Amy Palmer

Of writing, reading and creating


Why does anyone do anything?

It’s time for my reply to the WriYe February blog circle post. This month we’re talking about character motivations. There are a few questions in this one, so I’m going to break it down and answer them one at a time.

What is the main motivation behind your characters?

The answer to this one depends entirely on the characters. However, if I had to bring all of their motivations down to their very basic level, I’d say that my characters tend to be motivated by wanting something. Sometimes it’s a physical thing, sometimes not. For example, in my novel ‘Spirited Prey’ the physical thing that Tristan wants is a way out of the country, a motivation which eventually evolves into wanting to leave and take Reid with him. In the same novel, meanwhile, Reid is motivated by the fact that he wants revenge.

Where do you come up with that motivation?

Where the motivation comes from can vary from character to character and story to story. Usually, I have a motivation before I get started on the actual writing. The motivation comes from a character’s situation at the beginning of the novel. On occasion, though, the motivation doesn’t turn up until I’ve started. For example, it wasn’t until I had started writing the first short story for the series Cicada that I worked out that one of the characters, rather than being motivated by a love of  travel, was actually motivated by fear, and wanting to get away from her past.

Do you tend to use the same sort of motivation in every novel, or do you tend to mix it up more?

I’ve been hesitating over this question quite a lot. Because while I think the basic motivation of ‘want’ is the same for most of my characters, what they want is very different from character to character. So, you can take from that what you will as a reply.

What is your favorite example of character motivation?

From my own writing, it has to be James from my currently unnamed Science Fiction series. Everything that James does is geared towards finding a home of his own. Somewhere, anywhere, that he can belong and build a life for himself.

From other media, I’m going to have to go for Ianto Jones from Torchwood. In my view, his motivation throughout the series is love, though the form that love comes in varies. (To start with it’s his love for Lisa, later on his love for Jack and people in general, and even later his love for his family.) I really like the way his motivation is fairly consistent, and linked to his character, even though the focus of that motivation shifts as we move through the series.

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