February 12th, 2007
Character Motivation

I watched the Texas Chainsaw Massacre with my husband recently–the prequel, not the original. Yes, I know. Don’t say it. I only watched it because we were on an airplane and my laptop battery was dead. 

Before I get into the main part of my blog, let me first say that I deconstruct everything I watch or read. I do it automatically. I mark the inciting incident, the black moment and the resolution. I break down the characters according to their conflict and goals, ect. It drives my husband nuts when I point out that “Oh, there’s the black moment. The movie’s almost over.”  Basically, I have a permanent case of “writer’s brain”. It’s a sad affliction for which there is no cure.

Anyway, at one point the heroine is hovering on the threshold of the front door of the house, violence and certain death behind her and sweet freedom yawning in front of her. Inwardly, I urged her to run! run! run! but she hears her friend upstairs crying pitifully for help. So, instead grasping freedom and life, she turns back into the darkness behind her and reenters the house, pretty much facing utter doom. 

Sounds like a stupid thing to do, right? And yet she has motivation. Because her friend is marked for death, (and consumption by her killers), the heroine has the proper impetus to put herself in harm’s way in order to rescue her. In fact, due to the strength of her motivation, her action displays as bravery, not stupidity. 

If you have a character putting themselves in harm’s way, they BETTER have the proper motivation. It has to be a life or death situation for themselves or someone they care about. If a character puts himself/herself in a dangerous situation without proper motivation, they are deemed TSTL—Too Stupid To Live.

When I read characters who are TSTL, I can’t suspend my disbelief after that point and my enjoyment of the book is greatly diminished. Usually in this case, the book hits the wall. Well, okay, not if it’s an ebook in my portable computer, but you get the idea. *g*

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