I will thank the Lord with all my heart as I meet with his godly people. How amazing are the deeds of the Lord! All who delight in him should ponder them. Psalm 111:1-2 NLT

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Why of Why


Why?

Why do we do the things we do?

I love to work out. It doesn’t matter if I'm jogging on the treadmill, using the elliptical or taking an aerobics class. I love working out! If I have a busy week and I have to skip exercising, look out! Grumpy shows up.

Some people may think working out is frivolous--a waste of time. If you asked me why exercise is such a big deal, my first answer to you would be ... bread. Really. I look at any kind of bread and it appears on my hips. So I have to work out to control the consequences of my bread addiction.

If you asked me “why” again, I would answer with, “It’s my time. No children, hubby or work--and definitely no cell phone.”

If you asked me “why” again, I would say, "Anything within my own power that I can do to live to see my children grow up, I’m going to do." Why? I would finally answer with the real reason, “My mother died of cancer when she was 29. I was just a baby."

There, the real reason I work out. There's a definitive link between high Body Mass Index (BMI) and cancer, according to the American Cancer Society. I don’t want to leave my children like my mother had to leave me.

Asking Why is a great My Book Therapy (MBT) tool to help you figure out your characters and their real motivations. Keep asking your characters “Why" until you uncover their core motivations.

In my work-in-progress (WIP), my hero Rand works in small town USA at the local feed store. Why does my character Rand stay when he could leave? His first answer: He enjoys his job. His second answer: He is responsible and works hard to meet his obligations. Why is Rand so responsible? He would respond, “I’ve lived with my aunt and uncle ever since my parents died. They raised me like their own, even when they began having their own children. Now my aunt is a widow."

Aha! Now we know why Rand really stays: He feels obligated to be there for his aunt because she took care of him.

Look at your WIP and make sure you have gone deep enough to discover the heart of your characters. Ask them, “Why” until they are positively exasperated with you and blurt out the truth--not some pat answers.


Blessings!
Alena Tauriainen






Photo by dhigaum/stockxchng.com

12 comments:

  1. Just like our characters, we have core motivations for why we do things. I just started working out on a regular basis. The first two days were torture, but then I found an alternative work-out. Now I'm enjoying the exercise because it's giving me more energy and helping me to lose weight.

    Undercovering our character's core motivations will add layers to their stories and provide the reader with a richer reading experience. Great post, Alena!

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  2. I love asking the why questions. I have to be careful not to give too many details of the answers.

    I swear I grow with every novel I write (not just as a writer, but as a person).
    ~ Wendy

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  3. Lisa,
    I am so glad! I try to do different things while I'm working out. On the treadmill I listen to my ipod or watch a show.(That is how I got hooked on NCIS...lol).

    Blessings!
    Alena T.

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  4. Wendy,
    I totally agree. The more I write, the more I grow as a person. You would think I would have a handle on it by now. :-)

    Blessings!
    Alena T.

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  5. Alena, love this post! Though I haven't made working out a priority (and I'm NOT ready to ask "Why?" yet), I see the value of it. I love how you used that aspect of your life to drive home a writing truth that is also a good life application. :) As I'm re-working my WIP, I find myself asking that question of my characters again. I also ponder that word in some of the areas of my life.
    Thanks for sharing this post. It was great!

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  6. AT, great post. I especially LOVED hearing just a little about what you are working on. I miss you, buddy!

    Wanna go for a run? Wink.

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  7. I love the way you take us deeper w/ question after question until we come to the true Inciting Incident. Well done! Glad to hear more about your WIP and wishing you forward progress and family and work blessings!

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  8. I agree with all the comments! Love your hero and the way you revealed his motivation. Looking forward to reading more about him.

    Thanks Alena for the reminder that I need to get back into the work out routine. I do Pilates 2x a week, but that's not really aerobic.

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  9. Compelling post, Alena.
    You showed how asking "why, why, why" creates a deeper character.
    And to think, as moms we get tired of our kids asking why. We should be encouraging them!!

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  10. Why? and What if? - two critical tools in the writer's toolkit! Thanks for the reminder that I should not be satisfied with asking *Why?* just once, but I should ask it again and again until I reach the foundational answer. And this applies to plot, characters, even to setting. Why is my story set in a big city vs. a small town? Why in a valley vs. on a mountaintop? Asking Why, Why, Why? now will result in Yay, Yay, Yay later!

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  11. Such a great post, Alena! And practical, too. In fact, I'm going to write "WHY" in big bold letters on the markerboard in my writing room...

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  12. Amazing how much I learn even from your comments!

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