Friday, March 24, 2017

Motive? What Motive?: When Books Parallel Life

I have had one freelance editing project or another going almost all of the time for the past year. Before then, most of my projects were more "beta reading" jobs. While editing (at least line editing/copyediting, as I do) is an intensive check on grammar, spelling, and sentence structure, beta reading is more like just reading the book thoroughly, looking for loops in the plot or such. Because I'm just a cool editor like that, I always include some "beta reader analysis" when I finish the project, even if it is technically a line editing or copyediting job.

One specific thing I have had to point out to several authors, now, is motive.

Humans don't just do what humans do. Humans always have a motive, whether we see it or not. We always have a motive, whether we're willing to admit it or not. So, in a book, if the main characters don't have something driving them, even if unexposed to us, it's unbelievable. It's unrealistic.

So this is my advice to any aspiring writers out there, especially if you're doing fiction: give all of your characters real, believable motives, even if you're the only person in the universe who knows them.

What are they driven by? Fear of... something? Fear of failure? Fear of what people think about them? Are they driven by greed? Lust? Anger or revenge? Love and compassion?

Find the motive.

But this parallels real life, too. 

Janan and I were talking recently and we came up with this most beautiful daydream of our future travels. In this amazing, fictitious alternate future, we were going to go some amazing places, see some amazing things, climb some amazing waterfalls, snap some amazing pictures, hug some amazing people... It was going to be amazing. ;)

But in this conversation, I saw immediately what was missing.

Call it my editor's eye. Or beta reader's eye. Whichever. That eye that has been training itself for a few years now on seeing the loopholes, recognizing unrealistic subplots, and, yep, you guessed it, watching for the motive.

"Why would we do that? What's the motive?" I asked Janan.

We fumbled around the bush for a few minutes, but nothing was satisfying me. The whole daydream developed a bitter taste in my mouth.

My motive? If that dream happened? Me. 

Self-centered, self-indulgent, self-seeking, self-serving me. I just like to travel.

How sad is that?! If I let myself think and dream, it's way too easy to come up with ways I think I could make myself happy.

So, friends, about that college decision, missions trip opportunity, job application, whatever you're facing, I want to ask you... what's your motive? 

If you can dig to the bottom of that and find money or selfish pleasure or anything else that doesn't align with God and His Word, it's not good enough for you. God has huge, great, truly amazing plans for your life that will be so much bigger and better than anything you could ever dream up for yourself! (Even if you are great at dreaming, like Janan and I... ;)

Don't settle for a pretty good plan, when God is offering His greatest plan, just beyond.

But when in doubt, and when your version of the Bible doesn't have very clear advice on college or career paths, I challenge you to define the motive.

And don't fool yourself. God's Glory is not always going to be your motive. Love for your neighbors is not always going to be your intent. I'm not asking you to blog about it; just be honest with yourself and draw nigh to God.


That was just on my heart.

And when God shows Himself faithful and loving as often as my God does, I just can't help but to talk about it. :)

1 comment:

  1. This was definitely a toe-stepper. Which is good. Conviction is good for us,whether we like it or not! Thanks for this post..I was really drawn in by the title. :)


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