LOL, it gets even more microscopic than that, because characters' world views, changes in those views, outside forces, inside baggage and decision making processes all effect each thing the character does, including things we don't see happen on stage. Whether an author goes deep into inner motivation or not, that motivation is still there; the motivation is shaped by all these things and in turns shapes other things, particularly character inter-dynamics. But the reality is that whatever the motivation for the Chef doing his pastrami thing, some readers will not like it and find it interesting. We've talked about this before -- you're not going to find a foolproof motivation. No matter how trite, tried and true you think a motivation is to be appealing, at least half of your readers will think it's utterly boring. No matter how avant garde and weird and obscure you think your motivation is, at least a third of your readers will think it's trite and at least half again will find it boring. So my suggestion, as usual, is throw out starting from that orientation unless it really interests you to play with those reactions, in which case, go have fun. But that's what we're looking at -- what interests you. That's what you're asking us about ourselves, CD, as you try to figure out for yourself what you want as interesting. Villains with pastrami may not do it. Heroes with pastrami against space cow vampires may not do it. For me, the answer would be very boring -- I don't have a set thematic template that only interests me. I do have themes that interest me -- how cultures mix, what propels a sacrifice, etc. but it's not set I'll use those in a story. Themes probably creep in, themes that others may be able to identify better than me even. One of the things the Flash Fiction contest does with its theme commandments is make you take an idea and bend it to what interests you. Sometimes, often, readers will see themes that resonate with them, but which you didn't put in and don't really see it being there. Sometimes they'll be negative ones. It's all part of the experience and communication of fiction. So if I want to write about a young person who goes through the transformation from sheltered innocent to raging tortured warrior and have a core motivation that he set out to redeem his father's name but then develops motives making him more and more like his father or causing him to abandon the first motive, etc., cause it interests me, I can do that. It will bore another author. One thing that may be helpful is to go to John Scalzi's Whatever blog and look up all the Big Idea posts (he was going to do a separate website for them but those plans got scrapped.) These guests posts are for books that are mostly SFF and it's the author writing about how they got the idea for the story and developed it. And they are all different. (Plus a good sampling of what is actually going on in the marketplace.) So you learn that author X had a dream about a woman floating in water and from that developed a character with the motivation to get free from a slave mine for a theme about what it means to be really human, etc., whatever it is. All the basic train of thought that the author had (or at least wants to share) are there in those essays. And you can look at the comments to these too, if you have the mind to, and you'll see the different reactions to the stories described. Motivation is a long road. What you start with is often not what you end up with. And you may not know if something is really interesting to you unless you write it out. Things that bug you tend to make for good themes and motivations. Things that you really love, ditto. If you are obsessed with pastrami, well then space cow vampires and chefs may be the thing you can write 300-600 pages about. Or at least a short story. And there will be someone out there who likes it. Whether you can find them -- that's the harder part. And even if you do, even if it's millions of people, millions of other people will find it boring, as we know. So if you're searching around for something to catch your interest -- ask people, not necessarily author people -- what is the most important thing to them, what do they hate, etc. And look for the moment when you go "Squirrel!" among their answers.