Why They Matter
I am going to approach this topic from the viewpoint of a reader, as opposed to talking about character motivation as an author. As authors, we have many ideas about who and what our characters are, but readers often have very different ideas about them.
When authors create a character they are developing an entire persona for a person who will be represented on the page. This is the very basis of writing and rarely do we read stories WITHOUT characters. Characters in romance are the focus of the story, and are very, very important to readers. There are a few things that readers will latch on to when they open our books for the first time. One of those things will be whether or not they care about our characters.
Characters do not have to be instantly understandable, their motivations and deepest thoughts and fears can be revealed throughout the story. But what readers look for, and what I look for as a reader, is that the characters in the book are relatable. People in general do not take on tasks in life that don't matter to them in some way. This is the general definition of character motivation. Why characters feel the need to do the things they do are the answers that readers are ultimately looking for.
What I would like to tell authors, as a reader, is that when the author doesn't understand the character's motivation, it means that I won't either. The sexiest, strongest and most virile main character can seem flat on the page if I have no insight into who he is on a deeper level. What things in the character's past have led him to the point where I meet him on the page? I don't need his whole life story, however I will need to have some notions of why this character is who the author says he is.
For example, a character with a protective streak for children can seem instantly loveable, but if I never learn what made the character this way it doesn't have the same impact as understanding his story might. That is, authors, the difference between a good book and a great book, in this reader's opinion. A character with a thirst for blood and war can be interesting, but if you show me the incidents in his past that have fed this thirst----I might fall in love with him. As a romance author and reader, I can tell you that the bread and butter of romance is creating that unbreakable bond between reader and character.
In an effort to help both authors and readers understand the notion of exploring character motivation, I've created a quick "Top 10" guide to character motivations. Those listed on my guide are the motivations I've read most, and the ones that intrigue me most as an author.
So, the point of this post is simple. Character motivation matters. It is more that telling the reader that "Bob wants to be a fireman because his father died in a fire". It's about showing the reader how the death of his father created a need in Bob to save others from that fate. Give me the meat, not the fat! If you want to create your next irresistible book boyfriend, IN MY OPINION, deep and meaningful character motivation is the way to go.
As always, thanks for reading this post. I look forward to comments and emails and interactions from all of you. Tell me about your favorite characters and their motivations. Tell me when you fell in love with a character because of the way the author showed you their motivation. I want to hear about it!
Don't forget that my books are always available via the BOOK LINKS tab at the top of the page.