Friday, February 17, 2012

Mastering Motivation by Laurie Schnebly Campbell

Missy, here. And I'm so thrilled to bring you a wonderful teacher, Laurie Schnebly Campbell. I took Laurie's online class, Plotting Via Motivation, and I have to tell you, I'm now a firm believer in her method! Here's Laurie...

Mastering Motivation

We all know God didn't make ANY of us perfect. But sometimes it's tempting to give our characters a motivation that's one-hundred percent kind, honest, charitable, grateful, noble, responsible, loving and good.

The only problem with that is: how can such a person possibly change for the better?

If they're starring in an action-adventure story where readers don't especially care about character development, then we don't need to worry about showing how they grow & learn & change between Chapter One and The End. (James Bond, for instance, has never possessed a whole lot of inner depth, and nobody cares!)

But suppose we want our characters to have room for overcoming something inside them? Something that's keeping them from being as kind-honest-charitable-etc as they COULD be?

That's where we get into motivation. Which, even though it's at the heart of Goal-Motivation-Conflict, is usually the easiest one to overlook when starting a new story.

On the surface, motivation is simple.

There are all kinds of theories of motivation, and they all boil down to the same thing: We want to be Okay.

Whatever it takes to be okay, that's what motivates us.

Maslow talked about that, saying that to be Okay we first need Food and Water...yep, it...then Safety...and in most books, those issues are pretty well taken care of. Sometimes you'll get characters fleeing the murderer in the North Woods or laid off from the factory job, but food isn't usually a driving motivation.

Maslow Pyramid

So we get into the next level of what people need to be Okay, which is Belonging / Acceptance / Love. Then there's Respect of Others and Self-Respect, and finally there's the drive to Be All You Can Be. Everywhere along that continuum, you've got some great motivators.

And that matters, because it's the motivation that makes a character interesting.

Where does it come into the story?

Some writers start with the motivation: "let's see, a woman who's motivated by the desire for adventure would be THIS type of person." Other writers start with the character: "my heroine wants to sail to Jamaica, so that must mean she's motivated by adventure."

Either way works fine. And either way leaves you totally free to write any kind of story you want.

Say, given this heroine who wants to sail to Jamaica in search of adventure, could your story be full of soul-deep emotion? Absolutely. Quirky humor? Sure. Dizzying suspense? Of course. Imaginative history? Yep. Heartwarming realism? Yep.

It all depends on how you write it.

So in that case, why does the heroine's motivation even matter?

Because it's what makes her credible. Same as we can't have pink-elephant aliens showing up in some 14th-century castle without sacrificing a bit of credibility, neither can we have this woman sailing off to Jamaica without SOME plausible motivation.

And that's where it's easy for us authors to fall down on the job. We love this heroine who's rigging out her sailboat, we love that she's going to Jamaica, and we know that on the way she'll meet this incredibly witty sailor, and there'll be a pirate attack -- oh, and the pirate ship will have a yellow parrot named Sidney! -- it's all taking shape. We KNOW it'll work, because we can SEE this story.

But there's a down-side...

Thing is, it's that wonderful dazzling clarity which can get us into trouble. Because our readers weren't IN on this first glorious flash of inspiration. They can't see that wonderful vision. All they see is a heroine rigging out her sailboat for a trip to Jamaica, and they have no idea why she's doing it.

Unless the readers GET this heroine's desire for adventure, they're gonna feel out of the loop. They might not know why the story isn't working for them, but they're missing her motivation.

And motivation is what makes a book memorable.

For some writers, it comes so naturally that they never even question how their characters' motivation will feed into the plot. (Which sometimes leaves them at loose ends, wondering what could possibly HAPPEN in this plot.)

For others, it's more of a tack-on because their strength is in plotting. (Which sometimes leaves them wondering how to explain WHY this character did something that seems senseless but is actually integral to the plot.)

And that leads to our prize-drawing question:

Which comes more easily for you, building a character or building a plot? How do you know?

There's no Right Answer or Wrong Answer. (Although if you say "both come so easily that I write fabulous bestsellers in six days," I'll be horribly envious!)

I'd love to hear which you find easier, and somebody who posts will win free registration to my Plotting Via Motivation class coming up at next month. Which quite a few Seekerville folks have already taken, so you might run into a friend or two in that group. :)

Laurie, who'll start the ball rolling by saying I find character-building easier because I like personality stuff

Laurie Schnebly Campbell ( grew up with a marriage-counselor mother, preparing her to write happy endings for her own books -- including one that beat out Nora Roberts for "Best Special Edition of the Year." The only thing she loves more than writing is working with other writers, which is why she now has a dozen novels on her bookshelf with acknowledgments from authors who loved her class!


  1. I'd say building the plot is easier for me. Which in a way sounds odd because I'm not a plotter. As I learn more about the craft I've discovered the importance of character building.

  2. Oh, and I really enjoyed reading about mastering motivation! Thank you for sharing.

    I really shouldn't be allowed on the computer this late at night... where's the coffee?

  3. Hi Laurie:

    You asked:

    "Which comes more easily for you, building a character or building a plot? How do you know?”

    Actually, I like to start with a situation which I feel is high concept and intriguing in itself. This should be a situation which will breed both great plot ideas and memorable characters. Location is usually very important here as well.

    A great situation will suggest the kind of characters best suited for the story and the most powerful plot lines to develop.

    I see the dichotomy between ‘plot-driven’ and ‘character-driven’ as being too limiting. Given a great situation both the characters and the plot can be chosen to maximize the story's full potential.


    Please enter me for a chance on the class. vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

  4. The Ozark coffee pot is set to brew.

    I think I find plotting easier than character building. But sometimes I think I'm missing the boat on both.


  5. So far I have found plot has been the first part I have focused on. But, I can see that I really want & have to flesh out my characters.
    This is a very interesting post!

  6. Hi Laurie,
    I heard you speak at TFOB and would love to take one of your classes. Please include me in the drawing.

    Now, chicken or egg? I start with plot and then develop the characters' motivation.

  7. Characterization comes far more easily for me than plot. That's why I have to plot my stories before I write them. Otherwise I can get so wrapped up in characterization that my story goes nowhere fast.

  8. Hi Laurie

    Thank you for such an interesting blog post.

    Building a character is much easier for me than building a plot. I know this because I find my characters coming to life as I have fun adding layer after layer to them. Building a plot is more difficult- I start off well but run out of ideas and have difficulty weaving all the threads together and working out what happens next.

    Please enter me in the drawing for your class.

    Many thanks

    Ruth Ann
    ruthanndell2 (at) gmail (dot) com

  9. This, THIS is why I love Seekerville!

    I'm wracking my brains, bleary-eyed in front of my computer, trying to figure out why my hero is SO FLAT and my heroine is changing her mind every thirty seconds.

    I decide to take a break and head for Seekerville.

    AHHHHHH. Thank you, Laurie. Really. I had about 14 'a-ha' moments reading that post.

    That said, I definitely plot first (torture those characters!) and then figure out what makes the characters tick. Which may not be the best way, but it's what's been happening. :(

    Now, off to bed, if I can sleep with all of these new ideads buzzing in my head!

