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I've been away for awhile, but am back! Even have a spiffy new laptop for writing (sharing with hubby) and for traveling so I can still work. Ok sidetracked here ...
My MC in my mystery novel is one of 4 cops in a homicide division. Akin to Beckett in the TV show Castle (she's the main cop out of the group).
Yes, he's solving this homicide because that is his job, but he's also extra motivated because of how the women victims (both living and dead) are being treated ... something similar to what happened to his baby sister (who is still alive and well). He, his sister and his parents are all a close-knit family. So, what happened to his sister is still raw to him, even though it's been several years. These crimes hit a bit close to home for him. His sister's attacker was never found. So, he's kind of substituting one justice for another.
I know what I'm trying to say, but took some pain meds a bit ago and am way over tired. LOL. Just nod your head like you understand and I'll be happy. hehehehe =)
For detectives, PIs, etc ... motivations typically are: a) they are always looking to be challenged (think Sherlock Holmes); b) they solve murders as a substitute to something in their past (think Harry Bosch and my MC); c) they know who the victim was (many cozies come to mind ... they are living in the community, visiting the group of friends the victim was associated with, etc).
Just my quick take on it ...
WIP #1: Man's Inner Beast |*| Murder Mystery |*| Word Count: 13,003 |*| W1S1 Novel Challenge
WIP #2: Untitled |*| Paranormal Erotica |*| Word Count: 4578
WIP #3: VIsions of the Unexpected |*| SciFi/Romance |*| Word Count: 20,000
WIP #4: Matched by Magic |*| Paranormal Romance |*| Word Count: 2000 |*| Camp NaNo 2012
Good to see you, BE! And that's a great motive.
I think a good way to solidify the crazy part is to give an insight into what made that person crazy - then you get to motive. For instance, I wrote a book about a serial killer of drag queens...and he was killing them because daddy was abusive and liked to wear mommies undies... so that got down to the why of it.
> a) they are always looking to be challenged
> (think Sherlock Holmes);
Sherlock Holmes is probably the perfect case here. IIRC, he ran out of money before he could finish university. His application to Scotland Yard was turned as he lacked the credentials. So Holmes takes amusement in solving Scotland Yard cases, the very organization which doesn't recognize his abilities because simply he doesn't have a diploma, and yet comes to him when they run out of options.
Motivation can be a deceptive trail to follow.
My murderer (not the MC) is a failed magician deeply envious of a woman who can do magic better. He can't work out how she does what she does. In the course of a dinner party of gathered amateur magician, he suddenly realises he could kill his rival and get away with it because he has accidentally discovered a vulnerability that nobody else knows about. The envy alone would not have been enough to push him into actually committing a crime but when the unforeseen and serendipitous opportunity presents itself, he acts on his gambling instinct and does it because he is certain he can get away with it.
Jack: That, my dear Algy, is the whole truth pure and simple.
Algernon: The truth is rarely pure and never simple. Modern life would be very tedious if it were either, and modern literature a complete impossibility!
It's okay to know the hero's motivation, because I'll accept that it's his/her work, hobby, fascination, whatever. But I definitely want to know the murderer's motivation. I try to avoid books where murder is the murderer's hobby.
If you're struggling with motivation, and you want to go the "He's just crazy" route, you might be able to solve the problem by showing why he's crazy. If he was born crazy, in a 'Michael Meyers/Halloween' sort of way, then show the first time that craziness came out. Remember, Michael Meyers butchered his sister at the beginning of the film, and that was enough. You have to establish his personality in some way, or else the character will feel thin and unsatisfying.
The old detective novels did this all the time. Ross Macdonald, who IMO is the best detective novelist who ever lived, never said more than a few words about his detective, Lew Archer. But when he did, it spoke volumes. The one instance that sticks out to me was when a character told Archer that she'd heard about him. He asked what she'd heard, and her response was, "I've heard you're a very lonely man."
That was it.
But through Archer, readers were introduced to such a wide range of characters, all completely round and bursting with personality and motivation, that readers devoured the books. They were what the books were about. Archer (like Reacher and Bosch, etc) are just tour guides.
My problem with motive is that sometimes people don't know what drives them; there's not an immediate, discernible factor. Sometimes we do things because we're idiots, or self-destructive. I guess that's not really enough of an explanation for real life or fiction, though.
Motive? I'm menopausal, I don't need no stinkin' motive!
When I'm good, I'm very good; but when I'm bad, I'm better.
That is Mae West, not me.
> You might not know what drives Reacher to sneak into
> the the mob bosses mansion
That information is usually spelled out before the first fist is thrown. What propels Reacher into the story is his inclination to fix the wrongs; what keeps him in the story is his sense of military pride to 'finish the job'.
As a reader, I don't need to have the full psychological profile and biography to believe into his rationale to do the things he does. The above is sufficient. It is believable enough.
And that's what motivation supports: a) it propel the MC into the story, and b) keeps him/her locked in it.
> , but it doesn't matter because
> the story isn't about Reacher.
It IS about Reacher. What makes Reacher interesting is how he mixes his investigative genius with brute force, many times with surprising results.
Maybe an explanation for what drove him or her crazy would help? Like being in 'nam or Desert Storm or Afghanistan. So many wars to choose from (Don't know if I need to put a smiley or a sad face)
I've been going for the simple motivations - greed, jealousy etc for the killer and a love of mystery novels and detective work for the MC.