Jason Bourne And Motivation

By on May 22, 2017

I watched Jason Bourne on the weekend. I enjoyed it. Jason Bourne is an awesome character and there were so many great action scenes in this movie.

But one thing really bothered me—a secondary character’s motivation. She/he was doing terrible things—killing people, putting her/his own life on the line. The reason? Because he/she wanted a promotion.

I can see working late because I wanted a promotion. I can see sucking up to the boss because I wanted a promotion. Risking my life? Killing people? No way. That’s not strong enough motivation for those actions.

And the promotion isn’t the true goal. We want a promotion because it symbolizes something to us. Maybe a bigger paycheck comes with that promotion, which allows us to pay the rent, which gives us security, our true goal. Maybe our parents told us we’d never be anyone important and the promotion is a way to prove they were wrong, to earn us their love.

The actions can’t contradict the true goal. Putting my life at risk to ultimately gain security makes no sense. Killing people might not make our parents proud of us. I couldn’t figure out why this character wanted the promotion THAT much and it bothered me.

The motivation should also ideally be personal and as specific as possible. Saving the world is a great goal but why are we saving the world? Do we want to save ourselves? That’s a rather selfish goal. Or do we want to save our five-year-old Princess-loving daughter whom we’ve sworn to always keep safe? THAT is a powerful goal. I can envision it. I can cheer for it.

The more traumatic the action for that character, the bigger the motivation needs to be. If our hero is a cyborg warrior, a being designed for killing, a being who loves killing, he might not need much motivation to end a life. He could, however, require HUGE motivation to reveal one of his possible-life-ending weaknesses to the heroine.

If there is no motivation provided for actions, they appear random. There’s a lack of emotional connection. Some readers/viewers will become frustrated and care less about the characters.

If the motivation is provided and strong enough, however, almost EVERY action can be forgivable. We can write dark disturbing characters and folks will love them. The right motivation is THAT powerful.


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