Writing Smarter Radio, a Podcast About Writing for Creative Writers
Topic: Writing Character Motivation for Beginners
Welcome to Writing Smarter Radio. Today, I wanted to talk about my why. We’re also going to talk about storytelling, but I think that explaining my why might make sense as to how I came about doing this podcast and how it has to do with writing.
I’ve been writing and self-publishing for almost 15 years, now. I started with a nonfiction book, like I mentioned before. I got into fiction writing and have been doing that for well over 10 years.
One of the things I found was that the further I got along, and the more pen names I grew…well, I ended up losing my way. I lost my joy.
When you’re involved in this process full time and it’s your job, you find you’re chasing ads, having to deal with marketing and social media, you’re worried about all the pieces, both your graphics and your writing, and are you start to wonder if you’re doing it the right way. Then there’s mailing lists/newsletters, too.
It can get a little overwhelming. Of course, you’re just starting out, so it’s not that big of a deal, and it’s not going to turn to that. But, what happened to me is that I jumped lanes.
One of the things I would highly recommend when you’re writing your first book—when you start thinking about a second book, is to first consider, do you want to do this as a business? If so, consider staying in your lane. Know what you want to write, what genre and style.
We’ll talk about pen names too, at some point a little deeper. But when I first started, I wrote using a pen name that was for romantic comedy. I still use this name, but the problem is that I started going through something within my family, an extremely difficult situation, and it was really hard to write funny. I hadn’t planned for that. And I write over the top silly, funny.
Going through this family trauma, I jumped lanes. That’s how I got into writing cozy mysteries. I had never written a mystery before, but you know what? I decided that I was going to learn. I was going to figure it out as I went. I was going to read along, take notes, read books, and do all that. And I actually really enjoyed it.
I started writing shorts and I still write cozy mysteries today, but I did it under another pen name because it didn’t match my romantic comedies.
And because I’m a creative and get bored easily, then jump around. I wanted to do something different. I also decided to go back to writing romance, but this time I was going to do clean wholesome romance. I just did not feel like writing the sex scenes right then, because I was at another point in my life. So…I started another name because putting out wholesome, clean romance, doesn’t really blend with over the top silly romance that might have graphic sex scenes in it. I had to separate them.
Well, now I’ve got three mailing lists. I’ve got marketing for all of them. Graphics for all of them, yet, I’m going through all these different things. And I lost my joy. I lost my way.
I really just wanted to write my Ava stuff again, which is where my focus has gone, but they COVID came along.
Distracted again, I decided to jump into freelance writing as a side gig. Well, it took off like crazy and I was doing so much of it, and still am, that my focus changed. Now, my creative side ached to get back to focusing on creative writing. I’ve done this full time for 10 years. It’s who I am.
This is where my brain lives—in the creative juicy stuff. I love to build and write and plan and plot and come up with characters and scenarios and scenes and all sorts of goodies. And, oh, dear goodness, I love the graphics and the covers and bright colors and all the different things that go with it.
But the problem is I lost my way. And because I lost my way, I jumped around way too much. If I had stayed in my lane and found a little more focus, I probably would have found more satisfying success. My career is kind of bouncy, up and down. and everything. So right now, I’m doing a lot of article writing and business writing in between writing my books and doing edits and working with those.
I thought, let me go back to the basics. Let me simplify the process for other people. Let me serve in that way. Let me help other people get started. And that will at least let me fulfill this creative thing I have inside of myself while I’m also doing business articles about topics that are not things I would normally talk about.
So here we are on writer, Writing Smarter Radio, a podcast about writing.
We’re going to talk more about writing and books and stories, but now at least, you know where I am, and a little bit of my background.
Let’s dig into some other stuff, now. Because I’ve mentioned pen names so much, I’m going to cover that in my next episode. We’ll go a little deeper into that in case it’s something you’re curious about.
Speaking of story writing. Let’s look at things like motives. We were talking about characters and why they might do something.
What I want to talk about is looking at the different reasons we do things. Your character might be reacting or acting out of self-defense, greed, hatred, maybe they’re whistleblowing, or they’re jealous. It could be a lot of different things. They can be afraid of something. They can be trying to cover up something.
When you know why your character’s doing something, it helps you drive your story. Why do we care about the character?
I took a class online by Michael Hauge and oh my gosh, it’s amazing. Anything you can read or see by him—fabulous. I highly, highly recommend him. One of the things he talked about was needing to like your character early on, in the beginning it’s very important to showcase a couple of things so that we’re empathetic about the character.
