplay. So, a spacedust storm befalls the Big Bad Chef on his way to New Chicago to set up his new business, and in the spacetruck with him are his Dastardly Jealous Sous Chef and Lazy Opinionated Kitchen Minion. They end up trapped in an interstellar dust drift after spinning out around a neutron star, with only a cargohold full of pre-mortal vampiric sandwich goods. The satanic cows threaten to overtake the ship! They have to overcome the situation -- it's extrinsic, forces outside them have collected into a cluster-eff -- but how that happens is character driven. The three trapped adventurers have to figure out the solution to the extrinsic problem, but their individual intrinsic issues assert themselves in the decision making process (which is where the seeds of future intrinsically derived plot points originate -- some grudge is born, a seed of love is planted, etc).

    So... that's what I like. :)
     
  19. Andrew Leon Hudson

    Andrew Leon Hudson sf-icionado / horror-ator

    Joined:
    Feb 18, 2008
    Messages:
    1,688
    Likes Received:
    166
    Trophy Points:
    128
    Very interesting, up until the point you said "genuinely contributing to the plot".

    After that... then you were cooking.
     
  20. Fung Koo

    Fung Koo >:|Angry Beaver|: <

    Joined:
    Oct 31, 2007
    Messages:
    2,442
    Likes Received:
    18
    Trophy Points:
    73
    Well, as we all know, satanic vampire cows result in the best pastrami.

    Positively packed terroir.

    :D