Writers obsess about such things as they draft, edit, research, and revise. One thing that helps me develop motivations for my characters is examining my own motivations. Why, in general, do I write? Why, in particular, am I writing this story? Why, specifically, have I chosen to write about this character and this plot?
When you go into business, you have to have a business plan. One item thing on that plan is your list of objectives—what will your business achieve in a given time period. The same planning is necessary when you go into the writing business, but, like everything in the writing business, objectives are going to be weirdly different from normal life.
Many writer goals are quantifiable: Sell x-number of books, blog every week, make y-amount of money. These are measurable objectives. At the end of the year, a writer can take a look at the numbers and see if the goals have been accomplished.
I would argue, however, that the most important goals are unmeasurable and infinitely more important.
As a teacher, I was constantly annoyed by administrators and legislators who demanded accountability—a guarantee that my students would learn. This is impossible to predict or measure. I don’t know about you, but for me a lot of what I learned in school made no sense whatsoever until I got out in the world. Then I found many instances when I was grateful to some nameless teacher for teaching me x, y, or z. But that teacher never knew and that knowledge was certainly never measured by a state test or a grade.
I truly believe we are here in this place, in this time to do two things—to teach and to learn. If you write you can’t help but learn—you learn how to write better stories, how to market your books, how to network, and so on. The real question is what are you going to teach? What are you here to share?
Writing advice abounds on the Interwebs but not much of it involves a writer’s real motivation to write. M.C. Beaton, a British writer who created the Hamish MacBeth and Agatha Raisin series, responded to a similar question by saying, “I want to give someone a good time on a bad day.” To me that epitomizes why I write fiction. My stuff is funny, weird, and off-beat. It appeals to a particular kind of audience and I write to make them happy. To spread enjoyment is one of my goals—absolutely unmeasurable.
Another goal I have is to encourage tolerance—even more than tolerance—acceptance and joy in different cultures and people. I write about alternate beliefs, alternate lifestyles, alternate religions, the paranormal and the occult ( in the sense of unknown) for this reason. My characters are humans who simply live their lives in slightly abnormal—according to current cultural beliefs--ways. By showing these alternate aspects in action, I hope readers understand how we are all more alike than we are different and fighting amongst ourselves is a waste of time and resources. Will my books end world conflict? Probably not, but if just one person finds herself liking a character who personifies a different religion or lifestyle, I will have achieved my objective. Another ethereal and unmeasurable goal.
Writing should broaden minds, open people to new ideas, show the wonderful diversity in the Universe. The challenge of fiction is to do so in an entertaining way without falling into the trap of editorializing through the characters. I write about people who agree, who disagree, who are prejudiced in one way or another. Sometimes they see the light by the end; sometimes they don’t. Whether my readers get my point or not is, again, a mystery for the ages.
Those three absolutely undeterminable objectives are written in my business plan because they are the most important objectives to me. They guide my choices as I write and revise and develop stories and characters.
They are the real reasons I write.
Check out Scorchia's Charming Words writing blog.
Learn more about her books, other writing, and random weird and spooky things on her ScorchiaDubois website.
Zoraida Grey and the Family Stones, the first in a three-book series about Scottish witches, ancient curses, and magic will be released fall 2015. Learn more about it HERE.