Sunday, January 13, 2013

Motivation to Care...

Have you ever read a story or watched a show on television and during certain scenes you find yourself thinking: "Why would anyone act this way? This is ridiculous!"

Well, you are not alone. It isn’t because you are missing some vital point or that the characters are just too deep for you to understand. Most times, it is nothing more than the author failing to create a convincing character or story.

An important part of writing is to create a character your readers can relate to and place your cast in situations that make sense.

I know… this sounds like a major obstacle and seems to infringe upon creative license.

Why should I be forced to tailor my writing around the readers? If they don’t get it, then they aren’t the right type of reader for my form of creativity.”

I’m not talking about changing your story content… just how you are planning telling it. You can write a story about an orphan girl who trains a monkey how to fly a hot air balloon in Alaska… the trick is making your readers care.

One of my favorite tools for writing is Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:
*read more about Abraham Maslow
If you are already familiar with the Hierarchy of Needs, then thank you for visiting and hope to see you next time!  For everyone else, here is how this simple pyramid can help you and your writing.
We start at the bottom and work our way towards the top.  Without the basic (lower) needs getting met, you cannot move forward.
Physiological Needs:  These are the most basic.  Food, Shelter, Breathing, Warmth, etc.  Those simple items we all need just to live. 

We see the physiological needs being the focus in a lot of writing.  It is something everyone can relate to:  if we don't find food soon, we will die - or - we are running out of air and we will die if we don't reach the ocean surface. 

Most important factor to remember at this level:  We need it or we die!

Safety Needs:  Simply put: Security.  Holding on to the things we have.  You can go basic as to protect your body, food or shelter.  You can also go as far as protecting a job or your family and even health.  You will also find that a person will risk their safety to fulfill the physical needs (Fisherman braving harsh seas to bring home food,  man will fight wolf to have cave during blizzard).

Safety needs often go hand-in-hand with Physiological needs.  As readers, Safety is something everyone deals with:  what will I do if they close the factory?  What if someone tries to break into my house?  It is getting late... maybe I should make sure the kids are "really" at their friends house.

Safety factor:  I have this, I need this, I need to keep this.

Now Physiological and Safety are easy to understand and sit well with the readers.  You don't need to explain why these things are important. 

The next three aren't so primal and require alot more skill in writing to actually make people care:

Social Needs:  Love and Belonging.  Friends, Family, Intimacy.  Need I say more?

You can find examples of the Social level at any time by simply tuning your television to Lifetime or Hallmark.  Social needs are the breeding ground of romance, drama, teen fiction, after-school specials, and non-stop sitcoms.  Hugs, kissing, loving... good stuff and many readers.  (note: also, there are many writers riding the love-train).

Social factor:  I need someone to love.  I need a place to belong.

Esteem Needs:  Yes, self-esteem up here.  Here you will also find Confidence, Respect of/by Others, and Achievement.

This is also where you find self-worth. This area usually requires a lot of extra writing to explain why it is important for Jeff to win the science fair - or - why should I care if Tanya finally stands up to her mother?  You must explain why this is important.

Esteem factor:  I need you to accept me and respect who I am.

Self-actualization:  Problem Solving, Creativity, Morality.  This is where you reach your potential.  A goal of personal ideology being met.  Being who you wish to be.

This is also a point where a character would find that inner purpose ... a meaning or reason to their actions.  Religion or artistic fruition being a common focus in writing.

Self-actualization factor:  This is who I am and what I am meant to do.

Now, this is in no way a complete and in depth look at character motivations.  This is only a brief look at a tool I have found to be quite handy.  I hope this has been of some assistance. 

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