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And I do mean EVERYTHING. Why do you do what you do? What is your story? If you don’t know the motivation of why someone is doing something or not doing something, it’s so much harder to relate or have empathy towards that person or understand what is going on. Imagine Breaking Bad and we see Walter White going off on his meth making journey without knowing why, what his motive is. I guarantee that within a few episodes we’ll become tired of waiting to find out why and zap away.
But how you go about to putting that in the story is another thing. You can put it out there very obvious, too obvious, or go on the journey with the protagonist and discover his motives along the way. And when do I tell the motivation? Let’s say you show the crime first and then go on the journey to figure out whodunit and why. Like in a murder mystery, either open or closed, either we see from the beginning who is the perpetrator (open) or we too don’t know who has done it (closed). And you can give clues to his or her life and we start guessing what could be the MOTIVE.
The other day I was watching a documentary on the ID channel and one detective was explaining the 3 things they look for in a suspect: means (tools), motive (why) and opportunity (time). Let’s say they have had the means and the opportunity. You would still want to know why they might have done it. It’s frustrating when you see someone being sentenced in court for a crime, because the evidence is so overwhelming, but motive is lacking, they will not speak up why they did it. Apart from it being another piece of evidence of course, it’s very unsatisfying, we want to know why, we want story, we always do. Well, most of us, most of the time. I had a colleague who wasn’t interested in the why’s so much, but maybe I already talked about that. If someone is stealing a bread because they’re hungry and have no money or because they are a kleptomaniac, the why is crucial in how to go about in changing that, them, isn’t it?
Why. It’s the most asked question in childhood, I feel. ‘Because I say so’. It’s understandable, but I also know that you should explain as much as possible, at the right age possible. People want story. They want context. It will stick better and you will be more motivated to do something when you know why you are doing it.
A comedian Michael Jr. I believe his name is, once said in a talk ‘When you know your ‘why’, your ‘what’ has more impact, because you’re walking in or towards your purpose’. Now, of course this was meant to be more about when you’re just doing your job or whatever you do and you have no clue why you’re doing it, chances are the ‘what’ you’re doing, with no soul or motivation behind it, will indeed have less impact, because you don’t know why you’re doing it.
Figure out why you’re doing what you’re doing. And through that you will be able to make a change, also in yourself. I always go to bed late and I want to change that. But if I don’t know why I do it, it will be hard to change or maintain the changed behavior. You can do it for a couple of days, but then slip back to the old habit. Many people struggle with changing habits they don’t like. As long as they fail to discover why they’re doing it – and this can be a painful discovery – they will not succeed in changing or quitting that habit. It is as simple as that.
Back to the screenplay: my protagonist is doing this and that and that. And the whole time I’m thinking ‘but why’. And as long as I don’t have a convincible ‘why’, I cannot make him move forward. How can I write his actions if I don’t know why he’s doing them. Everything needs a reason, a motivation. Back to the BUT and THEREFORE exercise. Every move needs to be motivated. I think John Lasseter speaks about it in the rules of animation. It’s even stronger in animation, because it’s so difficult and expensive to make. When the character lifts his arm, you need to know why. It needs to be motivated by his thoughts, his thinking, the story. His actions will reveal his thinking, his motivation.
Motivation is everything.
We’ll come back to this, I’m sure.