Tips for Young Writers 28: Make sure all your characters want something all of the time.

When you write a scene, try to make sure every character in it, secretly or openly, wants something. Not all characters have to actually know what they want, but they’ll be way more ‘in’ the scene if they’re hoping for some sort of outcome.

Characters who are ‘unmotivated’ can become passive, background deadweights. Or worse, they can make the reader suspect the writer has been lazy or forgetful.

So motivate all characters by thinking about what they want or need from each scene. That way, everyone in your story will seem more alive and real, and so will the scene.

Just ask each character how they want this scene to end. For any who don’t really care about the outcome, consider removing them from the scene altogether.

February 15, 2011

  • That’s really great advice, Michael.
    It’s always good to stay close to each of your characters – I want to print this out and pin it to my wall by the desk as a constant reminder. :3{|}

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