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How Does Character Motivation Affect a Story’s Plot?

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  • January 11, 2024
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  • 9 min read


Character motivation drives a character’s actions, decisions, and behaviors within a narrative. Character motivation affects the story plot; storytelling is incomplete without mentioning how important it is for characters to have goals. The story’s main idea holds everything together and determines how it goes.

Readers and viewers can relate to the story because of the characters’ goals, which move it forward. Reading a story is more realistic and exciting when you understand why the characters do what they do.

The Basics of Character Motivation

The Basics Of Character Motivation

Character motivation is fundamental in storytelling, enriching narratives and providing depth to fictional personas. Understanding the basics of character motivation is essential for crafting compelling and relatable stories.

Character motivation is the driving force behind a character’s actions, decisions, and behaviors in a story. Book Writing Founders answers why a character pursues specific goals or actions.

1- Types of Character Motivations:

  • External Motivation: Driven by external factors such as survival, love, or achieving a tangible goal.
  • Internal Motivation: Rooted in a character’s personal beliefs, values, or emotional needs.
  • Primary Motivation: The overarching goal a character strives to achieve throughout the story.
  • Secondary Motivation: Additional objectives that contribute to the complexity of the character.

2- Importance of Character Motivation:

  • Drives the Plot: character motivation affects the plot, influencing events and conflicts.
  • Shapes Conflict: Conflicts arise from characters’ conflicting motivations, creating tension and interest.
  • Builds Empathy: Understanding characters’ motivations fosters empathy, allowing audiences to connect with their struggles and triumphs.

3- Character Consistency and Growth:

Characters’ actions should align with their established motivations for authenticity. All the experience shifts in motivation, contributing to their development throughout the story.

4- Relevance to Genre:

Different genres emphasize specific types of motivations. For example, a mystery novel focuses on solving a crime as the primary external motivation.

5- Balancing Motivations:

Compelling storytelling and life story writing involve balancing various character motivations to create a nuanced and engaging narrative.

6- Character Motivation and Reader Engagement:

Readers become invested in a story when they empathize with the characters’ motivations, making it essential to craft compelling and relatable motives.

What Is Character Motivation?

What drives a character is what makes them do what they do.

It’s what they want, need, or are afraid of. It can be something outside of yourself, like saving the world, falling in love, or getting even, or something inside of you, like getting over a flaw, fixing a wound or finding meaning.

A movie’s theme, writing initiation guide, and the message or lesson it tries to teach help increase the enthusiasm for doing new things.

How Does a Character’s Motivation Affect a Story’s Plot?

How Does A Character’s Motivation Affect A Story’s Plot

A character’s motivation is a dynamic catalyst that intricately weaves into the fabric of a story, profoundly influencing its plot development. Therefore, character motivation affects a story’s plot is multifaceted and pivotal, shaping the narrative in various ways:


1- Drive and Initiative:

Character motivations propel the plot forward by instigating action. When characters actively pursue their goals, it introduces a sense of agency and direction, preventing the story from becoming stagnant.

2- Decision-Making Moments:

It acts as a guide to key decision-making moments in the story. The characters’ choices, influenced by their desires and goals, steer the plot in specific directions, leading to consequences and outcomes.

3- Plot Structure:

The characters’ motivations heavily influence the structure of a story. It is important to set mystery writing secrets as characters set objectives and encounter challenges; the plot naturally unfolds in a sequence dictated by their evolving motivations.

4- Character Development:

Motivations contribute to character development. As characters strive to achieve their goals or overcome obstacles, their experiences shape their personalities, fostering growth or revealing flaws.

5- Emotional Resonance:

Characters’ motivations add emotional depth to the story. Readers or viewers connect with characters on a visceral level when they empathize with the reasons behind their actions, fostering emotional resonance with the plot.

6- Conflict Generation:

Motivations often spark conflicts, both internal and external. The story conflict Importance with conflicting goals or opposing motivations creates tension and obstacles, driving the plot’s twists and turns.

7- Plot Twists and Surprises:

Unexpected shifts in character motivations can introduce plot twists and surprises. Characters deviating from anticipated paths or reassessing their goals inject unpredictability into the narrative.

Establishing Strong Character Motivations

Establishing Strong Character Motivations

Crafting compelling character motivations is a crucial aspect of storytelling, as it shapes the narrative, drives character actions, and engages the audience. Here are key strategies for establishing strong character motivations in your story:


1- Understand Core Needs and Desires:

Identify the fundamental needs and desires of your characters. What do they seek on a personal, emotional, or aspirational level? This understanding forms the basis of their motivations.

2- Connect Motivations to Backstories:

Establish a link between character motivations and their backstories. Past experiences, traumas, or life events can significantly influence the book trailer guide and why characters pursue specific goals or harbor particular desires.

