Love is the motive

I’ve been brainstorming up a new Sonic story. I write about one per year, and it makes my fans so happy.

Anyway, as I was figuring out the character arcs for everybody, it dawned on me that the root motive of every last character is some kind of love. And it’s funny, because it’s has almost no romance.

One character loves his sister with this obsession, because she was in stasis for years and has just recently awakened again. He’s extremely jealous of the other characters for having any contact at all with her.

The other characters are fond of the sister, except for one character, who falls in love with her magic. This is bad for him, because the magic is slowly killing him.

All of them love their home island, which has been stolen from them by the bad guy, and they’re struggling to get it back.

As I was pondering this, I started looking at other books. Who else is motivated by love? Harry Potter? (Love of friends and home.) The Railway Children? (Love of family.) Trumpet of the Swan? (Love of family.)

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It’s interesting, because I’ve also been plotting out murder mysteries for my dragon cozy series. Murderers are motivated by everything except love: lust, greed, jealousy, pride, anger, and so on. (Is sloth ever a motivation for murder? You’d think a slothful person would be too lazy to kill anyone.)

It’s interesting to see the way things turn out. A bad motive leads to evil actions. A good motive (like love) can lead to good outcomes, except when it doesn’t. (I’m thinking of the necromancer in Malevolent who is obsessed with resurrecting his dead wife.) Or when love of one’s country (patriotism) turns to frenzied conquering of the world.

But when you have selfless, sacrificial love, you get beautiful stories like Linnets and Valerians, which I just finished reading to the kids. Four children get caught up in a series of curses and black magic that surround this little English town. They have to break the curses with the help of friendly animals and good people, who are pitted against the evil animals and people. Their love has to overcome a bitter root of jealousy that has been there for years.

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I think the sacrificial love stories are the ones that stick with us the longest. That’s what makes a story beautiful. The nice thing is, it has nothing to do with romance. Oh, it works in romance, too, but love is so much bigger than that.

Villains can be motivated by love, too. Love of self is the easiest one–“I’m better than everybody else so I deserve better treatment/a better spouse/more money/to rule the world.” But what if a villain is motivated by love for a person? That’s why Mr. Freeze from Batman is one of my favorite villains. Everything he does is to try to save his wife, who is frozen in stasis with incurable cancer. The motivation there is fascinating.

So, next time you write a story, see if your characters are motivated by love in some way. Pay attention to movies and TV shows. Who is motivated by love, even if it’s twisted?

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How bits and pieces add up to a story

I think most writers have bits of old stories collecting dust somewhere. We write snippits and scenes, and hide them away in our notebooks and hard drives, stumbling upon them years later with cries of delight.

“What does this mean?” we exclaim. “What was I thinking? What was the rest of this idea?” And if enough time has gone by, we’ve forgotten what it meant. And it’s up for grabs for incorporating into our current work.

The Spacetime series has been under construction for so many years that it has lots of extra plots lying around. One plot that got cut was the story of Echo. She was Carda’s girlfriend who mysteriously died–come to find out that she was this weird timeline copy of a girl named Alatha. Alatha had had some kind of magical accident that split her into echoes, and each echo had developed its own life.

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Old art of Carda, Xironi, and Ben the time elemental lizard thing.

All that was crammed into book one, The Strider of Chronos. If we had left in all the plots, the poor book would have been a thousand pages long. So I set it aside for a different book. Lo and behold, along comes Magic Weaver. It’s finally time to tell Alatha’s story.

Except my husband and I couldn’t figure out how to tell the story in a way that made sense. If a person is split into copies, are the copies alternate realities? Are they good/evil clones? Are they personality aspects?

We tossed around all kinds of ideas. A lot of them were too silly, like, everybody has seen the evil double plot in cartoons.

I decided to try writing Alatha as split into two people, Alatha and Echo. One would be good and one would be evil. Except upon trying to write it, I discovered that good and evil are enmeshed too tightly in the human psyche. The bad one would sometimes do good things and the good would would occasionally do bad things. And what are good and evil in this context, anyway? If the good one knocks out an attacker, was that a bad action?

Also, we wound up having Echo and Esca. This was really confusing and hard to read.

I scrapped that draft and started over. This time, Alatha’s timeline had been cut up. The other bits of her were actually possible futures that had been removed, and were wandering around as ghosts. Finally, I had a plot that worked.

There was another plot that had been cut–Xironi’s robot cat, Esca. Esca was originally supposed to be in the series from the beginning, but I wanted to show where she came from. This meant that Esca had to wait until Xironi got her own book, and they could properly meet.

So Magic Weaver is made up of lots of bits of stories that had to be cut away and saved. If you’ve had stories that you’ve had to set aside, or plots that you couldn’t make work, just put them away for a while. Eventually you’ll find a place for them, if you want to use them badly enough. Sometimes ideas just need a truckload of refining. Alatha/Echo took a lot of brainpower to make work right.

Magic Weaver is available on all retailers here!