  10. Haha, Keli! Your comment made me snort!

  11. I'm a character builder and then the plot comes from what those characters would do to stay in character.

    Although sometimes they act OUT OF CHARACTER and then Vince scolds me for not plotting, LOL!

    Good morning, Laurie! Welcome back to Seekerville with this awesome lesson in motivation.

    I see it as a cause and effect. Or mathematical, if P, then Q...


    But without a basic plot (nodding to Vince and other planners) I got nothing so I KNOW what I want to have happen, it's just a matter of getting folks in line with doing that according to their character profiles.

    Which I do not profile because that's like WORK.

    So I talk to them, in my head, and it's okay now because people pay me to talk to the people in my head whereas before it bordered on asylum/locked door crazy.

    But wait, I do totally agree with Vince's 'high concept' only I see it as a "what if?"

    What if an age-old drama, buried for centuries in legend and rock, becomes a battle for a mountain, a child and a young girl's soul in Northern Pennsylvania?

    What if an angry man finds himself caught in the middle of what he fears most and he must risk everything to stay the course and save the day? And what if that everything includes his soul?

    Those are two books I'm working on now and carrying those concepts throughout is what drives the characters (in their own way) to emerge triumphant or SINK DISMALLY.

    Vince, you rock, great way of saying it!

  12. Oh dear. I don't either comes easier for me. lol I struggle with both motivations and external goals.
    I seem to get internal conflict though. lol
    Great post! Thanks for sharing the triangle. :-)

  13. I'm not published, but so far I start with a plot. An idea comes to me, I roll it around in my mind, and then I create the characters to go with my story idea.
    I do ask why they'd get into this situation, so I guess that's my motivation for them.
    Thanks so much for sharing this today! It's been a real eye opener.

  14. Laurie---Lindi here--waving hi! Great post! Your class changed my writing life and I'm forever thankful. :)
    Like Ruthy I start with a what-if scenario---but it's only an incident-then I character build--then PAIG---plot as I go.
    But I must say, knowing the motivation makes the PAIG go much smoother.
    See you in class!

  15. OH. MY. What a post! Plotting is not easy. Characters are.

    Welcome to Seekerville (again), Laurie.

  16. Using Maslow's Law for character motivation is a great idea.

    I have just returned from Robert Mckee's Story seminar and he has this to say about characters: "Characterization is a sum total of her observable traits. The writer's goal should be to strip away the mask of characterization to reveal the heart and soul of the character."

    As for me, I sometimes start with characterization and at other times with the plot. Depends on what excites me most about the story idea.

    Thanks, Laurie, for a great post.

  17. Hi Laurie, Welcome to Seekerville again. You always have such great insight. I'm sure we will learn as much about motivation as we did about characterization in her postThe Hero's Fatal Flaw.

    I'm definitely a plot first person and was accused in the beginning of having flat characters. I simply didn't understand because in my head they were wonderful. LOL You're so right about getting what's in our head on the paper.

    But thanks to your help and the help of my wonderful Seeker sisters, I'm getting there with the motivation. (Notice I didn't say I was there.) It still takes a lot of concentrated effort.

    Thanks again for visiting with us today. I brought a platter of various cheeses, some sliced homemade whole wheat bread, and a platter of fruit.

  18. Waving "hi" to Laurie AND Missy-- both of you are super instructors!

    Don't laugh. My first novel was 900 pages of people doing stuff. Give my beloved SIX main characters motivation? You mean, torture them?

    Okay, I've come a long way, baby--I mean--Laurie.

    Now I think I'm pretty evenly divided between character and plot. They're all tied up in one knot I wouldn't know how to unravel.

    My current WIP began in your Plot via Motivation, Laurie. I was just doing the assignments and didn't intend to write it... but it was so much fun.

    I highly recommend Plot Via Motivation! I'm signing up and taking it aagin. I wonder what I'll come up with this time??? :)

  19. Over the years, I've learned the more I know about my characters the more believable the plot is.

    Since I've yet to be paid for talking to my imaginary friends. (Like Ruthy) People do think I'm certifiable. Except for that one time when my daughter's teacher thought I was having an affair. I was late picking her up from school and Holly told her I was probably talking to James. (That took some explaining.)

    I know my character’s motivations, but I struggle with conveying those motivations in a way the reader can comprehend. (sigh)

    Please enter me for the online class.

    Thanks for the tips, Laurie.


  20. Well, I am definitely in for this drawing because I'm QUITE MOTIVATED to improve in this area and I've been debating whether or not to take this exact class.

    Out of all my writing weaknesses, it appears the most glaring (this year) is not showing the motivation. Ugggh!

    I get it. I really do. I chart it till my head spins but it's not transferring. I'm definitely a plotter first. Thanks for sharing your knowledge, Laurie. This is going to my print out binder (which won't close anymore...thanks to Seekerville!)

  21. God morning, everyone! And Laurie, welcome!

    I'm one of the ones who raves about Laurie's Plotting Via Motivation class. Y'all don't want to miss it!

    I'm a person who starts with character. For me, that's everything. I have a harder time with the plot!

  22. Great post, Laurie! Unfortunately, I'm the kid slouched in the back thinking, "Wow, they're both hard for me. What's wrong with me? And why does this punk keep kicking the back of my chair?"

    Anyway, it's great to have you here today teaching us something new. Enjoy the buffet!

  23. Good morning, Jamie! What you said about plot coming easier--but you're not a plotter--make perfect sense to me!:)

    Vince, you're really good at those high concept situations!

  24. Thanks for the coffee, Helen! And I know what you mean about missing the boat on both. :) Sometimes the ideas and words just don't come easily at all. It's like pulling teeth.

  25. Sandra Lee. Amen sistah. These characters are so rich in my can they not be so rich on paper?

    I have to admit that I love to read mysteries because I'm drawn to the plots but even I see that a flat character in a mystery or suspense is going to lose me.

    It's quite obvious to me when someone is a character first writer. Their stories are so emotional and compelling. (Seekers are a perfect example!)

    so now, I can't wait to read Keli's debut. Right?

  26. Glad you dropped by, Laura! I bet Laurie would be a great speaker. You can tell by her emails in her class. :)

  27. Janet K, thanks for sharing how you work. It'll be interesting to count and see how many say plot and how many say character today. :)

  28. Keli, I have the same problem! I just have so much fun coming up with my characters and then throwing them together in the story world and letting them go. But then nothing happens! LOL

  29. Ruth Ann, thanks for sharing how you work. Another character person.

    You know, I've taken a lot of plotting classes trying to get a handle on this. I love Laurie's method to keep looking at the character's deepest motivation to figure out what he/she will do next. That's what drives the plot. It really helps to keep thinking along those lines.

  30. Virginia, yay!! So glad this helped you. It really does help with flat characters. :)

  31. Ruthy, I'm loving those fun "what if's"!!! I think I need to be a beta reader for you. You know, just to make sure they're ready to go to your agent. So you don't embarrass yourself or anything.


