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QUESTION: It seems as though in some of your books you have a hard time with a character doing anything without an intricate explanation of his/her motives. Do you have motives in mind before deciding on the specific actions of a character or do you write specifically to a story then decide on the motives of the characters as your explaining them.

-- Submitted by Josh Bowen

OSC REPLIES: - October 5, 1999

The only thing that really matters about a character is why he does what he does. There are two explanations: mechanical cause and motive. Mechanical cause consists of outside forces impelling him to act as he does; motive is what he thinks the results of his act will be. It is precisely on issues of motive that our moral judgment of our fellow human beings depends, and therefore the meaning of all stories absolutely depends on motive. When motive is not carefully and intricately examined and explained, the reader is left to assume only the most obvious motive. But rarely is the obvious motive the complete story. Thus I tend to explain motive very clearly and carefully; this is what creates my characters and makes them alive in the minds of my readers. (I believe this is what creates ALL characters and makes them alive in the minds of the readers but I take control of it more than most.)

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