This weekend, the Madisonville-North Hopkins High School Maroons won the regional basketball championship. The atmosphere was positively electric. I sat behind the student section, where the passion was at its highest. We screamed, chanted, waved and sang.
I also people-watched.
As a writer, people-watching is a very informative pastime. Why, you ask? Because people-watching is a great way to delve into character motivation.
What Moves You?
The basketball players on the court are obviously motivated by one thing–a desire to win. But have you ever thought about what thoughts are coursing through their heads?
Can’t miss that shot. Gotta block that. Man, he’s fast. What kind of call was that?
And then there are the coaches, of course.
What kind of call was that? Is he blind? Who was he passing that to? Oh, he’s running at practice tomorrow.
The real entertainment is in the crowd. As the score changes, the crowd changes. We led most of the game, and you could visibly watch the other side of the room deflate.
We’re not going to do this. How can we come back from this? I just want to cry.
Putting It In Practice
When I talk about writing with my students, one of the things we discuss the most frequently is character motivation. Their characters end up being very one-dimensional because they forget to think about what moves their characters.
A great people-watching exercise to practice this is to choose just one person. Don’t stare, because that’s just weird, but look them over and then start mentally playing with their character.
- Who are they?
- Why have they come?
- What’s their backstory?
- What’s their motivation?
- What will they do next?
When you really know your characters, it’s a lot easier to write them. You find that the characters take on a life inside your head. You can hear their voice pouring out through your pen or keyboard.
It’s important, though, to be sure that you really flesh out those thoughts. For example, if I were to choose a basketball player, it’s not enough for me to say that he wants to win the game so he can win–that’s a foregone conclusion, and it’s not very individual.
Maybe he wants to win so that his father will finally be proud of him. Or he wants to win because he desperately needs a college scholarship and scouts will be at the tournament. It’s possible he wants to win because his grandfather died and he’s doing it to honor his memory. There’s a story behind each of those thoughts. I can take those characters and really go somewhere with them.
What about you? Do you like to people-watch?
About Micki Clark
Micki Clark is the author of Don’t Ask Me to Leave, published in March 2017. Don’t Ask Me to Leave is a modern-day retelling of the Biblical story of Ruth and Naomi, set in beautiful Montgomery County, Kentucky. Follow her on Facebook (http://www.facebook.com/AuthorMickiSClark) and Twitter (http://www.twitter.com/MickiSClark).
Newlywed Rachel Miller has everything she could want from life—the perfect husband, her dream job, and a cute little house in the country—but the daydream is shattered when her husband is killed in a tragic accident. Her mother-in-law, Nadine, takes her in as she tries to pick up the pieces, and their handsome neighbor Beau is willing to help…if Rachel will let him. Does she dare open her heart for a second chance at love?