  32. Jessica, internal conflict is my favorite part, too! I love to deal with an angsty past. :)

    Angsty. Is that a word? My spell check always marks it! :)

  33. Jackie, what you said reminded me that on one book, A Family for Faith, I did have the situation first. I had seen a dad struggling to put a bow in his little daughter's hair, and I was so touched by how hard he tried that I knew I had to write a story about a single dad with a daughter. Then I figured out what characters would work best in the story. I had forgotten about that!

    So maybe I do both character and plot first, depending on how the idea first comes to me. :)

  34. Hey, Lindi! I'm glad you're taking the class again! I'm seriously considering it. Just for a refresher. :)

  35. Good morning, Tina. Another character first person. I think I'm going to take a count at the end of the day. Just because I'm curious. :)

  36. Welcome to Seekerville, Laurie! Great to have you here talking about motivation. I've found I must keep asking why to get to the deeper reasons for a character's goal, which is usually tied up in their internal goal and conflicts.

    For me, writing character is easier than plotting. Sometimes I struggle to see how a character's motivations feed into the external plot. Yet I know everything has to move the plot forward. Nothing easy about this gig. :-)

  37. Good morning everyone, and Hey Laurie!
    I was a confirmed character builder who didn't know a plot from a whole in the ground until I took Laurie's Plot Via Motivation class. She taught this pantser how to plot out a story which I feel led directly to my first contract.

    So if you have the chance and truly want to move up to the next level of your writing, take Laurie's class--it's fantastic!


    PS--Janet, I loved your latest release--it was absolutely great!

  38. Welcome, Adite! I've heard McKee's classes are fantastic. Thanks so much for sharing the quote! It reminds me some of Michael Hauge's method of working the character from his identity toward finding his true essence.

  39. Sandra, thanks for sharing that link from Laurie's previous post! I should have included that.

    Thanks also for bringing food. I'm the world's worst hostess!! :)

  40. Hey, Nancy! Good to see you! Isn't it fun to take class assignments and turn them into a book that won't let you go? I love starting a book in a class like that, with a solid base.

    When I took Laurie's class, I worked on the story idea that's going to be my next proposal. I'm excited about working on it!

  41. Bridgett!!!!! LOLOL!! I just spewed coffee on the screen. That's hysterical. You and James. Shame on you!! LOLOL

    :) Thanks for starting me off with a grin today. :)

  42. Wow, here I thought I was beating the rush by getting up early, and the Seekerville folks have been at this for HOURS!

    Thanks for the welcome, everybody -- individual responses are coming up; I'll put your name in caps as the header.

    Laurie, looking forward to a wonderfully festive Friday :)

  43. Debra, I'm glad you're MOTIVATED by the blog today! ;)

    Even if you don't win the drawing, I highly recommend taking the class. I heard about it from Patty Smith Hall who credits it for helping her make her fist sale. You won't be disappointed!


    I love the image of a writer still hunched over the computer past midnight -- no wonder you're learning so much more about the craft!

  45. Loved this post. It clarified some things for me. Thank you! I would say I find it easier to build/get to know my character first. I'm thinking on my second wip, and the character is beginning to come alive. Now I just need to figure out what will motivate her and what exactly her story will be. :)

  46. LOL, Mia! That's a great description. That's how I feel about plot. :)

    You're right. It's ALL difficult. But it can be fun, too. I try to remind myself to enjoy the journey despite frustrations and setbacks. Despite those nagging doubts kicking the back of my chair. :)


    I like your splitting-the-difference with "situation" rather than "plot" or character" because you're right; ideally that'll play into both. And what I've always thought of as plot could just as well be called situation -- cool having another word for it. :)


    Okay, now I'm dying to know: WHAT is an Ozark coffee pot? (If you say "a regular coffee pot located in the Ozarks," I'm gonna smack my forehead.) My husband is a coffee fanatic, and I'd love to tell him about this whole new kind I just discovered on Seekerville...

  49. I don't know if I need to say this, but I'd love to be included for the drawing for your class. :)

  50. Yes, Debra! I can't wait for Keli's debut!! :)

  51. I think character building is the hardest part for me. But I try to build the two together. If I don't, I may have characters doing things that don't make sense or are out of character. Right now I'm feeling like the characters in one of books don't have enough depth. They have motivation and a little bit of personality, but they don't really stand out enough. I'm trying to figure out how to fix that. I think I just need to tweak the heroine a bit and give her a more distinct personality trait or a hang-up that makes her stand out. She's probably a little too perfect. Maybe I need to make her want something really badly, and that thing she wants makes her come across as a little selfish. Hmmm... this is good... I think.

    Thanks, Laurie!!!

  52. Hey, Janet! Y'all, Janet's good for me. She'll read my scenes and ask how it's moving the plot forward. Janet, you have a gift for seeing those things!


    How cool to run into another Tucson Festival of Books fan! Are you going again this year? If so, I hope I'll get to say hi in person (Saturday 1pm at "Creating Memorable Characters" or Sunday noon with my sister, SF author Terry Brooks and HIS sister on "Sibling Authors"). Although somehow I expect he'll be the big attraction there...

  54. Hey, Patty! I just mentioned you. :) I'm so glad you told me about Laurie's class!

  55. Jeanne T, this post is great timing for you if you're beginning to think on new characters. So glad you dropped by! :)


    Oops, scanning down the screen I missed your post -- sorry about that! Don't worry that you're doing anything wrong by focusing on plot first; it just means you get to add the fun of fleshing out characters. No matter which order you do it in, step by step or concurrently, I think that's one of the biggest kicks in writing. :)

  57. Hello, Laurie! So glad to have you today!

  58. Melanie, that sounds like a great idea. And be sure to give her a really good reason to want it. Something you can reveal later. You know, maybe she looks a little selfish at first but then we find out there's a deeper reason.

    See! I'm already talking as if I'm going to be reading it! I can't wait to see it in print. :)


    Great image on getting wrapped up in're right, that can be addictive! Although at least it's what William Glasser calls a Positive Addiction, which he says we all need to keep us away from the negative ones (like, in my case, chocolate). Gulp.


    Oh, boy, I hear you on the tricky aspect of weaving all those threads together...especially when each character has an individual journey along with whatever journey they're sharing. Sometimes it feels like eight balls of yarn a cat got tangled up in, and it's even worse when a few of the colors are comparatively close -- aaack!


    First, I hope you DID make it back to sleep and that it turned out to be highly productive sleep. :) Next, hurray for all those "aha" moments -- don't you just love it when something flips on the light bulb? Sounds like motivation might be your next great tool!


    Wow, talk about compelling blurbs -- you've got two winners there! Because already I'm dying to know what happens with this town and this man; I hope there'll be a big splash announcement when we get to hear the official "book is available at" news.