Why do we care about this character?
The things that he mentions are there should be at least two of these items so that we care what happens to the character. If we don’t care about the character, we don’t care about the story. So, the character should either be likable, we should feel sorry for them, they should be good at what they do, maybe they’re in jeopardy, or they’re sympathetic. He recommends choosing at least two of those in your beginning so that you can connect to the character and have your readers connect to who that character is. If we don’t care, we don’t care. And then we don’t read the rest of the story.
If you have any opportunity to read his stuff or see one of his courses, I streamed one, I think it was a video one…it was amazing. And he’s really, really good.
Okay. We’re going to talk about something else, just a second, but I’ve got to grab my notes. Give me a second here. Okay. I’m back. I was trying to cover up the page turns here of the things that I wrote down, which is kind of funny because here I’m talking about it would have just been faster to flip page, right?
Okay. I went to a writing conference and Gina Ardito spoke about some different things. And one of the tricks that she mentioned, I really liked. I wanted to share with you a simple thing that I never really thought about. She talked about changing the inflection of a sentence. So, in her example, she was saying, Why are you mad at me? That gives you one angle on a scene, but say you want to change it by changing the inflection of Why are you mad at me?
You’ve now changed the direction of what you’re asking. You can do it again. Why are you mad at me? Why are you mad at me? This was a great tip from her lecture. It was about 45 minutes, a lot of interesting stuff.
One of the things you can do when you’re stuck on a scene is take your character and re question or reframe a question to see if it triggers something that gets you moving.
The next thing we’re going to talk about is character flaws. Nobody wants to read about a perfect character who had a perfect day, and nothing happened. It’s boring. Nobody’s interested. Okay. So, what we’re going do is talk about flaws. This makes the character relatable. It makes the character real, because your character is resistant to change.
We all like to be in our comfort zones. Getting out of that comfort zone is difficult for most people.
Your character can’t be like, I need to change. Okay. I just changed.
They’re going to struggle. They’re going to be resistant to that change. And they’re going to have flaws.
They’re going not going to be perfect. Deciding what your character’s flaws are, will dictate how they react to things, and why they react to things. Think about something they need to learn to overcome. And they’re going to become a better version of themselves by having a flaw. It means you need to struggle a little bit. Struggle leads to growth, leads to change, which is what a story is basically about.
When you’re creating a scene with your character, something needs to happen to that character.
That starts your story in motion…and, starts every scene in motion.
Something happens to that main character. Then they’re going to have a reaction.
When something happens, we react, but we do it physically first. Say, you get in an accident or you’re about to get in an accident and you have a near miss. You’re like, phew, that was close! Your physical reaction comes first. And then you react to it emotionally and have a response. So, when you’re building a scene with your character and you’re starting out, I want you to get in the habit of doing it in the right order, because it will read in a more real way that people relate to.
If you get in a near miss, you’re not going to get in a near miss and be like, wow, that was close. Phew! It wouldn’t read realistic. Think about the way you actually do it. You know, if you need to play out the scene in your mind and how you would react to something, it might help.
So something happens to your character, then they react to it physically. They’re going to look at the perspective of what’s going on and then emotionally react and respond. So that’s the order.
And because they have a flaw, they’re going to react based on how they see the world. Think of it this way, a divorced woman is going to think about love differently than a newlywed. They’re going to have very different perspectives. That’s where your flaw comes in. It’s how we see the world.
I see the world differently than a young child sees the world. I’m in my fifties, and I’ve lived a lot of life. I’m also going to see things differently than somebody who maybe was raised in the country all their life and somebody who was raised in the city, when I’ve lived in the suburbs, all my life.
We all react to things differently based on what we’ve gone through in our unique perspectives. Our flaws are what gives us our way of looking at things. So, somebody might think of one thing as a flaw where somebody else might see it as a total gift. It really depends on your unique situation.
I want you to think about these different things when you’re building and creating a character, to make them more real, give them dimension and depth that comes from flaws, realness.
Our perception of the world makes your character come to life by making them real.
Next week On Writing Smarter Radio, I’m going to go into pen names a little more in-depth. Reasons that you might want to use one, and why you might not. If you write in different markets, how you want to handle that, how does your personal and professional life touch it? We’ll dig into that a little bit deeper, and I hope you’ll join me. If you haven’t yet, please subscribe or leave a review. This is Writing Smarter Radio. I’ll see you next week. Thanks. Bye-bye.