Beth Camp Historical Fiction

Sunday, January 06, 2013

Can writers revise motivation?

One of my major characters is a wimp. Deidre has worked as a teacher, but she lives in a time (mid 19th Century) when few opportunities existed for women, and she has landed, literally, in a prison colony where 10,000 men  vie for the attentions (and services) of 2,500 women. Lower class women found work as laundresses, cooks, servants, and prostitutes. Middle class women might find work as governesses, or teachers at girls' schools, or they might marry.

Orson Scott Card says in Characters & Viewpoint (106-107), look to motivation. If the writer does not show complex motivation, then the reader may simply assume stereotypes. So what are Deidre's motivations? her purposes, her loyalties? Where is she conflicted? What does she fear? What does she hope for? Why did she follow Mac here, to Van Diemen's Land, really? What did she learn on the four-month voyage here? What are her thoughts and her plans, her feelings and reactions? What is she NOT facing and why? What motivates her that she may not be aware of? Where does she draw a line? Where does she fight back?

Some 21st Century women still protect themselves with innuendo, by presenting ideas as questions, by deferring, by manipulating, by sacrificing. I'm running straight up against social convention, those rather strict Victorian codes that put women on a pedestal. And so Deidre drinks tea and faints, not at all the brave woman I want her to be. Yet.

Card says that motivation is at the heart of the story. If I change a character's motivation, I'm working at the deep structure of the story on issues I may not be aware of. But I will persevere.

Now to ROW80 (A Round of Words in 80 Days) that begins today for 2013.  This is my third round of 80 days, and I do see changes in my planning and writing behaviors. My 2013 Calendar has writing goals and action steps already planned throughout the year. This is a first! If you've read earlier posts, you know that I want to start the third book in this series (River of Stones set in the Pacific Northwest). If I don't start before, I will with NaNoWriMo in November, 2013. That's a commitment.

Tonight's ROW80 report will be short mostly because I'm not home. Even the keyboard is different. I'm babysitting a 7-month-old who has just gone down to sleep. She's so sweet, and I'm so tired. But I can report steady progress in drafting, editing, and for me a very large challenge, marketing. I don't care so much about learning how to sell as I do about connecting with readers, having people read my stuff.

Just this last week, I joined a local author's group that meets monthly. ROW80 has made me much more aware of how important studying the craft of writing is to my own growth as a writer. One of the joys of being a part of ROW80 has been learning from other writers  (equally true of this month's Ultimate Blog Challenge bloggers). 

Question: If you are a writer, what challenges have you faced in writing scenes that reveal your characters' motives? 

The photo is of a cactus lily that blooms in the winter. May your writing go well.