Make ’em Wanna — Motivation


Bernadette wants the carrot. Bernadette reaches up and plucks one end of the bow holding the carrot. The carrot drops into Bernadette’s hand.

Wonderful. A happy ending to a … to a what exactly? An exciting story? A saleable book? Why would anybody pay good money (or even bad money) to read this story — and it is a story. It has a beginning, a middle, and an end. It contains motivation (she wants it), action (she unties the bow), a resolution (she gets the carrot).

Let’s ramp it up. Let’s give a reader the “motivation” to turn to the next page, shall we?

Let’s say that Bernadette wants the carrot but the carrot is at the Superstore across town and it’s not open yet. Ah. Now you’re making your reader wonder: How will she get her carrot if the store isn’t open yet? Maybe I’ll turn the page to see what happens.

The reader turns the page to learn that Bernadette has no car, no bicycle and her Presto card is maxed-out so she can’t even go by bus and it’s too far to walk.

Dear Reader will no doubt say to himself something along the lines of: “Oh, well. I guess she doesn’t get her carrot then. And do I care? Not really.”

But what if …?

  1. What if it’s a special magical carrot that she must keep out of the hands of the Evil Witch or Earth will be turned into a desert wasteland?
  2. What if it’s a special herbal carrot that will save her brother, Little Johnny, from succumbing to a rare medical condition?
  3. What if the carrot is not really a carrot at all but contains a secret code to unlock the mysteries of the ancient pharaohs?
  4. What if the carrot is contaminated with Ebola virus?

Even this is not enough. What if …

  1. Bernadette has access to a spaceship so doesn’t have to stay here when Earth is turned into a wasteland?
  2. Bernadette and Little Johnny live right beside a hospital?
  3. Bernadette has always hated history so doesn’t care a fig about ancient pharaohs?
  4. Bernadette has enough food to barricade herself in her own house until the World Health Organization guys clean up the Ebola mess?

What can we do then? How do we motivate Bernadette?

  1. The spaceship needs a password …
  2. In his declining mental state, Little Johnny wanders away from home …
  3. Bernadette has a summer job at the museum and accidentally reads, out loud, the translation of an ancient papyrus and this wakes up the mummy on the third floor …
  4. Bernadette is the only one who knows about the Ebola virus on the carrot but the cops won’t believe her because her ex is a cop and told everybody she’s a wacko …

We now have four stories worth turning pages for!

Next post: Dilemma = Forced Motivation

Sherrill Wark is the author of Really Stupid Writing Mistakes: How to Avoid Them:

… and Death in l’Acadie: a Kesk8a story (fiction):


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