Friday, March 18, 2011

Reason and Motive

Reason and Motive. Both are important to a successful story, if not the most important things. You may think they are the same as they are often used interchangeably, but they're not. Reason, by definition, is a justification or explanation for a belief or action of a person. Motive is the driving goal/objective that causes a person to act in a certain way and/or do a certain thing. EXAMPLE:

The King of Mars declares war on Venus to set fear [MOTIVE-"GOAL"] into the hearts of the Venusians because the residents of Venus tease them too much [REASON-"BELIEF"] .
See? The reason gives justification to the action which gives purpose to the motive. People can have all kinds of reasons for believe things and never develop a motive to do something about it. But, most of the time, people working for something have a reason why they're motivated towards it.

"So, where am I going with this?" you're probably asking.

Well, I took this "ah-ha" moment and reviewed my antagonists to see if I clearly developed accurate reasons and motives for their involvement in the story. I found a couple antagonists with motives that don't tie to any clearly defined reason.

ACK! How do I fix this in a way that will both strengthen my story, yet also strengthen my storytelling ability for future works? Well, I had to ask myself a couple questions, which boiled down to this…What are the key roots of reason and motive for an antagonist? Or in another way, what things does reason and motive stem off from?

I came up with two main things. Temptation and Delusion.

I created this little visual for myself. Now, remember, it's not perfect and I am no expert. Don't assume I'm correct in this in any way…'cause you all know what assuming can lead to. (No? Just add a couple dashes and a few connecting words…it can make an ASS-of-U-and-ME).

Yes, the smiley face is Evil Joe Smoe the pre-evil mastermind, because face it, no one is born evil. He is an average human and somewhere along the line he experiences something(s) that trigger(s) his brain to turn against someone/a group. It's delusion in the sense that it becomes him against "him/her/them". For either minutes or years he goes along believing this and evolving it further into his favor.

Then the temptation arrives, either through an internal making of his own or an external opportunity to "prove himself right and the world wrong". The motive now becomes clear from tying his reason to his temptation…and of course the reward is the "enemy" (from a single person to the whole galaxy) either needs to suffer, be under his control, or be destroyed all together.

And, if you don't believe me that a regular guy can become a monster of his own making…just look at Charlie Sheen. Whether he was troubled from childhood or just developed from adult experiences, he went from "Well Meaning Bad Boy" to a "Him against The Man" mentality.


  1. Lol. good point on this - I've studied the difference between reason and motive in college, part of criminal law - most people can't make the difference.
    And antagonists are those who suffer most if we don't do this to them properly.
    It was a really fun read!

  2. For a long time I clumped it all together too, then I was reading some articles and it clicked for me.

    Glad you enjoyed this article! and for stopping by.