Archive for the 'Motivation' Category

Dec 07 2012

Writing Experiment: Merge Two Extremely Counterintuitive Characters

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

Which two of your characters would be hardest to merge into a single character? How would you go about doing it?

Some possibilities which come to mind:

  • Can you use one character’s motivations (why he/she wants to do something) to add something to the other character’s goals (what he/she wants to do)? Sometimes a really counterintuitive motivation can open up fresh plotting possibilities. For example, if Character 1 is a cop trying out for SWAT because he’s suicidally brave and Character 2 became a forensic accountant because it was a safe career path might be merged into a cop trying out for SWAT because… he wants to stay safe. What convinced the cop that SWAT was his safest option? For example, maybe an unknown person or people on his unit are trying to get him killed–it’s probably more interesting than someone deciding to join SWAT for a more standard reason.
  • Do one character’s personality traits interact with the other character’s personality traits and/or goals in an interesting way? For example, applying Batman’s isolation and/or dearth of empathy to Superman might make Superman feel like more of an actual alien rather than essentially a human with superpowers.
  • Which elements of the characters’ background would you change for the merged character? What would you keep?

If you need help coming up with characters to merge, here are some possibilities…

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Aug 17 2010

15 Interesting Motivations for Villains and Heroes

1. Romance. Villains frequently have ulterior motives (like marrying Aunt May to steal the nuclear power plant she inherited?) and improper means (such as sabotaging rivals). True romances are rare for villains and can make them deeper and more interesting. Mr. Freeze’s romance with his wife Nora in Heart of Ice turned him from a corny ice-themed punchline into an Emmy winner. (He later devolved into a corny ice-themed punchline after being played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, but some things can’t be helped).

 

2. Revenge. This might be heroic if the crime is particularly heinous and/or the regular authorities are not willing or able to resolve the situation. It might be villainous if the character is overreacting or not being careful enough about hitting only the people responsible.  When working with revenge plots, I think it’s usually more interesting if the revenge develops into something more than just killing/stopping people A, B and C.  For example, in Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World, the villain is getting back at the love interest that rejected him, which introduces relationship issues that present their own challenges to a protagonist trying to get over a long-dead relationship of his own.

 

3. To distinguish oneself. It depends on why the character wants to distinguish himself. A hero whose main goal is fame/status will probably gain a more substantial goal over the course of the story. (For example, Booster Gold). I think it’s seen as a superficial, temporary goal. In contrast, “be true to yourself” is more purely heroic… Unless being true to yourself involves psychically decapitating people and sucking out their brains.

 

4. To fit in/gain acceptance. A lot of heroes seek to gain the respect of their peers (see any story about “the new guy,” particularly students). However, gaining acceptance might be more sinister based on who the protagonist wants to impress and/or what will impress them. For example, 1984 ends with Winston Smith rather unhappily gaining acceptance by betraying his innocent girlfriend: “…he had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother.”

 

5. Justice. This is like revenge, but usually less lethal and targeted more carefully against the perpetrators. Nonetheless, justice can sometimes be villainous. For example, the main goal of the robot antagonists in the I, Robot movie is to prevent humans from getting hurt, and they think that putting human under house arrest is the most logical way to do so.

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