Pamela Jaye Smith’s book ‘Inner Drives’ is all about the motivations that drive characters to do what they do. She brings it down to eight basic ones but shows that people can change between them. For those of you who write, having an understanding of the growth and change in a character over the course of a story can only enhance your ability to understand it.
Although this looks like a slim book, it is loaded with a lot of information on motivating different sorts of characters and yes, there is also a healthy amount of Science Fiction referenced and she looks like she’s a fan of ‘Star Trek’ and Frank Herbert. Indeed, Smith points out examples from all the genres and I found it fun seeing how many of the films referenced that I’d actually seen, which was quite a lot. Although this book is targeted at scriptwriters, the same information here is good for us prose writers as well.
One thing is common to all is her urging to try out various things for experience, even if it is American orientated with certain things that we can’t do over here. In many respects, I’m reminded of Lawrence Olivier to Dustin Hoffman while filming ‘Marathon Man’ and act rather than method act. Experience helps yes, but with SF there is so much you can’t really do. Neither my spaceship nor time machine still works and I have problems getting to other planets because of it. I do have some odd images of people taking on different looks from this book and confusing the hell out of their friends and anyone else they encounter as they try out these various mindsets. However, motivation is common to all genres and understanding what drives people can be applied to all environments.
Although I’m not entirely happy with the various titles she calls these motivations, mostly because you would need to have read this book to know their names so you have a common language to talk in.
From a content point of view, following Smith’s later chapters as characters move from one type of motivation to another or altered by that of other people is a key element of any story. Although I suspect a lot of writers would like to think that they can handle such things as natural events, treat this as a tick-off list to ensure you haven’t forgotten anything vital. Smith makes the point of showing a mistake in Disney’s ‘The Lion King’ as a key note in this so that you can’t take your eye off the ball or crown, so to speak.
Understanding what motivates different people is the key to variety in any story and if you can come away from this book with an understanding of that then you can apply this to your own stories then you would have learnt a lot. To make your characters stronger and less two-dimensional then the more effect you will have on your readers.
Don’t underestimate this book. If you use Smith’s exercises, I’m sure you’ll develop useful habits and certainly get more experience under your belt, both of which will improves your character writing.
(pub: Michael Wiese Productions. 237 page indexed small enlarged paperback. Price: $26.95 (US), £15.99 (UK). ISBN: 978-1-932907-03-2)
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