Motion detector

Joe’s Post #43 – 

imagesCAPS4TFLAs the rewriting process begins, Silk brought up something we talked about at the retreat. A vital aspect to good story telling – Put your characters in motion.

But hey, it’s more than just moving them around. It’s not simply a matter of drawing a character and animating it.

Having a character walk with a cup of coffee in their hand is, in fact, motion. But does it move the story forward? Not really.  Having someone climb out onto a ledge twenty stories up, the wind whipping his tie, the concrete at his feet slippery with rain, a cup of coffee in his hand, could add tension, especially for someone like me who’s afraid of heights. But is that what we meant by characters in motion?


Silk wisely suggested adding emotion. A distraught man climbs out onto a ledge twenty stories up, the wind whipping his tie, the concrete at his feet slippery with rain, a cup of coffee in his hands. Better, right? (Oh sure I kinda told you he was distraught but bear with me.)

Now, to me this begins to work because of a 3rd component. The most important component. A goal. Something the character strives for, (or even better), drives towards.

A character with a goal is moving. Either towards the goal, or, as great writers do, farther and farther away despite their best efforts. A character with a goal is someone we want to follow. A character with a goal has motion, even if it’s inside their head.

So, putting a character in motion is more than just one thing. Movement makes for more of a dynamic scene.  Walking vs sitting. Emotion makes for a more dynamic scene. Random stroll on a ledge 20 stories up vs a distraught man climbing out on a ledge.

Add a goal, though and you have a great scene. In the ledge example, the implication is that he wants to kill himself. It’s like a hidden goal. We don’t read, hey, his goal was to jump off and go splat. No, it’s implied (or we infer it.)  Nothing wrong with having a hidden want or one that the readers will guess.

However, great story telling comes from what if’s.

imagesCA2DKYZ8So what if he goal was to cool off his coffee? Kind of a nutbag thing to do but whatever. What if he goal was to reach a stray kitten who’d wandered out on the ledge (though I would, at some point, have to justify why he took a freaking cup of coffee with him.) What if his goal was to retrieve a valuable computer jump drive he’d hidden on the ledge and what if he’d been told (at gunpoint) to go out on the ledge by some evil villain (who looks a lot like Willem Dafoe) who threatened to shoot his wife and, being somewhat in shock, our hero simply forgot to let go of the coffee?

Ah, the joy of goals. Emotion provides motion with a reason why we should care. Goals provide motion with a purpose.

And that’s what I think about at midnight when I can’t get to sleep.

Pages rewritten: 30

Pages thrown out 20.

Pages put aside but likely to hit the delete bin: 15.

Cool movies seen: Despicable Me 2.  Funny! Charming. Short. Love the minions, love Agnes, love animation. Super fun for the kids, fun-fun for the adults.

Best Surprisingly Good TV Show: Hannibal. Not for the squeamish, but man, oh man, what a show.

Most Fun I Had This Month: Geocaching.

3 thoughts on “Motion detector

  1. You are so, so right about goals … The things that weld motion and emotion together. Oh yeah, and where did you get that weird lion graphic thing? And what does it mean?

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