Good Sentences

Characterization and Motivation

January 05, 2020 Season 1 Episode 5
Good Sentences
Characterization and Motivation
Chapters
Good Sentences
Characterization and Motivation
Jan 05, 2020 Season 1 Episode 5
Craig A. Hart

Craig and Scott discuss characterization and, in particular, motivation for said characters. They also remind everyone that they have maturity of twelve-year-olds!

They also talk about a walking meme, their new privacy policy, and how you can make someone's day.

Show Notes Transcript

Craig and Scott discuss characterization and, in particular, motivation for said characters. They also remind everyone that they have maturity of twelve-year-olds!

They also talk about a walking meme, their new privacy policy, and how you can make someone's day.

Scott:
00:01
you're listening to good sentences podcast that's guaranteed to tickle your literary ear holes and make you wish you'd listen to dear old mom when she said Toe put down those lawn darts and learn how to read. And now here your hosts, neither of whom listened to dear old mom. This is Craig A Heart and S. J. Baringo. Welcome back to the good sentences. Craig and Scott were alive, although not when you hear us, but it's alive now. Anything could still happen and probably will. I've done everything I can to eliminate all the distractions that I took the dog out. I ate lunch so that Mike didn't go my tummy sounds. So I think I'm ready
Craig:
00:57
crying. I'm is ready as I'll ever be. And I didn't even have all that stuff. But I did put the kids down for a nap. So there are. There's a possibility they which cause they're not asleep yet. So if they start throwing a tantrum, um, I'll just turn my mic down. Nor them they'll be fine. They'll be fine. There are five years old. I'm pretty sure they're capable. There's meeting their own basic needs.
Scott:
01:17
Yes, and they're still at that age where their bones are fairly flexible now. So how much can go?
Craig:
01:23
It'll be fun right now. Speaking of basic needs. Ah, we're going to be talking about characterization today, or at least one aspect of it. Part of the basis for what will be talking about his Maazel's hierarchy of needs. It basically lays out a really good starting point for figuring out your character's motivations. Within the story, you are creating the hierarchy of needs, as you would assume it's a pyramid graph starts with basic needs like food, water, warmth, security, safety And once those are taken care of, then the human can then begin to worry about other things like psychological needs, like relationships, friends. And then finally, once we get all that taken care of, then you move up to self actualization, achieving your full potential. So, for example, you know we in the United States of basically, for the most part, we have our problems. We've basically taken care off most of these needs, right? Which leaves us with I don't feel fulfilled, you know, whereas somebody in the Third World countries like what the hell you're talking about? I'm
Scott:
02:25
wearing pot for shoes. Yeah, right. I just got my lunch out of a dumpster. Except what
Craig:
02:34
I think a lot of in the U. S. Leads to that generational divide, too. Because, like our grandparent's, for example, or people who went through the Great Depression, they look at, say, Millennials, for example, they're like, What the hell is going on with you people
Scott:
02:48
for sure, for sure. In my case, it was my dad was Ah, Depression survivor, and I heard it Every God, you don't know how you got it at
Craig:
03:01
an event like the Great Depression in people's lives is so traumatic as you Apparently they never got over it. Absolutely. Kim's grand parents, for example. They still save everything like you never know, like it could happen again. And then we'll be prepared. Especially since a lot of her grandparents, when they when they were kids. And so you know how you know Children, their fires, like,
Scott:
03:26
burned into their
Craig:
03:27
it's hardwired into their heads and they can't they can't get away from. It's almost like a PTSD.
Scott:
03:31
Until the day he died, my dad used to save old bread bags. Yes, in case you ever got holes in his shoes or anything. At this point, he's fucking living in Florida. Aside from like, you know, monsoons. I don't think his feet are gonna get to that. But he till the day he died, made my mother save every bread bag that they empty
Craig:
03:55
and rubber bands and twist ties. Oh, yeah, there was other things which rubber bands cause. That was also World War Two, when you every scrap of rubber was being used for the war effort, but good times. So the point is that you are well served to examine your characters in your story and figure out which of these needs they are dealing with because of the basics basic of every. And today we'll be talking mostly about motivation and in character. And so pretty much every motivation is driven by dissatisfaction in some way. Some examples of motivation survival could be a life or death, but not always. Um, survival can be as simple as maybe surviving within your social circle. A great motivation is for characters to do what they're doing because they have to, in order to stay alive on. I'm thinking of any dystopian. I guess the relatively recent zombie craze is a great example of that. People do absurd things that they would normally do, but we accept it as a reader because they're doing it for survival. And you can expect Q's just about anything. Raif. It's if it comes down to basic survival.
