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dig a holeHave you ever done something and then wondered why on earth you’d done it at all?

Last week, we talked about the fact that everybody has goals. Big ones and small ones, short-term and long-term, goals are something we would like to achieve or the place we’d like to reach. (Think of a giant to-do list or finish line.)

But why do we pursue these things? Because we want something … or want to avoid something. We seek fame or fortune. We desire security and a comfortable home. We want to be loved or appreciated or win the approval of others. Sometimes it’s because we’d like to save time or money. On the other hand, sometimes we do things in an attempt to avoid rejection or pain.

In fiction, that’s called motivation. A reason or incentive to do something. The internal and external factors that stimulate and energize someone to be continually interested and committed to a job or task. It’s why we do what we do.

But discovering motivation requires digging deep. For example, let’s say my goal is to eat healthier and exercise more. Why? Because I want to lose weight. But why? So I can fit back into the clothes I already own because money is tight and I can’t afford a new wardrobe right now. Or because I want to look good enough to attract the attention of a certain someone or impress a potential boss during a job interview. Or because we’re going somewhere tropical on vacation (I wish) and this body is not swimsuit-ready. (Or maybe all of these reasons.)

Dig deeper. Why? Because deep down I don’t feel like I’m worthwhile. Or I was teased as a child and want to get revenge on all those tormentors by showing them what I can really be like. Or maybe I want to lose weight so my cholesterol will drop and I won’t have to take medication. Or perhaps I fear dying young and want to avoid the same heart disease that killed a loved one.

Digging down deeper to the heart often eventually reveals a lie that we believe (more on that topic in the future.)

So when I write, I give my characters goals to pursue, but also make sure they have a good reason to do so. That’s what makes a book one that readers can relate to and learn from.

What about you? What motivates you? If you dug deeper, what would you find at the core of your character? Do you try to understand why others do what they do?

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