The short story had decent prose, interesting plot, and a neat twist to the ending, but I just didn’t buy it. I mean, I paid money for the story, but I found the plot premise and, more importantly, the main characters’ motivations lacking. I hovered on the edge of suspended disbelief, but just couldn’t make it over the fence. The story centered on a (fictional) immensely popular reality show featuring actual death. Yes, humans for centuries have relished gladiatorial contests. There are many books and movies where convicted criminals play a deadly game for survival (and parole), or where “others,
I pretty much have to agree with everything you said. If you can’t give solid character motivation, especially if the character must do extraordinary things, it just won’t ring right to most readers. I’m not sure how some authors miss this sometimes, as I’ve seen it myself, but it’s certainly vital. Great post!
I think a lot of time the motivation is in the author’s head, it just never makes it to the page.
Last year I was eyeballing a MS and asked “Why would your protag leave a great job, loving wife and family, enjoyable hobbies to go running off on a dangerous mission?” The author replied that the guy was having a mid life crisis. Where? SHOW me the crisis! I want to see the frustration, the longing, the sense of lost youth and missed opportunities. Otherwise the reader just doesn’t care.
Sometimes writers get so caught up in the plot mechanics, I think they forget the motivation.
That’s a good point, but also shows the vital importance of beta readers. It’s easy to lose sight of certain elements when writing because there are so many things to consider.I know my critique partners have been invaluable and I haven’t even published anything yet!