Character Motivation

Characters all have physical traits and personalities, but they also need motivation. Motivation is the reason they do the things they do, what drives them, and what ties them to the story. Determining what drives a character, how much it influences their choices, and what caused that to be can make the difference between a believable character and one who is just doing things.

What is the character’s motivation?

Every character has something important to them that keeps them going. It could be a goal they are trying to achieve, a value they are working to maintain, or a fear they are trying to prevent. Whatever it is, it should be the things that fuels that characters decision as the plot unfolds and keep the character investing in what’s going on.

What are they willing to do for it?

Whether they’re trying to get something or prevent something, there may be some limitations to what a character will do to get what they want. What is the character willing to do for their motivator and, more importantly, what aren’t they willing to do? If they have limitations, maybe it’s something that they’ll eventually overcome when they decide their motivator is more important than whatever is holding them back.


Not all characters need fully developed backstories, but there should be a reason a character has a particular motivator. It could be something instilled in them when they were younger, the result of something that happened to them, a relationship they have, or just a fundamental part of their personality. On the other side of that, their motivation could be something that reflects on their personality.

If a character has a reason to be invested in the story, it’s a lot easier to be invested in them as a reader. No one wants to read about a character who’s just doing things for the sake of doing them. Someone probably does. There’s a time and a place for everything.

What’s your main character’s motivation?