Kelly Canter: award winning musician caught in a tragic cycle of self-destruction. Her actions kill her unborn child, her marriage, and, eventually, herself.
That’s how I felt when I watched Country Strong, a movie featuring Gwenyth Paltrow and Tim McGraw. During the flick, the only thing that we, the audience, knows is that Kelly is an addict and no one knows why. Even her husband is clueless, at one point saying that she was the strongest person he knew…until she wasn’t. So what happened to destroy her life? No one knows.
As a writer, I can’t stop wondering if even the screenwriter knew. It’s easy to want a character to be a certain way or do a certain thing, but there needs to be a motive. Without a motive, it’s possible to watch a beautiful, talented character commit suicide and not feel sad because you don’t have an emotional connection. Without that connection, it’s hard to care what’s happening.
I’ve read a lot about creating characters who need a goal and motive, but I admit that I’ve never really understood its importance until I saw this movie. Even then I thought I was being overly critical, but then I heard my non-writer sister say that she felt the same way.
Now I’m extremely motivated to understand my characters’ motivations. I want people to care if my main character swallows a bottle of pills. Otherwise you’re not reading the story of my character’s life, you’re reading a second-hand account from a person who doesn’t really know all of the details. I don’t want to be that writer – I want to know it all.
QUESTION: What motivates you?