I had a look through various writer sites and come up with some very good information – including Pub(lishing) Crawl. What I found were various different versions of the same thing, but this is how I interpreted it:
Motivation is what makes your character want to act the way they do.
Then I found out about GMC – Goal, Motivation and Conflict. This makes Motivation make all the more sense. This is how it works:
Goal is what the character wants – Esmeralda wants to know what true love is
Motivation is why they want the Goal. – Esmeralda has never experienced true love and at the age of 35 thinks it is about time.
Conflict is the obstacle that stops the character from achieving the goal. – Esmeralda is blind and unable to see, so nervous about meeting people.
How damned simple is that? I really struggled with it, but when it is broken down like that, it is so easy to understand! Durrr, blond moment (and I am allowed to have them, I am blond under all the dye!)
This GMC can be applied to scenes, chapters, the entire story, or just a part of it. This is what makes the character more real, gives them a goal to accomplish, shows you what the conflict will be. Remember one thing: The character does not necessarily have to achieve their goal. There may change their goal – using the example above, Esmeralda’s dating experiences are all failures, and she is upset, and decides to spend the rest of her life on her own. This could change again, when her best friend, a man with a badly burned face convinces her to give it one more try… with him.
The motivation is really the backstory, which you should have noted down on your character sheets, and yes, character sheets and backstory are REALLY important. All together, these will give your characters well rounded histories, help you flesh them out as flawed humans that they are, and allow you to understand your characters better.
Have you ever completed a character sheet for your protagonist(s) and antagonist(s)? Did you find them useful? Do you use GMC for your writing?