Scott:
05:08
Yeah, my my current Reed is Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. There's a whole group of people who are doing literally what they need to do, to survive and at the same time with the main character as the novel Advances for motivation is also to take down this regime, so the motivation does change. But it certainly starts out with 100% survival mode. You know, they're stringing women up, left and right for looking the wrong way,
Craig:
05:37
and that's a good point. You bring up his motivations, can evolve and change throughout your book in response to events in the story so we can start out as one thing. But it can easily become another the the only key there is there needs to be a motivation for that changes. Well,
Scott:
05:55
exactly. Yeah, If I could just jump in. I think this is another place going back to to some of the stuff we talked about in our last show, where the reader might not at first even noticed that the motivation is changing. This might be another area where you, the author, have that godlike knowledge of what's going on that the reader doesn't go into with. And the motivation can be apparent as it isn't. You know, the zombie examples that you pointed out and as it is with Handmaid's tale. But again, that subtle shift might be the thing that takes you from a good story to a great book.
Craig:
06:34
A lot of beginning writers have a tendency to show their hand too quickly, so I speak. So there's nothing wrong with allowing your backstory to develop and found that is advisable. You don't have to explain everything up front. You don't have to lay it all out. And as you said, the reader doesn't necessarily need to know all the motivations and everything right away. Readers will follow you as long as they feel like you're leading them somewhere right. As long as you don't do something, avert to jerk them out of the story. There's got to be something, something leading them on but readers could be pretty patient. If you're telling a good story, they'll they'll stick with you. I mean, they'll assume that at the annual tidal Together. If if you don't, that's a problem.
Scott:
07:17
Last book of yours, they're gonna re write exactly that.
Craig:
07:20
You know, it's the Chekhov's gun kind of thing. If you show the gun on the mantelpiece by the end of the play of the story the gun, it better have gone off. I'm always taken back to the college class I was in and I a creative writing class, and I was I had written a story for it and pretty pleased with it, turned it in. And the professor said, Good story, but the ending you didn't earn it. The ending was good. The ending by itself was a good ending. But you didn't earn it in what she meant was ahead and let the backstory develop. I had gone from telling the beginning of the story straight to the end, like there wasn't sufficient title to warrant such a dramatic ending. It was like what came off where if I built it up, it could have been in a very dramatic and all but it just came off. It's cheesy because you're like, uh, okay, whatever. What what's what's happening Like, I think the character had no sufficient motivation to do what they did, even though what they did was interesting. It didn't work because I had not put in the work to earn that ending.
Scott:
08:24
I'm picturing how that that could have gone in my at, and I'm just seeing you spending the first like few pages describing his lunch that not in the final page you like. And then he became president of the United States of America. He murdered everybody in town on the and then he became
Craig:
08:41
president. You can have the best ending in the world, but if you don't build up to it properly, nobody's going to give. Nobody's gonna care. The motivations can evolve or change in response in the story. And I think another important thing is that having to arm or competing motivations sometimes within the same character, can be an instant source of conflict or another major driving force in a story. For example, you have somebody who can have two different motivations. They can be motivated by, let's say, for example, they're not revenge, but they can also be motivated by love. And perhaps that love in their life is trying to pull them away from the revenge because they see no good's gonna come of it. And so they've got it aside between is my desire for revenge or my love for this person, which one of those is greater? And so those if you have two different motivations that can get it's a lot more complicated to balance, but it can add again, conflict more depth to the story.
Scott:
09:44
That's the keyword right. There is depth because, to me, a conflicted character is immediately a deeper character than unconflicted character. You know, there's certainly, ah 1,000,000 great unconflicted characters in the history of literature. I don't mean to say that every character you're right has to be conflicted. But when I'm reading a book and I come across that person who has two motivations essentially at war within him or her, I'm sold when
Craig:
10:09
it comes to motivation. There are other examples to that I scribbled down before the show, so we talk about survival, revenge, love, hate and duty and duty. Listen to other showing, you realize Why would they think it's in there. I know if I I may have edited that out and in an attempt to make us appear as if we were Yeah, 12 year olds don't know. This will
Scott:
10:30
probably end up by the cutting room floor, too, but I'm gonna keep doing it.
