On planting character motivations in advance

by look i have opinions

“When a character does something (say, suddenly draws a gun out of his pants waist) that action must be supported by actions that have come before; the mentality that causes it needs to be developed before the action happens. Long before. If Yarik is drawing his gun because he feels responsibility for his brother’s life, then I must make that felt before I need him to feel it. That way the action is immediately understood without my having to explain it after, or prep it right before. Allude to the emotional or intellectual reason for an action just before it happens and the reader will feel the author constructing the moment instead of experiencing the moment as real. For me, for this moment, that meant figuring out not only that Yarik felt a sense of responsibility for his brother, but also finding moments before this scene where that could be revealed. I had to sow the emotion in early so that by the time it reached a point where it would drive his action it had already taken root in the soil of the story.”

—Josh Weil, in this essay