3- Create Internal and External Motivations:

Develop a mix of internal and external motivations for characters. Internal motivations, such as personal growth or self-discovery, add depth, while external motivations, like achieving a goal or overcoming an obstacle, drive the plot forward.

4- Establish Clear Goals:

Clearly define the goals characters aim to achieve. Whether finding love, seeking revenge, or realizing a lifelong dream, distinct goals provide a roadmap for character actions and propel the narrative.

5- Introduce Conflicts and Obstacles:

Embed conflicts Story Conflict Importance and obstacles that challenge characters’ motivations. Overcoming adversity adds layers to their journey and allows for dynamic character development.

6- Consider Stakes and Consequences:

Explore the stakes involved in the characters’ pursuits and the potential consequences of success or failure. High stakes intensify motivations and heighten reader engagement.

7- Reflect Motivations in Dialogue and Actions:

Ensure that the characters’ motivations are evident in their dialogue and actions. Consistency between what characters say, think, and do reinforces the authenticity of their motivations.

8- Allow for Evolution and Change:

Characters should experience growth and change in their motivations throughout the story. This evolution adds realism and complexity to their arcs.

9- Use Subtext and Nuance:

Employ subtext and nuance to convey motivations subtly. Sometimes, what characters don’t say or express indirectly can be as powerful as explicit statements.

10- Consider Genre and Tone:

The reasons your characters do what they do should fit the type and mood of your story. A romance book might be about love and relationships, while a thriller might be about staying alive or doing what’s right.

11- Solicit Beta Reader Feedback:

Ask beta readers for feedback to see how well the character goals work. Outside opinions help you figure out what needs to be fixed and ensure that the reasons you give readers connect with them.

Challenges in Displaying Character Motivations

Challenges In Displaying Character Motivations

Getting across the reasons for characters in a story is often difficult for writers. Overcoming and how character motivation affects is essential for writing real and exciting stories. Voicing character motives can be complicated for the following reasons:


1- Overreliance on Exposition:

One common problem is depending too much on exposition to clarify character motivations. This can make the conversation or narration sound forced, which takes away from the story’s subtlety and interest.

2- Inconsistent Character Behavior:

Ensuring that characters act similarly based on their goals can be hard. To keep readers from getting confused or uncomfortable, writers need to ensure that the characters’ actions align with what they’re supposed to be doing.

3- Lack of Internal Conflict:

Characters whose goals are simple or one-dimensional might not have any internal conflict. Having characters with opposing wants or feelings can give them more depth, but it can be hard to keep the balance.

4- Unrelatable Motivations:

It can be hard to develop reasons that will work for many people. If the narrative writing elements and characters’ reasons are too detailed or tied to their culture, it might be hard for readers to connect with them.

5- Predictable Storylines:

The plot might not be interesting or original if the characters’ motives are too obvious or overused. It’s always hard for writers to find the right mix between what people already know and what they don’t know.

6- Balancing Multiple Motivations:

Often, characters have more than one reason for doing something, and it can be hard to keep them all in balance without making the story too complicated. Each motivation should play an essential role in the character’s journey.

7- Excessive Use of External Forces:

Depending on outside forces alone to drive character goals may make internal, personal wants seem less important. The key is to find the right mix between external and internal drives.

8- Communicating Subtext:

It can be hard to convey complex or subtle reasons without saying them directly. Actions, responses, and dialogue are all excellent ways for writers to use subtext.

9- Handling Backstory:

A common challenge is figuring out how to fit character backstories into the story without using information dumps. The story should add to the flow of the story, not break it up.

10- Avoiding Stereotypes:

Character stereotypes can be avoided by giving each character unique reasons for doing what they do. It takes a lot of thought to make characters who struggle against set norms while still being true to themselves.

11- Balancing Sympathy and Antagonism:

It can be challenging for writers to find the right mix between making antagonists believable and giving readers a reason to care about them. It can be hard to make villains more likable without lowering the tension.

How Should Character Motivations Change Throughout a Story

How Should Character Motivations Change Throughout A Story

It is a powerful and realistic way to tell a story to let the characters’ reasons change and grow. Just like real people, outside forces can change, grow, and affect characters. Characters become more exciting and complex when their reasons change, which makes the story more exciting and dynamic.


The internal and external conflicts start with the characters’ motives for doing what they do, which keeps the viewer interested. Characters’ choices, based on their wants and needs, create turning points that determine the story’s course. These moments, full of outcomes and effects, become the building blocks of a story that sticks with people.

Another thing is that character motivations affect character growth. As the main characters try to reach their goals or deal with problems they didn’t expect, the things that happen to them shape who they are.

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