Reflection: The Protagonist’s Motivation

In my earlier works, I was always the most focused on the action, the plot and events, and a bit less on the main protagonist.  This was a big mistake, and I’m glad I realized that.

Its the characters actions that move the story along.  I need to make it clear why the characters do what they do, because that’s what fleshes out the characters.  For some reason, though, I’ve never been bad writing good side characters.  But I used to make the main protagonists too flat, uninteresting.  I never divulged enough information about them for the readers to really know them.

I’m glad I’ve gotten past that.  Most of my more recent stories are very character-driven.

So when I think of how the story proceeds, and what the characters are doing, I try to think of why they’re doing that.  For simple things, it’s rather obvious.  If they’re going to get a drink of water, they must be thirsty…or looking for a reason to get away from wherever they are.  But what about the character’s career?  There are a lot of reasons the character could end up where they did.

For example, if I want to write a story about a police officer, I should at least hint at why they became a police officer.  Everybody has a past and reasons for what they’re doing.

If you ask me, what separates a generic character from a more complex and interesting character is that the audience knows the past and motivations of the latter…or at least knows that the character has something motivating him, should I want to keep it secret for a big twist later.

The same is true for villains, though I’ve already discussed this in a different reflection post.

In the Mysteries of Valleyville, the main character investigated mysteries around town, and helped the police, but I never really established why he did it.  I had some vague possibilities mentioned here and there, but I eventually realized nothing was really powerful enough to make him do what he does.

In Valleyville, I wanted Sam to be kind of a straight man, to be the only normal person in a town full of quirky and crazy characters.  But this made him not a very memorable character compared to someone like the deuteragonist, Fred.

Now having a character like that does help emphasize the eccentricities of the other characters, but even if I want to have him as a straight man, he needs something to seem more interesting.

To really emphasize how under-developed Sam was, he’s one of the few characters in the series, even including most minor/one-shot characters, whom I never revealed the last name of.

Swogprille was originally even worse off.  Swogprille was an even more serious crime fighter, yet it took me years of writing to realize that I had not established why, and that I found the side characters were more colorful and interesting.  I ended up having to use retroactive continuity (something I very much hate doing) on over three years worth of stories to create the Swogprille character I know and love today.

In these stories, I was focusing more on the action than the protagonist.  Now the action parts were good, but isn’t it more interesting to follow a more complex character you know well, with a rich backstory, than some generic person who seems relatively ordinary and has no real defining traits.  Anyway, that’s my reflection for today.  White Rakogis, signing off!


One thought on “Reflection: The Protagonist’s Motivation

  1. Pingback: The Importance of Immersion | A Pixelated ViewA Pixelated View

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