Collateral Beauty And Money As Motivation

By on August 19, 2017

Note: There will be spoilers of this wonderful movie in this post. Please don’t read it if you haven’t watched Collateral Beauty.

The wealthy hero and the struggling heroine trope has dipped in popularity recently but it will never disappear. These stories have been told long before Pride And Prejudice was published and will outlast all of us, even the cyborgs.

The key to writing this trope well is the motivation for the struggling heroine. That appears easy. It’s money, right?

Nope. It’s not money.

In one of the first stories I wrote, the heroine and hero went on a treasure hunt. The prize was… well… treasure—gold coins. I entered that story in a writing contest ( ) and I received, in return, a brilliant piece of writing (and life) advice well worth the entry fee.

Money isn’t ever the true motivation for our characters. Their motivation is what they believe the money will bring them.

I rewrote the story with the prize being a house both of the characters considered to be theirs and the story was MUCH stronger. Two people were competing for the same home.

The Dear Wonderful Hubby and I watched Collateral Beauty last night. This was a beautiful, emotional movie. I cried hard and was thoroughly (and surprisingly) entertained. I loved it.

One of the things this movie did wonderfully well was give each character strong motivation for their actions.

At first, the three business partners appeared to be taking extreme action because they wanted cash. I rolled my eyes at this. The greedy business man or woman is such a cliché. It is lazy writing, the characters cardboard and predictable.

But then the characters revealed they had three very different, very strong, very emotional reasons for wanting that money.

One partner’s ex-wife is dating a wealthy new boyfriend. This boyfriend is showering the partner’s daughter with expensive gifts. The partner thinks his relationship with his daughter is strained because he can’t match these gifts. He believes money will fix their problems.

Another partner wants a baby. She doesn’t have a love interest and would be having this baby on her own. That requires money—money for the medical procedures and money to allow her to take the time off work.

The third partner is dying. He has a wife he loves and a family he wants to take care of. The money will be his last and hopefully a lasting gift to them, a not-so-little thing this otherwise powerless character can do for the people he loves.

Bam! These are three powerful motivations for wanting money. The characters went from being cold and flat to being living, breathing people we can care about and cheer for.

Do this in a wealthy hero and struggling heroine romance and I’d happily read this trope over and over again. I’d love it.

Money isn’t ever the true motivation behind an action. Delve deeper.


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