A Character’s Purpose

What’s the Purpose?

When authors describe their characters, they are often asked to state a characters’ motivations. A common reply might be, “The character Jane wants to be president.” Often that is accepted as a valid motivation. In fact, becoming president is Jane’s Purpose, not her motivation. Her motivation may be that she felt no control over her life as a child. Or she might be motivated by a love of the natural world, hoping to instigate a national conservation plan. She might be motivated by a desire for an equal rights amendment.

Just knowing what her purpose is does not tell us anything about what Jane is driven by but only what she is driven toward. Any of the stated motivations would be sufficient to explain Jane’s purpose of becoming president. Conversely, if Jane’s motivation were the first example – a lack of control over her life as a child – several different purposes might satisfy that motivation. She might become a school teacher, a drill sergeant, or a religious leader. Clearly, motivations do not specifically dictate purposes, nor are purposes indicative of any particular motivations.

From the Dramatica Theory Book

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