In an earlier post, I wrote about the importance of writing a character analysis prior to beginning your manuscript. How can you write about someone if you do not know anything about them or their motivation? You may never use what you have written but knowing your character’s motivations will come across in your writing.
In addition, you will need to know what motivates your main character (MC) and minor characters. Are they driven by power or greed? Are they looking for a mate or do they just want to be happy? Conversely, are they trying to extricate themselves from a certain situation?
Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs
To understand your MC’s motivations, you can use your character analysis to serve as a blueprint. From there, I would direct you to Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs pyramid as a starting point. The pyramid is divided into five sections of various needs of the individual. Starting at the bottom of the pyramid, we have basic needs such as food, clothing and shelter. The next level up is safety and security. On the third level is love and belonging and from there we graduate to the needs of self-esteem and self-respect. We finally reach the top of the pyramid and self-actualization. In other words, we have reached our fullest potential, having had all our needs met. Maslow’s theory proposes that motivation results when individuals attempt to fulfill these five needs.
Looking closely at this pyramid, one can certainly see a variety of motivations popping up if certain needs are not met. Motivation not only reveals a lot about your character but it can drive the plot as well. In the end, you are trying to create a character that will not only be memorable but resonate with the reader.