Motives (Short Story)

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Fear and love both have the ability to be irrational — except we might call them phobia and infatuation or obsession. The Joker in The Dark Knight wants to throw Gotham into chaos — a grand plan that might stem from a psychological or self-fulfillment need to re-create the city in his image — whatever it is, it's not something that most of us can relate to.

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If a sidekick is seen preening and combing his hair, for example, we might gather that he is vain — and when he later refuses to help our protagonist dig through the trash, we might chalk it up to an internal motivation to protect his dignity in front of others. A character's conflicting motivations is at the heart of your story.


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If a protagonist wants just one thing, and the only thing stopping them from getting that thing is an external conflict, then their journey is simple: defeat the antagonist and win the day. To survive, she must kill her fellow competitors, including innocent children and her close friend.

From this description, we can see that she has two basic motivations:. Rocky would just be a film about a boxer who trains a lot to overcome a better opponent — which is boring. That is the conflict driving the story — not the boxing.

What is character motivation?

For some writers, character motivation comes easy — their instinct is to think about how their characters would behave in a certain situation and not how they think they should behave. If you find yourself struggling to bring your characters to life in any given scene, try using these character development exercises. It always helps to ask: what do they want?

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In this scene, and in general. If you have any thoughts, questions, or theories on character motivation, please drop us a message in the comments below. Thanks, Martin This writing thing is hard to master, as Hemingway acknowledged -- something about no one ever having done so.

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We proudly circulate our newsletter to over , authors each week. Yet, unlike " The Tell-Tale Heart ," "The Black Cat" makes extensive attempts to do so, which makes it a thought-provoking if somewhat unfocused story.

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One explanation that comes up early in the story is alcoholism. The narrator refers to "the Fiend Intemperance" and talks about how drinking changed his formerly gentle demeanor.


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  4. And it's true that during many of the violent events of the story, he's drunk or drinking. That is, his attitude on the night before his execution isn't very different from his attitude during the other events of the story. Drunk or sober, he's not a likable guy.

    Another explanation the story offers is something along the lines of "the devil made me do it. The narrator deflects blame for his actions by calling the second cat "the hideous beast whose craft had seduced me into murder.

    The narrator posits that it's human nature to experience "this unfathomable longing of the soul to vex itself —to offer violence to its own nature—to do wrong for the wrong's sake only. If you agree with him that humans are drawn to break the law just because it's the law, then perhaps the explanation of "perverseness" will satisfy you.

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    It seems to me that the narrator offers a smorgasbord of possible motives partly because he has no idea what his motives are. He's obsessed with cats, but really, this is a story about the murder of a human. The narrator's wife is undeveloped and virtually invisible in this story. We know that she loves animals, just as the narrator supposedly does.

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