  63. Vince, as always, your description of "situation" helping breed great plot and characters. From my limited writing experience, I've found this to be true. :)

    Bridgett, you made me laugh out loud! Obviously, you include your daughter in your writing world. How fun! My kids know I'm writing, but haven't asked much in the way of details about the story yet. :)

    I forgot to mention earlier: I want chocolate! :)


    Getting internal conflict easily is great; that almost always ties back to their motivation even if you haven't yet analyzed what it is. And once you know what DRIVES these people way deep down, the plot will automatically happen as a result -- voila! (Gee, a whole month in two sentences. :) )

  65. Thanks for the info. I am still grasping at learning everything. My WIP has gone through several changes, and each time I was convinced I had it right. LOL

    I do think once I understand a characters background and their wants and needs, the plot falls into place.


    What a lovely sigline -- I've never seen a "Joyfully" closing and that really sparkles on the page! Which makes it a good one to break on, because I've gotta run get dressed for work before I come back and see who else is here. But now I'm leaving the computer joyfully, thanks to you. :)

  67. Jeanne, I have pictures of my characters posted about my computer. (black and white print outs of actors/actresses I picture my characters as. Holly thinks James is soooo cute.

    BTW, my whole family knows my characters. When I started this ms, my husband and I went apartment shopping for James.

  68. Faith, apparently we'll always be learning! I seem to have a lightbulb moment every week. :)

  69. Bridgett, how fun to have everyone involved!

    Laurie, have a great day at work!

  70. I loved this post.

    I get the general overview of the story first and then jump in. I don't always know exactly where I'm going so I'm not a plotter.

    Some of characters have been easy, others not so much. The bigger the flaw the character has the easier. they are to write.

  71. I took notes Laurie. Thank you! Hands-down, without a doubt characters come with no effort; fleshed out and ready to do... something...

  72. I took notes Laurie. Thank you! Hands-down, without a doubt characters come with no effort; fleshed out and ready to do... something...


    Oh, fun that you're the first person I see after a getting-dressed break; it's a kick having Double-D class people over here today! And I've never heard "PAIG" as a term, but that's a handy one...right up there with Plotters, Pantsers, Puzzlers and Plotzers (but a bit sleeker).


    You get big points for summing it up so neatly: what's easy, what's hard. And that vanquishes my theory that writers who enjoy building characters tend to be more descriptive than those who enjoy building plot...which just goes to show, it's never a good idea to theorize early in the morning. :)


    How cool that you made it to the McKee workshop! I've heard so many great things about it, my favorite being that his philosophy works perfectly with plotting via motivation. But that came from students who've done both, not from my own experience; I've gotta take his class myself and find out.


    Hurray, a sister from Desert Rose RWA! With food, no less (making it tempting to skip the breakfast Pete's cooking right now and just hang out here). Fun being able to picture you at this relaxing table, although with so many of us clamoring for homemade bread it might not stay relaxing for long. :)


    What a kick that you'll be coming up with a whole new book next month -- it was sure fun watching that other one take shape, getting to KNOW those people and their situation from Square One. Although, shoot, the "900 pages of people doing stuff" sounds way too much like my own early books...


    Struggling to convey motivations -- oh, yeah, you need Homework #10. Meanwhile, though, I'm loving the image of your daughter reporting that "Mom's talking to James" and the teacher trying to figure out what on earth to SAY...wouldn't that be a fabulous scene in a book?


    How cool to have a no-longer-closeable binder full of useful stuff...sounds like you're definitely a hands-on tasker! Just think, someday you can hand that notebook down to a new generation who'll marvel at all your collected gems (so much better than any other collection I can imagine).

  80. WELCOME TO SEEKERVILLE, LAURIE, and thanks to Missy for inviting you here!!

    Boy, is this a timely post for me since I am doing personal edits on my current WIP in which the heroine's motivation needs some ramping up, so THANK YOU for your great article!!

    I am definitely a character-driven writer rather than a plotter, and, in fact, it's the characters who tell me where the plot is going most of the time! :)

    Fun post, Laurie and Missy!


  81. Missy, you're hired! Because I bite my nails, pace the floor and watch the clock just like everyone else but I do it INSIDE...

    So I LOOK NORMAL but there's this seething swamp of insanity within....

    Normally it goes away with a hot coffee and a massage. ;)

    (Okay, this is a private joke, because I'm too much of a PRUDE to get a massage. I'm such a stinkin' dork...) So we'll make it go away with a Starbucks and a piece of chocolate pie. With whipped cream.

    Oh, that's a good thing to leave here! Triple chocolate pie! Yes, you guys will love it and it IS Friday, right?



    Wow, it's hard to imagine a better hostess -- thanks for the lovely welcome! And for keeping the chat going while I head off to work...can't wait to see what I've missed by the time I arrive, and ALSO can't wait to see if I get to enjoy you in class again next month. :)

  83. Blogger is torturing me this morning. I'll send this through before I re-write my much longer and very brilliant comment.

  84. I see this question all the time, and I honestly don't know. When I look at my collection of story ideas, usually it's a person in a situation. Building upon that, I can usually dig into the person and figure out how she came to be where she is, what she wants and why so maybe characterization? But then sometimes I have plot ideas and have the hardest time thinking about what type of character would work. I'm with Jessica. They are equally challenging.

  85. Ah, Laurie, thank you... The first one is a YA I'm developing, the second is my Love Inspired due out in early 2013... Love those characters! And that makes me want to JUMP OUT OF BED AT A RIDICULOUS HOUR to see what they'll do next.

    I'm quite silly.

  86. Okay, there it is.

    I think of myself as as storyteller. Story comes first with me HOWEVER your story affects your characters and your characters affect your story to the point that you can't have one without the other.
    So differentiating is interesting but it can't really survive in the real world.

  87. And, after a week or crazed insomnia (even for me) I had a good night's sleep last night.

    I expect great things of myself today.

  88. Welcome Laurie. I found this post intriguing as I tried to analyze whether I'm more plot or character driven. My first initial answer would have been character, but now I'm not so sure. When I'm starting a new book idea, I have a very vague sketch of my characters, but usually have a good handle on the plot. So maybe I'm really plot driven. What do you think? :)

    Thanks for making us think this morning. :)

    Jodie Wolfe

  89. Morning Laurie! =)

    I'm MUCH better at building a character...that blasted plot thing is my personal nemesis! That being said, my motivation occasionally goes wandering in my heroes and heroines, and must be reined back in. Nothing worse than wishy-washy characters. That much FURTHER being said, you KNOW I'll be in your next Plotting Class.....=)


  90. What I love about plotting via motivation is that it basically builds the plot. It is a great technique!

  91. Connie, that's a great point! We should make sure to make them good and flawed from the beginning! Lots of room for getting into messes and thus for growth. :)

  92. Stephanie, that SOMETHING is the hard part, isn't it?


  93. Good morning, Julie! Have fun with those edits! :)

    Ruthy, yay! Send the stories when you're done with a chunk. :)

  94. Bridgett, so fun. I need to figure out a way to get pics of my characters where I see them outside of my head. :) My DH knows my story and the main characters too. I need to include my kiddos more in that. :)

  95. Hey, Patricia! What you said reminds me of what I see as so difficult about writing. It's looking at this HUGE thing, trying to see it as one whole. I have such a hard time envisioning the big picture. I think that's why I tend to write episodic. I just do better in small chunks (scenes). :)

    That's why I need Janet there asking me how a scene moves my plot forward.

