Writing Immersive Character Backgrounds – Part 2

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Here we are with part two of the character background writing articles, if you have not read the first part, it would be helpful if you did!

Here is part 2

Writing Immersive Character Backgrounds – Part 2

3. Motive

Next to the question of what your character is trying to achieve is the question of why.

  • What drives your character
  • Why does they do the things they do?
  • A motive is a persistent concern for some goal.

Basically, a motive is some form of need.

Your character has a need for something and that drives them to their actions, whether they realize it or not. The better the motivation, the more hunger your character has to get things done, so what creates the intentions behind the actions?

There is a variety of needs that can motivate people, some of which include:

Achievement – Someone with this need sets out to accomplish difficult tasks. This person might maintain high standards and work towards distant goals. They might enjoy competition and are generally willing to put forth more effort to attain excellence.

Affiliation – Someone with the need for affiliation enjoys being around people, enjoys being with friends and will accept people readily. This person would make efforts to win friendships and maintain associations with people.

Aggression – Someone who needs aggression enjoys combat and argument. This person is easily annoyed and willing to hurt people in their way. They might seek to “get even.”

Autonomy – Someone with the need for autonomy tries to break away from restraints, confinement, or restrictions of any kind. They enjoy being unattached, free from people, places, or obligations, and may become rebellious when faced with restraints of any sort.

Exhibition – Someone with this need wants to be the center of attention. This person enjoys having an audience and engages in behavior that wins the notice of others. They may enjoy being dramatic or witty.

Safety – Someone who needs safety does not enjoy exciting activities, especially if danger is involved. They avoid risk of bodily harm and seek to maximize personal safety.

Nurturing – Someone with the need to nurture gives sympathy and comfort, assisting others whenever possible. They’re interested in caring for children, the disabled, or the infirm and offer a helping hand to those in need. This person readily performs favors for others.

Order – Someone with this need is concerned with keeping peaceful or harmonious conditions in society. They seek to maintain the status quo and stop those who would change the balance of power.  They dislike clutter, confusion, and lack of organization. This person will often fight injustice without discussion or debate.

Power – Someone with the need for power attempts to control their environment and influence other people. This person expresses opinions forcefully and tends to enjoy the role of leader, which they may assume spontaneously.

Succor – Someone who needs succor frequently seeks the sympathy, protection, love, advice, and reassurance of other people. They might feel insecure or helpless without such support and confide difficulties readily to a receptive person.

Understanding – Someone with this need wants to understand many areas of knowledge. This person often has a strong intellectual curiosity and values the synthesis of ideas and logical thought.

Making obvious choices for your character’s class here is not the best way to go.  Yes, its easy for the warrior to be aggressive or to have the wizard thirst for power, but that doesn’t make for good role-playing or good character interaction.

What do you think about a wizard that is nurturing? Perhaps he wants to use his magic to help people.  What about a warrior that’s understanding?  Yes, he can dazzle you with his swordplay, but he can also woo you with great poems or dazzle you with his understanding of agriculture and quote from the great tacticians of ages gone past.

Although these are fairly odd examples, what do you think might have made these people become a wizard or a fighter in the first place?

Its generally a good idea to give a character multiple motivations, as otherwise they become flat, one dimensional things very quickly!

Part 3 is on its way, and you’ll find it posted very soon.

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