Answering the WHY? question

It’s the WHY question that is plaguing me right now.

Why does my character want to participate in this project?
Why does she want this so much that she will jump out of her comfort zone in order to make it work? Why, why, why?
Oh, how I hate that question! It’s obvious to me that the character wants this because, well, because that’s the story I’m writing. Of course, she wants to do this. Boy, am I in trouble.

I have to go back to the basics – again.

Interview the character. Find the back story details that answers the WHY? I’m such a private person that I hate telling people the whys of anything I do, so why should I expect my characters to be more forthcoming?

But how do you describe a fascination with something? For example: There’s no logical reason for me to like quilting, yet I do. I can make up something that will satisfy you, something about the puzzle of cutting up fabric and sewing it back together; but in the end, quilting transcends those explanations and I just wind up weakly saying, I love to play with color. Really, that’s it. I love to play with color and love the feel of the fabrics and love the semi-precision of sewing, fitting things together into a larger pattern.

How can I describe for a character a fascination with the tasks needed in this new story? There are multiple motivations: the inherent fascination with a hands-on process; the feeling of connection with a missing loved one; the reluctant joy of being pushed out of comfort zones to meet more people and to open up more; the surprise of watching how the project affects others. It’s so many small things that motivate my character. How to put those into the story?

Maybe part of the answer is that I was looking for a single answer, a single incident that motivates her and in reality, it must be multiple small things, which are woven into multiple scenes.

I’m wrestling today with that awful WHY? What are you wrestling with?

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