Editorial – Feb 2018: Look into the abyss and your motivations look back at you.

February 4, 2018 | By | Reply More

Hello everyone

Motivation is a key part of any writer’s toolbox. It gives impetuous to the plot even at its most basic level of good versus evil. The characters might be doing one thing and be thrown into doing something different because of what is going on in the story. It is their drive that channels their motivation to the new task, if only for survival. Without the right kind of motivation, you just become a bystander, gawping at those with an apparent purpose. It works in fiction as in real life.

As such, motivation tends to become something you watch for in real life in others to understand something outside of our own motivations, assuming you can understand your own. In real life it is more complex than that, mostly because real people have multiple motivations depending on what they are doing in their lives. Fiction tends to simplify things down to the plot at hand. Much of this is for self-interest and then the interest of others afterwards. It can be far more difficult to put on paper although what you do in the fictional world can be picked up by familiarity to the reader and what they recognise. A hidden shorthand if you like.

We can see motivation in anything. Which is a bit odd when it comes to the motivation of the villains of the piece who tend to only out for themselves. Oddly, as we can get from some film villains, we are also fascinated by them even if we were never do it ourselves. At least, I hope that’s true. Then again, that’s how people read fiction. Do real-life villains read fiction to see how nice people act? If anything, it shows how much of a knife-edge self-interest and caring for others actually is. Whatever, it tend to be implicit than necessarily spelt out in a story. No character will stop and do an analysis or self-analysis to the reader, well unless they were a psychologist and hope the reader cared or could fake you out or when the character didn’t follow the profile given. Instinctively, we can sense something isn’t ringing true…most of the time. Another unspoken secret code between writer and reader. Motivation is there whether you can see it or not but it’s an under-current to how you see the characters. The judgment can be left to you as whether characters are doing the right or wrong thing but that can be down to circumstances. Very few writers go into both sets of characters doing the right or bad things at the same time. Mostly because readers like definable heroes and villains. If someone switches sides, you want to see why rather them just doing it. That knife-edge motivation again.

Even so, innate understanding of motivation can also be used with other people in mind. It all depends on what you want or think you need. Politicians, advertisers and even some sorts of religions do that a lot. I could probably convince you to walk across a live volcano to remove excess body hair. I won’t but I suspect it would some of you think it might be a good idea despite the fact that you wouldn’t complete your first step. If anything, it can also demonstrate how susceptible you are to other people’s suggestions.

Motivation is both a strength and weakness and equally exploitable. It can often be below the level of consciousness. If you think not, ask yourself the last time you thought about it? Well, again, unless you’re in advertising, psychology, writing or some of the other subjects above. You will just tend to think you’re making a conscious decision, not realising something is causing you to act that way.

Maybe you don’t call it motivation. How about reason? The ‘why’ of your selection. It might just be a feeling of want or desire but it’s essentially the same thing. Why should anyone be surprised motivation has a variety of names? After all, the same applies to your whole arsenal of emotions. They are all on fader controls from high to low, depending on what you are doing or how they affect you and work in combination. So why should motivation be any different? It gives preferences to your life even if you’re not always in control of what they are.

Motivation isn’t necessarily driven by emotion but by influence. It can be built up by choices made over the years, especially from when you were young. You get a bad taste for some food and you become reluctant to try it again. The same applies to liking a taste and forms of prejudice as well. It covers all kinds of subjects so it’s hardly a simple structure in your mind. It’s also flexible enough to change with new information.

Don’t confuse motivation with drive. The latter only propels a particular choice up to obsessional level as to what you decide. I use the word ‘obsession’ simply because this is the apparent guide to which choice you make when a coin isn’t available. You can feel yourself weighing up your decisions as to what you want far more than how it affects other people. Don’t ever think motivation is the way of easy choices. Well, maybe in fiction. I suspect the simplification in there tries to make it easier to translate if you apply it in the real world. You would think.

Don’t think I can cover all the ramifications of motivation in a single editorial. All I’m doing here is pointing out its complexity and why it doesn’t necessarily translate well into or out of fiction. It is just a layer that should never be forgotten when creating a story. It gives the edge to dimensionalise the characters.

Giving a Science Fiction spin on this, when it comes to Artificial Intelligence, you do have to wonder how you can program motivation? It would need at least an understanding of morals of right and wrong and we all know that these can vary a lot and be the same thing. If an AI learns off its programmers, would it pick up any bad habits that it can’t distinguish from? Morality is something that can’t be programmed, it has to be leant. With the closeness of proper AI ever closer, we have to learn more about ourselves and our motivations before hoping that a nascent AI can cope.


Thank you, take care, good night and know why you do some things and whether you’re being led to think you are.


Geoff Willmetts

editor: SFCrowsnest.info


A Zen thought: I think, therefore you are.


What Qualities Does A Geek Have: When young to assume that everyone has similar talents to yourself and maybe not using them. It’s even scarier to find out they don’t.


The Reveal: The Stan Lee you see in public and films is actually a Life Model Decoy (LMD). The real one is currently living off Nick Fury’s Infinity Formula.


Observation: Have you noticed how many forenames having spellings that don’t match their pronunciation?


Observation: The older you get, the more attention you pay to the age of other people and compare how younger or older than yourself. You either sigh with relief or jump a little based on how old or younger they look to yourself.


Observation: In stories, normal reality gets suspended.


Feeling Stressed: Thank the Illuminati that you don’t have a red button.




Category: World getting weirder

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About UncleGeoff

Geoff Willmetts has been editor at SFCrowsnest for some 21 plus years now, showing a versatility and knowledge in not only Science Fiction, but also the sciences and arts, all of which has been displayed here through editorials, reviews, articles and stories. With the latter, he has been running a short story series under the title of ‘Psi-Kicks’
If you want to contribute to SFCrowsnest, read the guidelines and show him what you can do. If it isn’t usable, he spends as much time telling you what the problems is as he would with material he accepts. This is largely how he got called an Uncle, as in Dutch Uncle. He’s not actually Dutch but hails from the west country in the UK.

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