Thursday, July 24, 2014

Film Writes: Character Motivations: Fear vs. Love (Part I)

WARNING: This post contains plot spoilers from the movie Frozen.

Today we’ll start with two questions.

First, what motivates your characters to act?

Second, do all (or most) of your characters (not just the primary ones) have desires that motivate them?

A character can be motivated by self-preservation, affection, a shared past history with someone else, injustice, or the desire to prove himself/herself.

Consider two more of the most common motivators: fear in this post, and love in Part II.

Fear as a Motivator

The core (human) cast of Disney’s Frozen includes sisters Elsa and Anna, [prince] Hans, and ice master Kristoff.

Of the four, Elsa and Hans are most motivated by fear.

Told as a child that her magical powers could result in great danger, Elsa grows up terrified of hurting someone the way she once hurt Anna. Elsa lives locked away in the Arendelle castle and then in self-imposed exile in an ice castle, all because her fear causes her to lose control of her powers and endanger her kingdom.

Hans, whose actual agenda is revealed later in the story, comes to Arendelle in the first place out of fear — fear that he’ll never have a kingdom of his own to rule. He courts Anna, trying to infiltrate Arendelle through her, to compensate for having been the youngest and most overlooked in his family.


Fear is a powerful motivational device — whether your character fears for his/her life, position, identity, worth, or relationships, that character will make decisions (good or bad) as a consequence.


Are any of your characters motivated by fear? What do they desire that leads to fear? What actions do they take as a result of being afraid?

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