Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Theory on Thursday with Abbi Cantrell

This week I'm very excited to have fellow Sassy Sister and PHS columnist  Abbi Cantrell. She offers a fascinating insight into how to make sure your characters' motivations are SPOT on... Welcome Abbi! 

The Pyramid of Motivation

First, thanks to Rach for having me here on her Theory on Thursday!

If you’ve written a story or even looked into doing so, one of the major parts of a story you’re trying to grasp is GMC. No, not the car company, but the Goals, Motivations and Conflicts of a story.

The goals are what the hero or heroine want to achieve in the story. But, we must ask, WHY do they want to achieve this goal? What is their MOTIVATION for pursuing it?

Motivation can be hard and you need to dig into your character’s background and soul to find the answer. One of the tools I use is a theory I learned in nursing school.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.

Maslow 1
Abraham Maslow theorized that what a person needs follows different levels – or hierarchies – and we pursue each level in order.

Level One Basic Needs --- Food, water, shelter

Level Two Safety – Knowing there’s no danger in life

Level Three – Love and Acceptance

I think most romances will deal with level three because only with true love can you move to the other two levels.

But how do you determine a character’s motivation? Take the heroine who wants to win the top spot in a competition. Why is winning so important to her?

Because she wants the prestige. Because she wants the acceptance of her family. A writer could immediately move to the third level of Maslow’s hierarchy.

But what if that wasn’t the real reason? Maybe there was something more pressing n her mind. Level One, Basic Needs. What if she needs the prize money? What if she loses then she loses everything she has: her home, her business. And if she loses those, she could potentially lose the next two levels.

If you’re stuck with motivation for your characters, I’d recommend a good look at Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. It will provide you with a wealth of insight into your character.

Abbi :)

You can find Abbi on Twitter and on her webpage. She also blogs regularly for the Pink Heart Society and The Seven Sassy Sisters


Fiona Lowe said...

Abbi, of all the theories I had to do at Uni, Maslow's was the one that made most sense to me! I quote it often.
Thanks for a great blog post

Joanne Dannon said...

Hi Abbi - thanks for an interesting blog post :)

Abbi said...

Thanks Fiona! That's the one that sticks with me from nursing school as well. Probably because it makes so much sense.

Thanks, Joanne! Hope it helped.

Abbi :-)

Suzanne Brandyn said...

Lovely. It's always good to double check. Great blog post Abbi.

Thanks Rachel. :)