Writing Raven


Make them sweat – how to motivate your characters

In many of the manuscripts I’ve helped people plot and develop, I’ve found their MC (main character) lacks enough motivation for the hero’s journey calling them.

Whether we’re writing genre or literary fiction, it can be challenging to make the hero/heroine suffer or come up with ways to motivate them so that nothing but achieving the goal matters.

They’re our babies, after all. We want them to succeed, right? To thrive? To be happy? It’s uncomfortable to hurt, injure, and wound them.

But if we don’t, their story falls short of how good it can be.

Creating problems for them to overcome ups the stakes and provides tension that keeps your readers engaged. When the MC succeeds, the climax and conclusion of your book are more satisfying to your readers.

How do you do this? The subtraction method is an easy guaranteed way to start.

What is ONE thing that your MC has that you can take away during the story to strengthen their motivation toward their goal?

It could be their health, an important relationship, or a skill they’ve mastered. Subtract it at the turning point of the inciting incident, or at the climax when they’re relying on it to help them save the day. Bonus points if you do both.

A classic example is Luke Skywalker in Star Wars when he returns home to find his aunt and uncle dead and their house burned to the ground. There’s no going back—he must leave his former youthful life behind and go on his quest. Right before the climax, Darth Vader kills his mentor, Obi-Wan, echoing the loss of his family and escalating his driving desire to achieve his goals.

Bonus tip – This also works for your antagonist – take away the most important thing in their life. Up the motivational stakes for them, too. Make them human with secrets, goals, and desires equal to your hero’s.

Want a few ways to get started?

If your MC’s goal is personal growth, use their fears and insecurities against them just when they believe they’re invulnerable.

If your MC’s goal is love, have a trusted friend or lover betray them.

If your MC’s goal is survival, take away a key resource when they need it most.

If they’re seeking justice, have the system fail them at a critical moment.

If they’re pursuing success and power, let the competition win.

These motivations will create well-rounded characters with depth and relatability, forcing them to take action and move the plot forward.

May your characters rise to the occasion,

The Writing Ravens

P.S. Want to know more about developing your character’s goals, motivation, and character? Check out Three Essential Elements You Need For Every Story https://writingravenauthorsolutions.substack.com/p/top-3-essential-elements-you-need-for-every-story