Craig:
10:35
But if you if you can use more than one of those, so I'm going back to one motivation with duty is e heard the chuckle.
Scott:
10:50
At least I don't do it in my Beavis voice anymore. I'm even
Craig:
10:55
trying to pronounce the t. It doesn't matter that we all know what you meant.
Scott:
11:00
Try again. This time, I'll cover my mouth. Go ahead. It's like, if you know, if I could do it better. Is there another word for responsibility? Obligation? There we go. Obligations E. I know what you're using it for Excess. Just
Craig:
11:19
a euphemism for poop. Actually forgot What? The point I was trying to make anyway, something
Scott:
11:26
about duty. I was really, like your crowning point of the whole discussion, too.
Craig:
11:32
And I told her it Waas Sure, Louis trying to figure out no, well, any sort of segue way to get back to the same
Scott:
11:40
being of two idiots doing a podcast. I How's that for a second? And now for something completely different.
Craig:
11:50
But if you can sufficiently introduce a motivation for your characters, whether it's a single motivation duel, no motivation or conflicting motivations that will absolutely add a lot of depth and character to your story. And it will not only provide a better hook for the reader, but by the end it will be one of those stories where they'll walk away remembering it instead of walking away. All right, what's next? And certainly I think that a reader can off if it's well, careful how I say this because part of this I don't need. Actually, I know they started saying that intentionally. Three with it myself, that sometimes. And I've
Scott:
12:27
started a chain of an honest man right there. Sometimes I'm going to make this point, but it's bullshit.
Craig:
12:34
I guess what I was going to say is that it's it's often seems easier or the reader can pick up on when the writer is having a good time. I mean, on the other hand, the reason why I don't totally agree with it was that there were plenty of times. I know as a writer when I have had I have had to force myself to approach the keyboard. And
Scott:
12:51
and that doesn't necessarily mean that you produce isn't great. Yeah, I mean, they're just means that felt a little more like work at.
Craig:
12:57
Yeah. I mean, there have been times when some of the hardest writing days have turned out some of the best stuff,
Scott:
13:02
and I'm glad that we've decided to to really kick off the show with working on character in depth, because all that other stuff is absolutely essential. You know, you need a good setting. You need all that. But when it comes right down to it, don't you think that as human beings, the thing we're going to relate to most is human beings?
Craig:
13:22
Absolutely. No question about it. It almost really doesn't really even matter what the art form is. Right now. We're only talking about writing because that's what this podcast is about. But if the human experience is the foundation of art, and that's why little videos on you two go viral, for example, most of them have to do with some nice little story, you know, like Oh, you know, tears And it's usually has something to do with some human experience. And so if you can tap and this was, I feel somewhat qualified to talk about this not because of an expert at it, but because I was so bad at it,
Scott:
13:58
right? Yeah. No, I get it.
Craig:
14:01
Like my characters were terrible. Um, I was of the mind that the plot was the thing. Ah, and action, action, action. Things have to happen now, now, now, And there's certainly nothing wrong with fast pace. Plots like the Spike or novellas are known for that. But if the character in your story, if nobody cares about the character, then they don't care about the events. Plot is not the thing, but it's who is it happening to? That's the important thing,
Scott:
14:27
right? Yep, I agree completely. I'm thinking as you're talking, going back to the Spike Oh, novellas. Ah, the James Burke that appears in assignment Athens. As compared to the James Burke. It's appears an assignment in London because when I think of of assignment Athens, when I first read that prior to us even discussing writing Maur and working together and so on The thing that stuck in my mind through the whole book was James Bond. James Bond in the Ian Fleming novels is an incredibly deep character, right in the movies, he's a guy who bangs hot chicks and shoots people, and I think that's a that's a good way to care. Characterize, you know that the early characters in that Siri's as compared to you know where they are now where basically, we know a lot about all of them. And if I had never been involved in the project, that all I would still love it, because those characters have become really deep people as we've gone on. You know,
Craig:
15:30
you're so right about the James Bond difference being the books on the movies. I remember the first James Bond book I read was one of those that had I cried at the end and you wouldn't think that to be the case. And if you if you just knew it watching for the movies or like what?
