Sunday, November 8, 2009

Once there was a goal

Once there was a goal strong enough to build this tower. I hike often up Mt. Rubidoux in Riverside, Calif. At the top is the Peace Tower and Friendship Bridge. Kids love to climb up the castle-like stone stairs. People read the plaques.
In 15 years it will have been a century since this was built by residents of the city to honor a local leader who tried to promote world peace. It was in the wake of World War I, which was called then the War to End All Wars. It wasn't, as we know all too well.
But the goal of peace, the desire, the motivation lives on as people are reminded whenever they climb up and see this monument.
Motivation is the backbone of novel writing. If your characters don't have it, you've got an empty shell. Sure, you can write compelling action and lyrical prose, but without motivation it goes nowhere.
There's a great quote attributed to Kurt Vonnegut: "Every character should want something even if it's only a glass of water."
If that character is tied up by kidnappers in the desert and hasn't had a sip to drink in a day, that desire becomes critical. The story needs a Big Picture goal as well as smaller ones that lead to it. So that once the character escapes the kidnappers and gets that drink of water he can go back to stopping the alien invasion of the planet or whatever.
On the Literary Lab, Lady Glamis did a great post on the dangling carrot. She developed a motivation map to track how she is driving her characters and creating tension.
I'm reminded of all this as I strive for my own goal of writing 50,000 words of a brand-new novel this month. I've made motivation lists for my characters in hopes I can keep those threads strong as I go. It's a huge challenge, and I don't know if I will make the word count or if I will have written something viable by the end. I do know that it's another invaluable experience.
As of last night, which was the seventh day of writing, I had reached 14,511 words. I'm motivated, and hopefully, my characters are, too. How about you?

17 comments:

rilla jaggia said...

Way to go, Pat. I have no doubt you will make your goal and then some! Wish I had time to take part in NaNo this year. Last year was so much fun! See you tomorrow.

Karen Amanda Hooper said...

You're doing great on your word count! Keep climbing those castle stairs. You'll be at the top before you know it! :)

Lady Glamis said...

That's great your getting your character motivations down. It's so important. The other thing I'd stress is to keep doing it through the writing process, because oftentimes in a first draft, things change. I thought I knew my character's motivations at one point until I tried to write them down. It can be tricky!

Good luck. :)

Lisa Schroeder said...

Love this post - keep writing, you're doing great!!!

Tess said...

that is impressive progress - kudos for keeping at it!

and, we moved to where I live now from Riverside. I grew up in Redlands -- my hubby in Garden Grove. In fact, he is there right now for a reunion w/ some old high school friends.

small world :D

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Rilla: Hey there, good to see you here. Thanks for believing in me. :)

Karen: It's funny about those castle stairs. I actually got some inspiration from them for my other novel that is in revision (shelved during NaNo) Someday I'm going to post how the stone bridge and boulders on that hill found their way into my story.

Hi Michelle: I feel more confident on the motivations on this story than on the one in revision. When I started this one I decided to focus on the family dynamic, which is where the motivations are. I'm finding dialogue scenes just popping up because I know what they need to say.

Lisa: Thanks, so nice to have you stop by!

Tess: Too funny! I have one crit group in Riverside and one in Redlands. I've lived in so many places in LA, Orange and Riverside counties.

Andrea Cremer said...

Great post - so true! And thanks for the heads up about Google search yesterday :)

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Andrea: Thanks and you're welcome!

Donna said...

Yay! You're on target for your WriMo goal. I'm glad the dialogue is swinging along. Thanks for the motivation reminder. Love the tower. Reminds me of a story I heard once of a girl who kept fell from towers . . .

Davin Malasarn said...

Character motivation was something that I neglected for far too long with my last novel. My characters wanted something, but that something was very amorphous. Only after I made their desired object more concrete did my characters started acting in a directed way that progressed the story much faster.

PJ Hoover said...

Motivation is so huge. And more important is also: what is the character's motivation before the story begins? This is something I think about and try to get in my stories now.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Donna: Ha! Yes, she is still falling. One day I will catch her into a story. :)

Davin: I think (but can't say for sure yet) that that is what's happening for me with this NaNo story. It feels more driven from the start by motivation than the one I wrote last year.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

PJ: You snuck in whilst I was typing. Hi! Yes, it is huge and, for me, it so much more on my mind in this story that it is driving it.

Robyn Campbell said...

Tricia my friend! YOU GO GIRL!! Uhhuh! :) I just read that quote from Kurt Vonnegut the other day. Talk about deja vu! Whoa! Oh wait, that's not really deja vu. Hmm, talk about you quoting the same quote that I read the other day.

Okay, I'm leaving now. But still cheering you on. Great post!

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Robyn: Thanks for the cheer. I'm kinda zombie-like but happy with the accomplishment.

Terresa said...

Love the Vonnegut quote. He rocks. And having true motivation in our storytelling, does, too.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

Hi Terresa: Vonnegut and motivation, who could ask for anything more? :)