A few weeks ago I encountered a situation which made me realize that it's our instinct to seek to understand motivations...not just in books but in real life. We want to understand what makes people do the things they do. Because without motivations, their acts are just...random. And that's scary.
Although I'm Canadian, I live close to the border and sometimes go shopping in the U.S. On this particular day I was shopping In Niagara Falls New York with my sister. My sister normally does the driving, but I wanted to drive her in my first ever BRAND NEW car. And we were having a great time until our last stop...
Returning to my car, I discovered that someone had taken a key and scratched up and down BOTH side of my car. Why? Why would someone do that? I figured it was probably some kid with nothing better to do, but still I searched for answers. The desire to know was so great that I called the police and had them go through video surveillance to see who would do such a thing.
Let me tell you...the answer shocked me. The culprit was a woman in her mid to late twenties! A woman? Right away the police officer started asking questions. Had I cut her off on the way into the store? Did I park too close to her car? Did I say something to her in the store. Even he wanted to explain the behaviour because there HAD to be a reason. But the answers were all no, no, and no. Then my sister started hypothesizing. Maybe it was the Canadian plates. Maybe it was the foreign make of my car. Unfortunately we'll never know because we weren't able to get a good look at the licence plate of the car she drove away in.
But at least I can say that the incident made me realize how important it is to get the motivations right in the stories we write, because without the proper motivation, our characters' acts feel random. And that will leave the reader feeling unsettled, like something is missing.
Just like me and my poor scratched car : (