We all know that fiction is propelled by conflict. Two people who just sit on the page enamored with one another is a very boring story that no one will read. Throw in a little conflict and it makes the story move forward. The same can be said for motivation. What makes your characters do what they do? What end game are they interested in? What’s the goal? What lead them to this thinking?
In a phrase: what motivates them?
My favorite adult fiction book of all time is Gone With the Wind I know: it’s dated, hard to read in some parts because of the way the dialect is written, and sometimes you just want to slap Scarlet O’Hara like she slapped poor Prissy. Scarlet is a conniving, lying, spoiled vixen of a woman. But you want to root for her because everything she does, everything she becomes, is motivated by two central truths in her life- she loves Ashley Wilkes and she loves Tara. She will do whatever she has to in order to accomplish her goal of having both. And she does. Her motivation is to prove to Ashley that he really loves her and not Melly. When the war destroys her family and her home, she is motivated beyond reason to help Tara rise again to the splendor it was pre-war. She marries men she does not love for their money and for the security they bring to her. She cares for Melly when she is sick and dying only because she wants to be close to Ashley. She really is a bitch in every sense of the word, but still, you root for her because she fights for what she wants, and to hell with everyone and everything else.
That’s motivation in it’s sincerest form.
What motivates your characters? Is it a desire to save the family homestead despite not having the visible means to do it? Is it revenge on the person your character thinks did them wrong? Is it greed? Lust? Love? Whatever your characters want you need to be clear about it, because the reader wants what they want FOR them, and wants to see them overcome obstacles to get it.
There’s no motivation in a boy meets girl-boy gets girl story. Now, a boy meets girl-boys loses girl- boy gets girl in the end story is the stuff of romantic dreams. This is what romance readers want. They want to know what motivates the two characters to fall in love. What obstacles must they overcome to wind up together? Are their motivations at cross purposes and it looks like they’ll never make it? All this drives the story and what drives the character is their motivation.
What motivation do you give your characters? Is it strong enough to sustain an entire novel about it? If not, how could you make it stronger? Sit back and re-evaluate what you want for you characters and what they want. It should be the same thing. Your goal is deciding how to effectively help them attain that goal without losing sight of their motivation.