Allison Brennan and Goofy Talk Motivation.
  Good morning, Allison! I'm so glad you could visit with us again. It's almost chilly enough to use the fireplace for a while.

Thanks to Mary and the gang for having me back here in my pink fuzzy slippers! (Actually, I have Goofy slippers – see?)

Oh, I like them! So cute! 
Goofy might be a little dim-witted, but he’s the eternal optimist and is the first to help his friends and strangers with their problem. His help might create more problems, but his heart is in the right place.

I think a lot about motivation when I write because motivation can change sentiment about a character from love to hate, from respect to despise. While we may wince at what happens to Goofy when his “help” puts him or others in jeopardy, or makes the situation worse, we appreciate him because we know he was helping out of the right motivation.

Consider a thief. On the surface, we don’t like thieves. They steal other people’s stuff for their own personal gain, often causing hardship for the victim. I’m sure many of us have been robbed, either something small (car radio—I’ve had three stolen in my lifetime) or large (our identity, for example, our every valuable item in our home. My credit card number has been taken I don’t know how many times, at least five, and while I file all the papers and get my money back through the bank’s fraud unit, think of the added costs we all pay in added fees because of the greed of others.)

But what if the thief was trying to right a wrong? Taking from a bad guy to give to the good guys? (Robin Hood anyone?) Or what if the thief needed the money to pay for his daughter’s operation? Or to steal a weapon that fell into the wrong hands? The act may in and of itself be wrong, and the character may need to face punishment for his crimes, but if we want readers to like the character, then we need to give them a motivation that readers understand and relate to. Especially if the character doing the bad thing is your hero or heroine.

Motivation for villains is just as important. I don’t like stereotypical villains who kill for the sake of killing, or rape blondes because his prostitute mother was a blonde. I want meat to their motivation – even if I don’t agree with it. Why do they do what they do? Are they conflicted? Why? Do they have remorse or are they a true sociopath? How do they justify their actions? I often give a workshop called the Villain’s Journey taken from a line in Christopher Vogler’s The Writers Journey: “The villain is the hero of his own journey.”

Yes, yes, yes. And because of that, I know that the villain’s motivation is just as important as any other character – in fact, more important because they are the foundation of any suspense novel.
In my indie romantic suspense, Murder in the River City, I have a heroine who isn’t a cop, she isn’t a P.I., she doesn’t have any training to stop bad guys. Already I had a problem because I didn’t want her to be Too Stupid To Live. (Aside: one of the reasons I rarely write female characters who aren’t in law enforcement is because I don’t think most women would dive head-first into dangerous situations unless they had the training and background for it.) Anyway, I had to make Shauna’s motivation for getting involved logical, in character, and responsible. Even though her involvement is going to, ultimately, put her in danger.

In my upcoming Lucy Kincaid thriller Stalked, I had a hard time with the villain’s motivation. It was one of the few books I’ve written without the villain’s POV, and therefore I didn’t have head-time for the reader to understand why he/she did what he/she did. The motivation had to be discovered by Lucy through investigation and research, and make sense to both Lucy and the reader in order for the FBI to find and stop the killer.

I’ve written stories where the villain elicited sympathy among readers. In Tempting Evil, Aaron Doherty had a truly sad upbringing, where his mother wanted a perfect son, and often left him with friends or family or even borderline strangers so she could live the life she wanted. When his grandparents wanted to be his legal guardians, she refused and took him away, never letting him go back to the only home he’d felt safe and loved. Yet, he was always trying to please her, to make her love him. None of this justifies his actions, but hopefully readers understand how he went from a loving little boy to an erotomaniac who created fantasies around real-life celebrities.

What are some strong motivations you’ve seen on television or read about in books? Weak motivations? Share your thoughts and I’m giving away a digital copy of my indie-published Murder in the River City to one lucky commenter!


  1. Mary Marvella // October 10, 2012 at 1:10 AM  

    Good morning, Allison!

  2. Allison Brennan // October 10, 2012 at 2:03 AM  

    Good morning (early morning!!!) Mary -- thank you so much for having me here today. I'll be popping in all day if anyone has any questions or wants to chat! :)

  3. Sonya // October 10, 2012 at 2:11 PM  

    Many years ago, I read Sidney Sheldon's 'Rage of Angels' and never forgot that book.

    The motivation for the heroine turning to the Mafia guy for help was the abduction of her son, so the motivation there was pretty clear and definitely understandable. She wanted her child back, regardless of how she felt about dealing with Michael.

    I felt that the author tapped into the fierceness of a mother's love for her child as her motivation so that when the heroine did cross boundaries, it was understandable and created definite empathy.

  4. Allison Brennan // October 10, 2012 at 2:35 PM  

    EXCELLENT example, Sonya. Exactly the kind of motivations that the average person can relate to. Thanks!

  5. Cheryel Hutton // October 10, 2012 at 2:55 PM  

    I absolutely agree with you, Allison. I had to learn the hard way that motivation is the bedrock of a story. Yes, it was a "duh" moment, LOL.

    Thanks for taking time to be here, I love your books, BTW!

  6. Beth Trissel // October 10, 2012 at 4:12 PM  

    Hello Allison! Welcome. Love the slippers. Your post on motivation is vital. Thanks so much for sharing that and your exciting release.

  7. Mary Marvella // October 10, 2012 at 4:55 PM  

    Wow, Sonya!
    I like that example.

  8. Patrice // October 10, 2012 at 5:32 PM  

    Hi Allison,
    So great to see you here! I have been writing a long time and I have come to realize that motivation is the key to the story. It tells who they are, why they want it and why we should care.
    Great blog.

  9. ckcrouch // October 11, 2012 at 1:26 AM  

    Allison your new book sounds really good and kind of scary. Good luck with it.

  10. Scarlet Pumpernickel // October 14, 2012 at 12:20 AM  

    Allison great blog. I can't wait to read this new story. Thanks for visiting the fuzzies.