You hear it all the time: “What’s your character’s motivation?” It’s one of the major questions that go through a writer’s head every time he/she is trying to crack a story. I had the opportunity to sit down with an established writer and I asked her convey process when it comes to character motivation. To my pleasant surprise, she broke it down very simply for me.
A character should be motivated by “need” not “want”. Usually characters that are motivated by simple pleasure, or “want” don’t make up very strong characters and, as a result, don’t provide a great story. There are four reasons for a person to “need” to do something: FEAR, MONEY, LOVE, & BELIEF. I know that it makes for a lot of cliche story-telling, but these are the sources of motivation that most audiences can relate to. When you can pull your audience with relate-able motivations, you can convey a much more compelling story.