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The Importance of Motivation in Fiction. Jill Kemerer

The Importance of Motivation in Fiction

This year I challenged myself to read fiction for a minimum of twenty minutes every weekday. (#20for2020) I’m LOVING this! I’m trying different authors, different genres, and best of all, I’m enjoying the stories. A few weeks ago I read a historical romance novel set during the French Revolution, and I’m currently reading a contemporary romance.

The books are wildly different. The historical romance reeked of danger. The characters were wily, smart, loyal, brave and captivating. The setting came to life. It was a suspenseful, gripping, and deeply romantic book. It had its over-the-top moments, and I loved every one of them!

The contemporary romance is like getting dropped in a heart-shaped box of chocolates–sweet and fun with a lovable cast. I haven’t finished it yet. While I couldn’t put the historical romance down, I’ve been reading the contemporary in small chunks.

What’s kept me reading these books are the characters’ motivations. I understand why they make every decision they make, and I want them to succeed. The contemporary might be more lighthearted without the high stakes of the historical, but it features a heroine with a strong backstory who knows she needs to change if she’s ever going to embrace love. It’s page-turning in its own way.

Motivation can be summed up in one word: Why?

  • Why did she slam the door in the hot neighbor’s face?
  • Why is it important for her to get to Paris, knowing there are people who want to kill her in the city?
  • Why does she agree to work with him, even though she’s attracted to him and fears a romance will ruin everything?
  • Why is he letting her think he doesn’t know who she really is?

As writers, we must be careful to always give clues and reasons so readers understand why our characters act the way they do. If the motivation is unclear, readers get frustrated, think the character is an idiot and lose interest in the story.

Motivation helps readers bond with the characters. We can have the most action-packed plot in the world, but if the characters are flat and the reader has no idea why they’re acting the way the do, they’ll put the book down and move on to another one.

Every time your character makes a decision, be sure to spell out or hint at the reason why. And if you can make it personal and emotional, all the better.

What books have you read lately? Were they page-turners or slower reads? Did you relate to the characters? Why?

Have a terrific day!

By the way, Friday through Sunday, my novella A Meddled Match along with several other novellas from the Resort to Romance series will be on sale for only $0.99! Click the above links for purchase links!

Jill Kemerer is a Publishers Weekly bestselling author of heartwarming, emotional, small-town romance novels often featuring cowboys. She hopes to encourage readers through her books the way so many books have encouraged her. Jill's essentials include coffee, caramels, a stack of books, her mini-doxie, and long walks outdoors. She resides in Ohio with her husband and two almost-grown children. For more information, visit her website,

This Post Has 4 Comments

  1. Fantastic article! A must-read for any aspiring author, and a great reminder for those already published.

    Yesterday, I finished Sarah Sundin’s The Sea Before Us. Definitely a page-turner! The motivations of the characters helped me connect, as did the ever-increasing stakes. I was blown away, quite frankly, and it became my favorite of her stories.

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