Scott:
15:44
Yeah, Oh Fleming with a masterful
Craig:
15:48
storyteller, The thing was, yes, the gravity and that's earning that that the particular plot event I'm thinking of was an example of the he earned it when you got married, you know, and he he took us through this whole thing. And you could really feel Bonds, joy and his happiness. And and then, well, you know, probably know you're probably ready. You know what happened? So But it was just one of those air. Just a punch in the gut. And you would never get that from the moving. Yep. So read the books.
Scott:
16:18
Never. I mean, the movies are fun. Don't get me wrong. I have a mullet DVD, but they're just not, really, you know, same characters, same story, but completely different from the books.
Craig:
16:31
One. The one movie I'm thinking of the the new Casino Royale with What's his face? Greg know Craig that gets closest to the other books than the rest of the movies.
Scott:
16:41
Yeah, there's there's definitely a death. And in Craig's Bond that isn't there in even Sean Connery, who to me, John Connery's James Bond. But that's just because he was the first, and he's, you know, the one I grew up watching as a little kid. But I don't think Sean Connery ever got James Bond to the level that Daniel Craig dead. No no in my
Craig:
17:06
and he probably could have. But that's just not what we were going for,
Scott:
17:10
right? Exactly. Yeah, it was the sixties and all that, you know, slick, fast paced stuff. What was the thing you know,
Craig:
17:17
talking about character today, But character is related to plot. So sure is, you know, you. As we mentioned earlier, when you care about the character, you care more about what's happening because it's affecting this character that you've come to known love. So when you have ones, you have the other,
Scott:
17:35
and a strong character is going to take the plot to places that a shell a character might not be able to. So they're intimately interrelated.
Craig:
17:45
It would be really difficult if you had a strong character to not have a strong plot because the character be making that plot strong. Exactly. There are a lot of more literary books you and I've read where it doesn't Hemingway's great at this. It doesn't seem like anything's happening right under the surface. Everything is happening.
Scott:
18:06
I was actually thinking about Hemingway when I was driving home because you and I had talked about what we're gonna do today, and we were talking about character, and I was I always go to Jake Barnes. I don't know why he's my favorite. I mean, wait, character, But that book is a perfect example of, you know, you start reading it and all of a sudden you're at the end, and you're like, What? What just happened? And then, you know, you think about a little mourns, like so much just happen.
Craig:
18:35
It is probably my favorite Hemingway book. You mean even tops what everybody else knows, You know, for the bell tolls and all that. I do like the old man in the sea. But the sun also rises. That's that's the ticket you can definitely have. Character will drive plot. And you, you could, I suppose, have plot without character. But it would just be your basic well be your James Bigger joint your James Bond movie without the whip of the character of James Bond. In it
Scott:
19:05
right is your email inbox have been inundated with privacy practice updates lately.
Craig:
19:11
It was weird because it has, and I just sort of assumed it was the end of the year Legal cover your butt kind of thing going on?
Scott:
19:19
Yeah, I'm pretty sure it is. But it did bring to mind to me the fact that we have never officially given our privacy practices for good sentences.
Craig:
19:29
We would probably get on that.
Scott:
19:31
I could basically sum it up in one sentence. We will treat everyone involved with good sentences, including the listeners, as if we were all in the Mafia together. And nobody says nothing. We're
Craig:
19:46
joking before the show and I was like, Our privacy policy is one line. Exactly. You go to most of these sites, and it's like pages and pages of legal ease, and nobody ever reads.
Scott:
19:56
And And so for all we know, right in the middle of all of them, it's just It just says the word sight smells
Craig:
20:03
well. I goto these. Do you accept such and such policy for view? Yes, whatever. Because I accept.