  96. Mary! Blogger let you through! And you slept. I'm so glad to hear it!

    Also, it is good to remind ourselves we're storytellers. Sometimes that gets lost in the little things we try to plan and control.

  97. Is it weird to say, "It depends on the story?"

    Some stories come to me as plots. (There's a group of friends who go to a haunted house together for Halloween, but one of them wants to use the others to help him gain Vast Supernatural Powers. I've toyed with this plot idea for years, but the characters and their motivations and interactions keep shifting around.)

    Some stories start with a character. (There's a young warrior coming of age, poorly socialized and nearly feral, who needs to learn more about himself and how to be more human. What needs to happen to get him there? Depends on what day you ask me.)

    Some stories - possibly because I'm a fantasy writer more than anything else - start with a particularly interesting setting. (There is a massive floating city that sits on an inverted island half a mile above the ground: derelict, ruined, and waiting to be explored. Who goes there, and why, and what do they find as they explore? I'm not sure.)

    So, plot or motivation? I'm honestly not sure. I think it depends on the story.

    I did, however, get a very nice deal on chickens and eggs... I just can't decide which should come first!

  98. Jodie, I'm envious! Plot is so hard for me. Do you write suspense by any chance? I've always wondered if suspense writers find plot easier to deal with.

  99. Laurie, welcome!

    Looks like a great post. Have to run, but I will return!

  100. Plot is easier for me, but i'm getting better at motivation! I know because I don't always do a good job of revealing motivation in the first chapters.

  101. Good morning, Carrie! So glad you stopped by. I may see you in the class!

  102. Kim, that's so true. I think that's why I love the class so much. It addresses all the things I find difficult to do. :)

  103. Characters are definitely easier for me, but they usually come to me with some big element of the plot attached.

  104. Very concise & helpful explanation. I think I am better at motivation - having been in retail sales (i.e. shopping-therapy) for a lot of years, I love the psychology of WHY people do what they do, buy what they buy and think what they think. And thoughts create our lives - so it's motivation for me.

  105. LOL, Michael. I think you're right. After saying for sure that I'm a character person, then I remembered one of my books that started with a setting/plot point.

    I guess we work in all different ways!

  106. Linnette, we'll see you later!
    Sherri, our editors are good at pulling that motivation out of us, aren't they? They want it up there in the opening so readers will sympathize with the characters.

  107. Sally, that's great if the plot comes with the character! Makes the writer's life easier. :)

    Beth, that's a really interesting perspective! I can just picture you there at the checkout counter analyzing a customer. I would do the same thing. :) How fun! And very helpful for creating characters!


    What a treat -- first post after I get to work is yours with the kid kicking the back of your chair; talk about VIVID! And don't worry there's anything wrong with you finding plot & character both hard...writers each find their own way of making things easier, and it's all just a process of trying different tools until you discover those you like.

  109. Laurie, thanks for sharing this excellent advice in Seekerville today!

    Missy mentioned "looking at the character's deepest motivation to figure out what he/she will do next. That's what drives the plot."

    That's a good description of my writing process as a seat-of-the-pantser. My ideas usually begin with the characters and a general idea about their background--the things from their past that have made them who they are today.

    Then, as I discover more about them, it's their actions or decisions in one scene that lead on to what happens in the next, and the next...and so on. I may have a "big picture" view of the story arc, but it's the characters who tell me what happens along the way.


    "Nothing easy about this gig" would be a great T-shirt slogan, wouldn't it? Just to show all those non-writers who think our job involves sipping hot chocolate and gazing out our beautiful gardens while imagining lovely IF. :)


    Aw, thanks for the endorsement! It's always such a kick, seeing a story that's been through that 14-point worksheet leave the classroom and make it into bookstores around the world -- and Maggie & Wesley really DESERVED to (ahem) fly. :)


    Woo-hoo, congratulations on making it to your second wip -- there's no greater triumph than finishing the first, and the fact that you've not only managed that but are also diving into another means you've got the real writing spirit. Good for you!


    Great idea to make the heroine just a TAD less than perfect -- because once we know somebody has even a teensy flaw, they're a lot easier to like and root for. Otherwise we won't have much in common with 'em, although this perfect heroine just might be a perfect friend for perfect James Bond....


    What a great description of the writing process, where a WIP goes through several changes, and each time we're convinced we've got it right. I remember my first writing teacher saying "the time to send it off is when there's nothing left to fix but commas" and not realizing at the time she was speaking metaphorically -- whew!


    I like your idea of "the bigger the flaw, the easier to write" -- and while the first flawed character who came to mind was a serial killer, the next was Cinderella's stepmother. Which immediately got me thinking, hmm, what if there were a story told from HER viewpoint? And maybe there already is...anybody know?

  116. Hi Laurie,
    I don't think I've found the time to get back to your classroom since I got published! God knows I need all the help I can get. I think my characters grow through the plot I build, but I don't think that building the character comes easy for me. Need more work on both but I love the learning process. Must continue to grow to stay on top of our novels. Love the post. And because I have a pen name now I've been in your classes as Jill Nutter. I got to pick a new name though and it's fun being Jillian Kent. Nice to see you here, Laurie.


    LOL on the description of characters who come out fully fleshed and ready to do...something. :) I remember re-reading my first (unpublished) manuscript a few years ago and being astonished that, while the characters were certainly vivid and likable people, they never actually did a THING. Aaaack!


    Gotta love it when the characters tell you where the plot is going; it sounds like they've already got some good solid motivation in place. And, yes, technically YOU'RE the one who's got it in place, but doesn't it feel more like their own doing? Way to go on sparking up that one lagging heroine!

  119. And motivation is what makes a book memorable.

    Wow. THAT statement leaped out at me and grabbed my attention! Good, good, good, SOLID advice. Thanks! :)


    Aw, drat, I'm so sorry about Blogger losing your post -- isn't that the most frustrating thing? (Oops, I can just hear my 18-year-old niece, a big fan of the First World Problems blog, saying "send that in; send it in right now.") Anyway, it's lovely seeing your name again!

  121. Great post, Laurie. Thanks!

    I'm a character builder first. The plot sometimes drives my characters and that's my downfall. Before I know it, the story is no longer a know the ending. ;)

  122. Wow, what a great post! Lots to think about, Laurie, and I can tell I would get a lot out of your class!

    I'm finding that I tend to work on plot, then character, then plot, then character. I like to get a basic outline down - the "what's going to happen in this story?" Then I come up with the basic characters, but they don't start getting fleshed out until I write them into the plot.

    Once I get about three chapters done, I feel like I know the characters enough to start developing them...and that leads to more plot ideas...which lead to deeper character development...

    So which comes easier? Both. Definitely.

    Please enter me in the drawing for the class - that's a fantastic prize for today!

    SANDRA - thanks so much for the link to Laurie's post from 2009! That came before I wandered into Seekerville, and I missed it. Going to read it next!

