The Life or Death Question
It’s the stuff of Oscar-winning movies and the Disney songs you still know by heart. It is the subject of endless amounts of art, poems, and can send any of us into an existential crises that is definitely outside the scope of this blog: motivation.
I’ll be honest. Asking “What does my Character Want?” has never quite worked for me. Asking them what they want doesn’t work either, they generally tell me to butt out of their business. Or, we both draw a complete blank.
But motivation, I find, is the key to creating a great new character and saving a character in danger of falling flat. If your character has motivations you suddenly have an agenda to accomplish, a reason to be. It’s the difference between dragging yourself online to roleplay and logging in excited, ready to advance the story. With a good motivation, not every story needs to be about you – but you can always ask yourself how the current storyline you are doing for a friend or sim-wide storyline interacts with your character’s emotions and motivation.
However, a lack of a good motivation will find you floundering, uncertain of how to move ahead, lingering in public areas without anything to bring into a scene, or repeating the same roleplay without change. (“I am steadfast, see me be stoic,” “I have been hurt, watch me mope,” etc.) This is hard on everyone. And by hard, we mean boring. No amount of repetition will bring fresh RP on its own – you have to re-think and revitalize the situation and come up with a new angle rather than rehashing the same:
“Ryvyn Darktyde walks into the bar and broods over a mug of hard liquor, just like he did Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. How does he even pay for his alcohol?”
What is Good Motivation?
That can be answered by defining what it is not, first. A good motivation is not something that will remain hidden from everyone else, because then they can’t interact with it. A good motivation is not something outside of the scope of the character’s abilities, either by being too small or being too large for them to make progress. A good motivation is not something that will remain eternally in the same form.
There is a motivation for every person and character ever created. But some common themes run through them that may spark an idea in you to build on. Good motivation is brings you something to strive for, not just something to feel. A good motivation is something that should create cause to act in your own PC and give other PCs something to react to. It is something your character can make real, measurable progress towards by breaking it into temporary goals. Ultimately, it should be something that will ultimately be resolved by success or by failure and that will have a lasting impact on the character’s development.
Example: One of my favorite story arcs for a character I’ve read was her reaction to a nightmarish situation she’d lived through (magic, monsters, etc.) She learned to carry a sword, building up strength to carry it. When she had become adequate with it – not great, not a master, just adequate – she exchanged developing that martial ability for arcane power because another character who saw her doing this offered to teach her. She went full anime and swore that she would keep the people she cared for safe, even if she became a monster. This provided roleplay for not only her, but the people around her as she sought out training, tested her might, and became a potential threat to the safety of herself and others as she sought more power.
A new motivation is one way you can take the character you have in a new direction, but it doesn’t need to be the entirety of your character’s life. Any character can have a number of motivations that inform their actions and being able to switch between them will keep things fresh and give you the variety you need.
Wishing you epic, motivated roleplay,
– The Trailblazer and Equivocation
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