So I have been thinking a lot about my own stories and what made some of them successful and others not, why I have had a hard time continuing with most of my stories since graduation. (Aside from the fact that I am no longer being graded.)
While I have not written much since graduation, I have come up with a lot of story ideas. Around the time I graduated was also the time I finally admitted to myself that I probably had depression and actually went in and got diagnosed. Now, aside from being tired all the time and never wanting to do anything, I do still have the desire to write. Where a bigger problem for me lies is that I have a hard time thinking of character motivation.
See, I have no motivation myself. If I’m not obligated to do something, I probably won’t do it. Which makes it hard for me to give my characters motivation. I try; I mean, I know that characters need to want something. But whenever I try to give them a motivation, it feels fake, because for me, I feel nothing.
For example, I was trying to write a horror story about a girl who is driving and her car breaks down in this tiny little town in the middle of nowhere and weird shit happens. (Original, I know. Inspired by a stint I did at a Feed Store.) Of course, the question came up: Why was she driving and where was she going? I thought, maybe she was essentially running away. I have always dreamed of just throwing my stuff into my car, throwing my phone away, picking a direction, and just driving. Why don’t I just give this to a character? Well, what is she running away from? I thought of the obvious reasons: a bad romantic relationship, a bad family relationship, not liking her job, etc. These reasons all just felt so mundane and not entirely….tangible, I guess? They did not feel strong enough or creative enough.
One story I wrote that I felt was successful was exactly the opposite. It was entirely 100% character motivation driven. It was called How to Become a Princess and it was literally just about the lengths a peasant girl went to to secure herself a prince and a throne. What it boiled down to was this girl wanted to be a princess (motivation), but she was poor (obstacle), so she did X to get what she wanted, but (obstacle) happened which she overcame by doing this other thing when another obstacle presented itself and so on.
And that is essentially what a good story is. You have a character who wants something but something is standing in their way so they try to overcome it and maybe they do or maybe they don’t; either way, there is a bigger obstacle just around the corner until they finally reach the biggest obstacle (crisis) that makes them question who they are as a person and if they really want to achieve this goal or if their goal has changed. Then they act on that decision in a climactic battle (figurative or literal) that leads to the resolution of the story.
Anyway, it’s back to the drawing board. This time, I’m going to start with character motivation.