    MARY CONNEALY - I'm glad the insomnia left you...but it just headed up to my house. I never write in the wee hours though. I've learned to stay away from blog postings and infomercials at 3:00 am.

    I, I need chocolate. Please.

  123. Okay, Laurie, I just read your post from 2009 about the hero's fatal flaw - and realized I have your book on my shelf! It's the next writing craft book on my list to read (right after I finish The Breakout Novel).

    It's time to hurry up and finish Maass!

  124. Laurie,
    Missy has been singing your praises and now I know why. Loved your blog today...also checked out the last time you were in Seekerville (I missed it...must have been on vaca). Thanks, Sandra, for adding the link.

    Your Plot/Motivation class is calling my name.

    Could you tell us about your fall class on The Hero's Journey for Heroines? Pretty please. :)

    Oh, and to answer your question...

    In my stories, the plot comes first. Usually. :)


    You're so right about them both being hard -- and the advantages of starting with a character in a situation, because that's a good natural way to start a story moving. Isn't it amazing how many different ways work, even for authors who've created dozens of books? Maybe that's why new tools are such fun...


    Starting with a good handle on plot and the characters more nebulous could mean either that you start from your naturally strong point, OR that you're so much stronger on characters that you know it'll be simple to create people for whatever plot you dream up. Either way, as long as you have a system that works you're in great shape!


    How cool to know I'll get to see you in the next class -- it's always fun reading your scenarios, because they're consistently so off-the-wall entertaining! Now I can't wait to see what you come in with this time...or, rather, not come IN with but create on the spot. :)

  128. This is an easy to read blog Laurie,
    You make the information so approachable.
    I find plot-building easier because I use real crimes.
    I would like to take your class. Please enter me in the draw.


    Talk about a nice summary of what plotting via motivation does -- you're right, it basically builds the plot! Or at least gives you a character skeleton on which to build a plot, although I still get creeped out by the notion of applying flesh to bones...yick.

  130. Myra, I'm glad something I said makes sense! :)

    And, ooh, Laurie mentioned the 14-point worksheet! That's the best takeaway from her Plotting Via Motivation Class!! I use it all the time now. :)

  131. Hey, Jill! It's great to see you. And yes, how fun to be Jillian Kent! :) I wonder what I would choose for a pen name...

  132. So true, Casey! I think it's what makes us bond with the character and root for him/her.

  133. I usually do my characters first and then have to figure out what is going to happen to them.

    My stories used to be like Keli's - characters having endless cups of tea - chatting with nothing happening. But boy you loved those characters. You wanted to have tea with them!

    Now I've learned to plot out my story before I start writing. It's much smoother that way. But my characters always show up first!

    Have a great weekend. We have a long weekend here in Ontario for Family Day! Yay. February needs a long weekend.

    sbmason at sympatico dot ca


    Totally okay to say "it depends" -- although you've already got me wondering what'd happen if this young unsocialized warrior somehow stumbled onto this derelict floating city where these friends show up on Halloween night in hopes of achieving power... Oops, nope, gotta hand the keyboard back to you!

  135. Hi Laurie:

    Is there an accepted concept of ‘deep motivation’ just as there is one of ‘deep POV’?

    There are differences between motivation, goals, reasons-for- acting, and incentives-to-act. In advertising we are often more successful in appealing to motivations which are more socially acceptable than the true motivations that drive the buying decision. Sometimes people don’t even know their true motivations for acting.

    The heroine who seeks adventure and is thus motivated to take dangerous travel might actually be pursuing these endeavors because it makes her mother sick with worry. She enjoys the idea that it annoys and pains her mother. When her mother dies suddenly, her desire for such adventure ends. “Greif took all the joy out of adventure,” she thinks to herself. Yet the motivation went back to a childhood ‘inciting incident’ in which her mother hurt her deeply.

    This layering of ‘depth motivation’ offers a wonderful opportunity for character growth but how deep should a writer go? (I like to go to the center of the onion. : ))

    I think your course on motivation will be outstanding. Now I just need to determine what my true motivation would be for taking it.


  136. Lyndee, I have the opposite problem. I get carried away with the romance, and before I know it, there's absolutely no conflict. The characters are having a grand time falling in love and I have happily ever after about halfway through the book. LOL


    Oh, gosh, I'm glad it looks like a good post for someone on the run -- that's something people talk about in my day job (advertising) all the time, wondering how to give the impression of "worth spending time on" at a quick glance. Hmm, maybe we could get you as a freelancer at the ad agency? :)

  138. Jan, I think that back and forth is a great way to work!

  139. Hey, Debby! You'll love the class. Lindi is also taking her Description and Dialogue class right now and raving about it. (Laurie, did I get that name right for the class?)

  140. Oh my stars.

    To quote one of my favorite Ruthys.

    Just now noon on the East Coast and already 130+ comments!

    I'm so late to the party!

    Can we call it FASHIONABLY late?!

    Er, right. Motivation. My problem is making sure the motivation becomes clear on the page. I know WHY he's advertising for a marriage of convenience on Craigslist but does my reader? [Okay - that one was pretty obvious - but some of the other, more subtle stuff I have a harder time with.]

    A time or two I've used a 2x4 to hit a character over the head and motivate them. Not literally of course, but figuratively.

    Making sure my reader understands my hero's reasons for secrecy in another MS is going to be a bit trickier... /sigh/

    Today, my motivation is to have a clean house because I'm finally recovered enough to do all the cleaning etc. It's taking longer than I hoped which makes me sad because I really want to hang out with Seekers and my characters. I'm sure there's motivation in there somewhere... But DH is out of town overnight and I really want to surprise him with a shiny house when he gets home because he took such good care of me/us while I was under the weather.

    And narcotics.

    The pain was the motivator there.

    I'm sure there's something profound in this comment, but I'm not really sure what it is ;).

  141. I seem to have a thing for near-perfect characters. But I like them!!! They're not completely perfect. They always have a flaw, like being too fearful or being squeamish about blood. :-)

    Missy, this story comes out in August, so I have to work in that flaw in a hurry--ASAP! :-)


    Fun seeing your name again -- and with such a cool First Book cover besides. :) Knowing you want to spend a bit more energy on letting motivation seep through in the earlier chapters is great; once you've got an idea of what you need to do it's a whole lot easier to make it happen. Good for you!

  143. Sue, I think we all start out writing that way. Then we learn about conflict. :)


    What a handy thing, having characters come to you with part of some plot element already attached...that's gotta make it considerably more convenient (as if writing could ever be TOTALLY convenient) to put the whole story together as a seamless piece!

  145. Carol, I hope you're all healed up! Glad you're doing better enough to be cleaning house. Or maybe I should say, BUMMER, your excuses are gone. :)


    Ooh, I like the idea of shopping as an insight into someone's deeper self -- and what better venue for studying that than working in retail? It almost sounds like the opening of a book; I could see this mystery series where the protagonist poses as part of the staff to identify suspects based on their purchases...hmm.

