Hello guys. Great work, I’m a fan and a constant follower of your posts and podcasts. I’m writing a story that features two main characters who happen to be brothers. The two MCs go through a lot of trials throughout the story and go through a lot of internal and external changes. Is it okay for a character’s external and internal motivations to change frequently throughout the story or should they remain static?-Imaginarian Darkstalker
Hey, Imaginarian, great to hear from you again!
The answer to this question depends a lot on what happens in your story and how often you mean by “frequently.” A character’s motivation can certainly change throughout the story, but such changes have to flow from what readers already know about the character and what’s happening in the story.
For example, if the protagonist is trying to get revenge for the murder of their sibling, but then they find out that their sibling is still alive and held captive, their motivation would naturally change to rescuing the sibling instead. Or the protagonist might start out deeply in love, and their motivation is to get married. But then their love betrays them, so the protagonist’s motivation changes to revenge.
If the protagonist’s motivations aren’t tied to their established traits and what’s happening in the story, then they’ll come across like Eragon from Eldest, a story where the author seems to be trying every arc he can think of until he finds one that sticks. This makes the character feel scattered and inconsistent.
Likewise, you want to avoid motivation changes that require leaving a conflict unresolved or rushing its resolution. For example, your protagonist might be driven by trying to take down the evil general who destroyed their village. That’s a big deal and readers will expect a satisfying resolution. You might want to change their motivation to stopping an alien invasion, and even if that change makes sense in the story, readers will be annoyed that the evil general story was dropped. They’ll be similarly annoyed if the protagonist spends a couple lines deciding that, actually, they don’t need revenge.
So the short version is that yes, you can change your character’s motivation, but you need to be careful in doing so. The more changes you make, the likelier it is that problems will seep in.
Hope that answers your question, and good luck with your story!