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Motivation, Ideology, Action 3

Tantz_Aerine at 12:00AM, Nov. 30, 2019

So there's this saying that it's a completely different thing to talk the talk than walk the talk- to do as you preach. To put your money where your mouth is. To actually apply what you say you ascribe to.

In short, putting into action everything you've talked about is a whole different can of worms than the ideas themselves.

The third part in this tour of character design and what makes people tick is the combination of the previous two: how motivation interacts with ideology to give us action- behavior, if you like.

Peoples' actions, that is the willful procedures we take to achieve any kind of aim or goal, are always informed by three elements:

1. Circumstances
2. Motivations
3. Ideology

Circumstances would be all the situational factors that are relevant when an individual is called to take action of some sort. These could be anything and everything, from the weather to one's health, finances, job situation, day of the week, schedules, means available, and so on.

Circumstances are important in two ways. First, they limit or expand the options a character has. Often, it's by circumstance we can force a character to make a choice they wouldn't normally make. For example, if a character won't ever eat eggs, having only eggs as the available food will force the character to eat them (eventually). Second, they limit or expand the options a character perceives he/she may have. A vegan character, for example, might not consider that there is any food available to eat at all if there are only eggs around. A non-vegan character will. Based on this difference in perception, one might be urgently motivated to get out of this situation, while the other might feel less pressed to do so. This will result in differences in action taken.

Motivations are, of course, as previously analyzed the constant tug of war and balance between the person's inherent need to avoid pain and seek pleasure. Depending on how dire the pain is (or how dire it is perceived to be) the person will be more or less motivated to avoid it. Same goes for pleasure. Motivations within a certain set of circumstances will result in the person selecting the course of action that promises the least pain possible and (if possible) the highest pleasure possible.

And then come the ideologies. What is considered acceptable in terms of action and what isn't, and under what circumstances. Combined together, we can get a whole range of nuance depending on our character design. For example, going to our vegan/egg circumstance example, the vegan character might be faced with the dilemma of eating the eggs or starving. How long they hold out before they eat the eggs (if they eat them) will be a result of how strongly motivated they are to survive in conjunction with how strongly motivated they are to keep to their ideology of veganism.

On the other hand, the same ideology and set of circumstance might inform completely different sets of actions depending on the character's motivation and rationalization. This is something often seen in religion as well as the legal system, where the same religious creed or the same letter of the law have had wildly different applications and reasonings behind that application.

In the end, motivation is the biggest factor in informing a character's actions: if a king wants to plunder a land, he will do it even if his religion forbids it, and find a way to claim that his religion actually allows for it. Of course in such situations we can easily claim that this king isn't a true follower of a religion, and we'd be correct; still, such rationalizations happen even on a subconscious level to people who genuinely think they're applying their ideology correctly.

Needless to say, there's a LOT more to cover in this system of interactions that can be done in one article. But I hope I've given you enough food for thought to start a discussion and perhaps to consider characters as a system of motivation, circumstance, and ideology that is forever evolving as they move through their story.

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Andreas_Helixfinger at 3:47AM, Nov. 30, 2019

This is something I feel imbues most, if not all, of my writing. Characters being put in uncomfortable situations where they have to make a sincere, life-altering move between what they want and what they need, what is ideal to have and what is, within the realm of circumstance and/or within the realm of personal urge, required to have.

Ozoneocean at 2:15AM, Nov. 30, 2019

This really does break down how normal people think n a rather mechanistic format. I like it :D

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