  147. Melanie!! I guess you better get hopping!

  148. Hey Missy,
    Great stuff going on here today. So glad you invited Laurie. I rarely get to stop by but I'm glad I did. and I wonder what you would choose for a pen name as well. We could have fun with that! :)


    Way to go on having a picture of the overall story arc in mind, adding the specific details as you go -- that sure makes it easier (and more fun) to discover what happens when these characters wind up in whatever situation their own motivation has gotten them into! Even if they somehow wind up in a shipwreck... :)


    Oh, Jill, I'm so glad you said who you used to be -- at first I was trying to think "how could I not remember having Jillian Kent in class?" (Because that IS a good name; real & memorable.) And your attitude about staying on top of the craft is wonderful; you're absolutely right that it's what keeps writing exciting!

  151. FOR CASEY

    Casey, I'm so glad that particular sentence jumped out at you -- it's one of my own favorites, the kind that gave me chills when I first wrote it and that still gives me chills every time I deliver it in a speech. What fun to know it resonated with another writer as well...thanks!


    You're sure not alone in winding up with so much plot driving the characters that the romance kind of falls by the wayside. I remember my critique partner reading the first draft of one book and asking, quite seriously, "But aren't you still writing for Special Edition?" BIG smack-on-the-forehead time!

  153. Hi Ruth:

    I think your ‘What if” approach to the ‘situation- driven’ creative writing process is ideally descriptive.

    Consider this:

    What if a little girl enters her mirror and winds up in a strange world on the other side. She has many adventures in her attempt to get back home.

    (And what if all her adventures also demonstrated interesting philosophical problems that would delight adult readers.)

    Given the above ‘what if’ scenario, I believe that Lewis Carroll could have written “Alice in Wonderland” and "Through The Looking Glass" with all different characters and story events and still have written books that were just as good. The books might even have been better. Lewis Carroll knew what he was doing and had the ability to do it.

    I think that if a writer first approaches a story with the ‘what if’ method, life will be far easier for that author.


    P.S. I don’t often disagree with Ruth but when I do it is usually a sign that I need to change my mind.


    How cool to think of my character-building book waiting on your craft's fun to picture being parked next to Donald Maas. And "both" is a perfectly good answer, because that way you don't have to worry about shoring up either side -- you've already got them each in play. :)

  155. I create characters better, and the way you said it - that one can do that without really understanding the built in motivation, so that the writer has a hard time figuring out the plot - is exactly right. Plotting is my issue! Thanks, Laurie!


    Aw, nice to hear Missy's been talking me up. :) And this fall's "Hero's Journey For Heroines" class has a weblink which I'm not sure I can paste here -- rather than mess it up, I'll just tell you the easy way is visiting (all one word) Writer Univ Dot Com and scrolling all the way down to October. Whew!

  157. Hi Laurie:

    Do you have any idea if there is a left-brain, right-brain correlation between plotters and pantsers? Could it be that within the left-brain, right-brain dichotomy there is a second division: the left-right brain division within the left-brain and the left-right brain division within the right-brain?

    I think there could be this subdivision because people can change from pantser to plotter which makes me think the distance between the two is not too far.

    Just a though.


    P.S. Would you really want me in your class? : )

  158. LOL, Vince!! Now Ruthy's going to go get the big head. :)

    Charlotte, thanks for dropping by!

  159. I'm going to try to put the addy's of Laurie's courses. I can't figure out how to do actual links, but you can copy and paste:

  160. I like the what if, I get a story idea in dreams usually I can see start to finish in technocolor

    I see the characters and in writing them and following their I suppose motivations the story is filled with the nuances and twists and turns that lead to the end.

    I' like big sweeping saga type stories with several characters with my main of course.
    I get to know the mains and then delve some into the others in varying depth depending on their importance to the story.

    My first book When Shadows Fall was nine hundred pages. Which I'm making a serial and releasing the first two installments starting in June.

    It's about the Civil War to Oregon trail so I knew where I would end up. Oregon of course. But fleshing out the characters filled in the blanks.

    Okay... I am finished rambling.

    Tina Pinson

  161. Hi Mary:

    Your emphasis on story makes great sense.

    A compelling story is like a rising tide that raises both the quality of the plot and of the characters.

    A romance based on plot can see the characters and story pull it down. And a romance based on characters can see the plot and story pull it down.

    I’m a big fan of listening to oral storytellers – both live and on tape. I find it very helpful to listen to the art of the story. It is a way to get back to the basics – a way to see the forest again and not just the trees (as in individual writing rules).


  162. Hi Laurie,

    Excellent blog. I used to think plotting was easier, until the plots began heading into unbelievability and unreality. I'd get stuck in the middle and give up. Now I'm trying character-building and that seems to be keeping things more on track. I don't think either one is easy, though.


  163. Laurie - Terrific post - we can always count on you to give us masterful words for thought. I have to say I usually have my characters first but I also normally have a situation going and then have to come up with motivations to get them what they want or perhaps realize what they don't want.

  164. Hello and welcome, Laurie!

    What a post AND giveaway! In this group, knowledge is more important than most any other giveaway item… except maybe chocolate.

    When first considering your thought provoking question, “Which comes more easily for you, building a character or building a plot? How do you know?” I wasn’t sure how to answer. I love a good plot, but really, I think my characters shape my plots, so I feel that character building is definitely what comes more easily for me. In fact, I can get stuck in the mud trying to plot. But that’s a different story. :p

    Anyway, thanks for sharing, and of course, enter me in the drawing for today’s prize. :D




    I wish all of us in other areas could join you in Ontario for a three-day weekend! Although actually I guess some U.S. places are closed Monday as well; that's the only trouble with working in the ad business. (Which just meant a loooong session with a client who wants to change her entire previously-approved brochure. )


    I'm loving the image of you hitting your characters over the head with a REAL 2x4 -- gotta be the effect of all those narcotics, right? :) And you're right on track in thinking about how to show the readers a motivation which the character doesn't quite yet recognize...that's always such fun!


    Isn't it annoying when this fabulous character shows up on the page, all nicely fleshed out in virtually every respect EXCEPT their motivation? It's always kind of tempting to just figure "aw, the reader won't even notice it's missing" -- because in some cases (like James Bond, for instance), they truly don't care!


    Oh, I love the idea of characters from the Civil War hitting the Oregon Trail -- my husband went through a big Civil War phase, visiting all the old battle sites, and it's sure easy to see how you get 900-plus pages out of that rich ground. Good idea to bring it out in separate installments!


    Great idea trying both ways of writing so you can see which generates better results for you -- it always amazes me that the one method which works in 2009 doesn't necessarily work as well in 2011. Who knows why? But putting different tools to work when you get stuck is a very smart way to go.

  170. Tina P. that's exciting about your book releases! Sounds like a smart move to split it into two.


    Ooh, I like the idea of characters realizing what they DON'T want -- that can be every bit as dramatic, or maybe even more so, than characters realizing what they DO want. Because either way there's gonna be a bit of turmoil and angst along the way...and that's what keeps us turning pages. :)

  172. Darlene, you're right! None of it is easy. I think it's good to try lots of different ways to see what works best for us.

    Sheri, that's a good point about character realizations.


