Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Author Motivation as Plot Device

As writers we're often told all about how our characters must be motivated. They must want something, and need a reason for being where and when they are in the story. It can be hard, especially in a short story where you simply don't have a lot of space to let things develop.

I'm in the middle of tearing apart and completely reworking Song of the Wolf from the ground up, and it got me to thinking. At first it was just meant to be a fun story about a cool character hunting down and killing an eldritch horror in a not-quite-sentient magic forest. With more backstage character development, it's a little more complicated than that. It led me to ask a question I hadn't really considered before.

I know why Alaire is in Grenfelde, but why do I want him there?

It's the type of story that doesn't necessarily call for a specific protagonist. The village had a problem before he showed up, and he didn't even land the killing blow himself. In fact, I could cut him out entirely and switch the POV to my Enigmatic Nonhuman, and lose nothing except my main character.

So I went deeper into my personal motivation as a writer for putting Alaire in this village.

Hint: it has nothing to do with an eldritch horror or a not-quite-sentient magic forest.

I want him there to meet the outcast "wild elf" known as The Wolf. That's it. That's the only reason he needs to be in Grenfelde.

I was trying to tell two different stories in the same space. No wonder why I've been having problems with it.

Sometimes the plot device isn't a character's motivation, it's yours. By figuring out my why, I was also able to make Alaire's why more personal in a way that overlaps with mine. Now I can split out the unnecessary elements and hopefully write a new, more cohesive story. Maybe even two.

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