What’s My Motivation?

by Lorna's Voice
Marilyn, your motivation is to not fall out of that slip. Got it?

Marilyn, your motivation is to not let your boobies fall out of that slip. Got it?

We’ve all heard about actors asking frustrated directors who just want to get a scene shot, “What’s my motivation?”

Then the director explains for the umpteenth time what is supposed to be happening in the scene and how the actor is supposed to feel about it.

“Oh. Okay. I’ve got it,” the actor nods, trying to dig deep and find the proper emotions behind the words in the script. At least that’s what everyone who has invested a katon of money on the movie is hoping for.

Well, characters in our books and stories also need motivation. Indeed, our stories need motivation–something to propel them forward in a compelling way so that our readers can’t wait to see what happens next. In the writing business, we call that “plot.” Everything we write needs a plot, no matter how short. Our words have to take our readers on a journey and the plot is the path.

We writers are responsible for getting our readers from Point A to Point B without tripping, falling, or otherwise hurting themselves. We have to know what we're doing.

We writers are responsible for getting our readers from Point A to Point B without tripping, falling, or otherwise hurting themselves. We have to know what we’re doing.

I struggled with this whole journey, plot, path thing when I wrote my memoir. Now that I’m working on a novel, I’m back where I started: staring at the conundrum of plot. It’s different this time. Memoirs are different from fiction in some ways, but both are stories–stories that must be held together and propelled forward by a unifying journey you (the author) and the reader go on together. The plot is the map.

Dang! I hate when my lap top camera randomly takes photos of me while I'm working. Especially when I'm having a bad day.

Dang! I hate when my lap top camera randomly takes photos of me while I’m working. Especially when I’m having a bad day.

If I struggled and continue to do so, I bet a few of you do, too. So I wanted to share with you something I found that really helped me sort out the plot issue for me while writing my memoir and, now, as I write this novel (which is becoming a novel with a sequel).

Here it is.

20 master plots

Tobias, Ronald B. 20 Master Plots
This book proposes twenty basic plots:

  1. Quest
  2. Adventure
  3. Pursuit
  4. Rescue
  5. Escape
  6. Revenge
  7. The Riddle
  8. Rivalry
  9. Underdog
  10. Temptation
  11. Metamorphosis
  12. Transformation
  13. Maturation
  14. Love
  15. Forbidden Love
  16. Sacrifice
  17. Discovery
  18. Wretched Excess
  19. Ascension
  20. Descension.

Of course, there are tons of books and resources available on plots, themes, characters, you name it. But this list simplified things for me. Once I decided on my plot, I found “true North” and let that general plot theme be my compass for all of my decisions about what material to leave in and what to cut. The terms are broad enough to interpret flexibly and creatively but defined enough to keep me focused.

I hope this helps all of you who are working on pieces that are adrift and need a bit of focus that a defined plot can lend to your story. Or maybe I’m the only one who has this problem with moving a narrative forward…

Dag blammit! Maybe it is just me!

Dag blammit! Maybe it is just me!

Now, I have to get back to my novel about “quest” and the unintended consequences of refusing to give up.

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5 Responses to “What’s My Motivation?”

  1. First of all, those photos you find and then the imaginative captions you write are hilarious! You have a real knack for this, Lorna! Better than anyone else on this blogosphere that I have read, at least! Next, great list taken and summarized from the book by Ronald B. Tobias. Thanks for a pleasant read and keep on plugging away, many of us cannot wait!

  2. You have become my motivation,, Lorna thank you.. :)…. Generally I just write and then let my head and imagination do the rest.. probably a fault…

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