    Gotta love a group where knowledge is prized more highly than chocolate -- does that say something exceptional, or what?! And the other thing that jumped out about me is your email address; it's such a treat being reminded of those fabulous books. Now you've got me wondering about HER plotting & character...


    I'm seeing all kinds of comments I want to reply to, and answering everyone's first before moving onto the seconds. Wouldn't you know, today is the big Office Lunch which I'm wishing I could sneak out of, but that'd look pretty I'll see you all in another hour or so!

  175. Whitney, glad you stopped by!

    Chicken salad for lunch! Y'all help yourselves! :)

  176. Hellloooo, Seekers!

    And hello, Laurie! Thanks for being here today. That was a wonderful post.

    To answer your question:

    Building the character comes more easily to me.

    And I know this because even when I start off with a great scene or a story concept that excites me, it's not long at all before I start seeing and thinking about the characters, how they're affected, how they will react, etc.

  177. Hi, Laurie, Great to see you post on this subject and know you are once again offering this fabulous online class. I took it last February and found the content and exercises incredibly helpful. I even used the outcome of that class as the basis for a pitch to an agent a few months later and got a request for full MS. I am still polishing that WIP but know it has potential based on your terrific teachings and the agent's interest.

  178. My main characters and story idea usually come to me at the same time. The following conversations and scenes that come to mind reveals more things about the characters. I then try to add to what they have revealed to me and plot ways to make it all come together. I'm not sure if that answers the question....but I would love to be entered. Thank you for the great post. I definitely need to keep their motivation in mind with each word I write.

  179. Hey, Barbara! So glad you stopped by.

    Robin, that's great news on the request!! I hope they love it.

    Donna, your method sounds kind of like Jan's. The back and forth method. :)

  180. Do y'all think you tend to write characters with similar motivation over and over (kind of a theme for your writing)?

  181. By the way, we're having salmon for dinner! Be sure to drop by the Yankee-Belle care to get my amazing recipe! :)


    SO sorry it's taking me forever to get back -- all kinds of other changes have come in, and I just sneaked away for a minute to let you know I haven't forgotten about the Seekerville folks. I promise not to go home tonight until everybody gets an answer!

  183. Missy - hi back at you!

    And to answer, yes, I do think my books tend to focus on a few similar themes.

    Strong ones for me are finding family and setting down roots.

    Good question.

  184. LAURIE, it’s the Canadian television show by Kevin Sullivan that got me hooked. My family was already a huge fan of Anne of Green Gables. :D I think SHE was definitely a character-driven writer. : )

    Thanks, MISSY!


  185. Barbara, I have the same themes (motivations). That, and wanting acceptance for who we are.

  186. Missy a theme I see repeated in my work is family, forgiveness and self acceptance.

  187. Missy - acceptance is a great one, too.

    And Jamie - I like--and sometimes use--those, also.

    We seem to gravitate toward many of the same motivations. And that's probably the point of a good theme. People can relate to it.

  188. Hey Laurie,

    A question regarding motivation: Is it a good idea to have the same motivation for hero & villain? Perhaps there are benefits to this?
    Thank you for any information!

  189. Oh my stars, 188 comments!!!

    You guys!!!

    I love this, I am so sorry I had to be gone all afternoon!!!! Dagnabbit. I miss Seekerville when I'm working!

    Mary promised brilliance. Umm... was that going to be today, honey???


    Hurray, another Desert Rose sister -- who still makes me laugh every time I recall your protest & conclusion when I suggested leaving a party, "Oh, the evening is still young! (pause) But we're not." Which is the kind of right-on-target awareness that shines through in your books, so it makes sense you go for character first. :)

  191. Vince, LOL!!!!


    Big, toothy upstate grin going on here!

    I don't know, I think we come out even-steven because you taught me about rewards per page and I never thought of a book that way.

    And it's mathematical and simple enough that it makes PERFECT SENSE. Kind of like Michael Lewis' Moneyball, the idea that all you need to do to win baseball games is gear to the player's "OBP", their On Base Percentage.

    Doesn't matter how good a player is, if he can't get to the bases, he's an impediment to success.

    Simple, simple, simple!

  192. Missy, I already have a big head.

    It's quite sad.

    But it helps balance my big teeth.



    How wonderful to hear that the agent requested your full...I still remember that initial premise as one of the most popular ones ever created in Plotting Via Motivation class, and I'll bet everyone who was in there remembers it too. Here's hoping you still have all our emails so you can let us know when to order our copies!

  194. FOR DONNA

    Gotta love having the characters and story idea strike at the same time; that makes the whole process a lot easier. Especially when conversations and scenes start popping up around the same time. I'm wondering if you ever notice how suddenly lots of other things in everyday life strike you as "wow, this is what SHE would eat/watch/think!"

  195. Oh, now, Vince, you just said an incredibly awesome, perfect thing that goes back to learning to read with EXPRESSION in first grade and comedic timing.

    I think timing and expression are what set a great read apart from an okay, followed the rules lead. Now this just might be preferential, because I like books that way, but I think if you look at amazingly popular books, they follow that... which fits right in with rewards per page.

    So that timing and expression becomes the flow of the book and the characters become the rowers...

    Obviously it's raining outside, I'm using water metaphors. I love to tell oral stories and I do it with the little kids all the time. And some bigger kids because it helps me pace the timing, to feel it physically and that helps me to put it in a book.

    Either that or I just like to be the center of attention and show off.

    That might be more likely, but I'll just agree with your brilliance. :)

  196. NOW, BACK TO THE TOP...

    Hurray, I think the client is (at least temporarily) satisfied -- so now I get to go back and see what I've missed from everybody who posted more than once. Answers coming up shortly, unless the client changes her mind yet again...

  197. I just had to pop in and LAUGH about Missy's offer to Ruthy.
    We totally need to save that woman from embarassment. Me and you. She'll shoot us those chapters and we'll stay up all night reading with GLEE at being first, first, first to read the new RLH... oh, *ahem*. I mean, we'll get out those red pens and pretend to be editing. :P

  198. This comment has been removed by the author.

  199. Ah, the motivation and plot question....

    It's tricky to make them different from book to book from the same author.

    And (I do believe this) you cannot be the best judge of your own work as an author even if you think you are. I think often that makes us our own worst enemy.

    So when people (first reader, virtual assistant, EDITOR or AGENT) tell me to change things up, I listen. Because I'm just way too close to the story.

    I've got three military heroes that come back home to Allegany County in the first seven books of the series.


    I hope they're different enough. Two are Christmas books, so again another similarity, but I think the setting, the timing, the remorse, the back-story is different enough to pull it off. I'm reading the 2012 Christmas story through one last time this weekend (His Mistletoe Family) then sending it in on Monday...

    This last read through, I'll examine it for differentiation that I THINK is there.... This should tell me for sure, right?

  200. Oh, I just love it when Barbara pops in!

    Similar themes and motivations...

    Yes. I like women to be able to forgive themselves the transgressions life threw their way.

    And I love wounded heroes in any way, shape or form.

    Dagnabbit. I'm so predictable.