Motivation for your Plot

Dude. It had to be believable, and it has to make sense.

Plot - What is it and How do I get one?

Plots need motivation. Some motivations are pretty simple and don’t need to be explained much or at all. But some motivation needs to be set up, you have to lay the ground work in order to get your readers to believe in the things that happen later. Think Ron’s fear of spiders in Harry Potter. . .


Gotta have it. But you can’t just pick one out of the air. The motivation must be believable. Some motivations are more work than others. Not wanting to die is a motivation that generally doesn’t require a lot of explanation. Turning one’s back on love, however, takes some explaining.

Given sufficient set-up and motivation, anything can happen. Absolutely anything.

Motivation Defined

For the sake of convenience, I define motivation as the convincing reason for the things that happen in your story, and mostly for the stuff the characters do. This cannot be over-emphasized. If the motivation is not convincing, your story will suck. This is a bit of a chicken and egg thing. Does the motivation require a certain kind of character? Or does a certain kind of character require a specific motivation? The answer is - whatever works for you. Just make sure the character fits the motivation. Or that the motivation fits the character.

Deconstructing motivation

Let’s assume your handsome hero enters a marriage of convenience.

A Quick Definition of Convenience

Just to keep things simple, let’s define a marriage of convenience as a marriage wherein both hero and heroine get married because each thinks they will get something they want and that something is NOT love.

Back to Deconstructing Motivation

Ok. Why does your handsome hero enter a marriage of convenience? There are a gazillion reasons why. He needs money. He loves someone else and thinks it doesn’t matter who he marries. It’s December 15 and he has to be married by Christmas in order to inherit his uncle’s money. He’s a good guy and wants to do someone else a favor. On and on. Choose whatever you want. But! It’s more complicated than that. The motivation should be fully deconstructed so that you know who and what you’re going to be writing about. Which way you approach this depends upon the kind of writer you are. Maybe you need to work more on the Who, or maybe Who doesn’t need work it’s the What. Maybe you adjust both. Just as long as the characters and motivations fit together.

Let’s take the first possible motivation. Handsome Hero enters a marriage of convenience because he needs money. What does that tell you about your hero? The glaring answer is that he values money over love. So your story is about a man who values money over love. Oh. That doesn’t work for you because your hero is a romantic? Then keep deconstructing. Why would a romantic man marry for convenience instead of love? List the possibilities, deconstruct them, find a situation that allows you have a romantic hero marry for convenience instead of love.

But Wait! There’s More!

Handsome Hero’s motivation for a marriage of convenience implies something about the woman he will marry, primarily that she, too, values something more than love, otherwise, she wouldn’t marry for convenience. Deconstruct the heroine and her motivations. What is that something? Safety? Companionship? Children? Social Status? Pity? Please don’t let it be stupidity. Sorry, but plotting is hard work.

A Brief Digression on TSTL

TSTL means "To Stupid To Live" A character is TSTL only when the writer has not provided sufficient motivation and set up for her (or his) actions.

Back to But Wait! There’s More!

The heroine’s motivation for a marriage of convenience implies something about the man she will marry. (Hopefully, this sounds familiar.) Let’s say the heroine’s motivation for a marriage of convenience is that icky Cousin Fred is after her money. (Yes, you must give Cousin Fred motivation for wanting her money.) Therefore, the heroine must reasonably believe that Handsome Hero can protect her from icky Cousin Fred, who, by the way, wouldn’t mind stooping to murder to get what he wants. And this leads us neatly into Part 2 - Set up.

Your assignment

Examine your hero’s motivations for what he does. Deconstruct his motivations and make sure each element is convincing.

Extra Credit

Do the same thing with the rest of your characters.

»» On to Set-Up

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