Scott:
20:09
Right? I'm just there to five minutes later, there's a knock at your door. Hi. We're here to clock double your furniture. What are you talking about? Well, you just accepted the policy. Dude was right in
Craig:
20:19
there. I'm not obviously a lawyer. I wonder if there's some sort of protection for for dumb ass. Is you just like, for example, these. You install some software. Same thing you have this big, long thing. You have to accept it to install the software and I never Just whatever. Okay, fine. I'm fine with it on, my computer explodes, you know? But if there's right, there's some sort of legal protection for dummies. Where? Hey, you You said OK, You accepted it. But then the judges like, yeah, but he's a moron. Yeah, you can't really expect. First of all, you can't read eyes
Scott:
20:54
while he accepted his public execution. Do you think you really meant to do that? So, anyway, that's our privacy
Craig:
21:02
policy. Do with it what you will, folks. Yeah,
Scott:
21:05
Yeah. The thing I wanted to talk about before we left today was I'm sure you've seen Dashcam videos, right? Yeah. I don't have a dash cam because I drive a 2007 Toyota Corolla and I don't think it could handle the weight of the dash Cam. If I ever I did, today would have been a great day a for because I saw a living Mim as I was driving out of my community. There's a gentleman walking and my first impression when I saw him was he was walking in a manner that was suggest trying to improve his health. It was swinging his arms that looked like he was, you know, doing things that would raise his heart rate. Now I am not judging anyone, but this individual was probably about five foot five and had to go at least 303 £150. Yeah, so obviously he's if he's on a journey towards healthy is at the beginning. But the thing that made it the mim for me in my mind was the fact that he had a cigarette hanging out. So I guess he's easing into this
Craig:
22:06
whole health, right? You want to start walking and then stop smoking on
Scott:
22:11
the same day? No, no, a cz, they said. In the airplane movies, I guess I picked a bad day to stop sniffing glue. But then the other thing that made me wish I had a dash cam today was on the total opposite of the spectrum in and without going into detail, I will tell you that Craig and I had a discussion in the past day or so about seeing pictures of people and immediately hating them and and And I certainly, you know, soon as he said that to me, I'm like home man, have I ever know But they the exact opposite happened because I was driving into the village where I live and a guy was walking towards me. He was with. I think I didn't look at them closely enough toe pin this down, but I think it was like a teen daughter or something like that. But just before I drove past them, she said something and he smiled and his smile was, So is smile ate his entire face. That was such a cute and I immediately liked the guy. I mean, ever see him again, But it was an incident. Ah, that guy's awesome,
Craig:
23:16
sort of A. I still remember, and I was just a kid at this time. It was near Christmas time, and me and my sister and my mom and dad were out. They could went down to K Mart when those were still around, and we were doing last minute Christmas shopping and everybody's in a bad mood is just busy and just you couldn't get through the aisles. We go out and It was dark out and slushy snow, you know? And, uh, we look behind there is a bit of a commotion, and we looked behind and there is his dad running to their car with his daughter on his shoulders, and they were both laughing. And it was just in that moment, some cream, right? And I mean, that's been you're probably 30 years ago, and I've never forgotten it. I can still see him. So when you messaged me about that, I immediately thought of that experience. Uh, it was just out, man. It almost makes you happy to be alive in that moment. You know
Scott:
24:12
that these days, my friends is rare Young.
Craig:
24:15
No, I'm okay. I'm actually glad I got up this morning. After all, I didn't think I was. And really, that's all it takes, folks. So when you get done listening to this podcast, hopefully we've made you smile, go out and smile at somebody. Exactly. There's one thing I like to do now and then when I'm going through a drive thru is pay for the car behind me. And I knew that every now and then it makes me feel great. And I've The reason I'm doing is because somebody did it to me once and in such a great feeling that I wanted to pay that Ford and got kind of addicted to it. Now,
Scott:
24:47
in a related story, I like to go through the drive thru behind Craig, but it's
Craig:
24:52
funny. I have this Corolla following me. Everywhere I go. Looks
Scott:
24:58
like a dash cam could sink. It always went
Craig:
25:02
to the oil change of place and everyone. I mean, he's really trying to. He's upping the ante, but seriously, just go out, smile at somebody, maybe pay for the meal of the guy in gallon, but behind you Just pay it forward. And I'm telling, you know, not everybody will appreciate it, but nine times out of 10 you're going to make somebody's day again. I remember the experience for 30 years. You might be the experience that somebody remembers for 30 years. Go out there and be that difference. Good
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