I published a post in February titled, What’s the Motivation, Part One – The Antagonist. I quoted a passage from my book, Blaze In, Blaze Out, where O’Connor, a cop and recurring character, answers the question: “What makes someone a murderer?” His response, from a cop’s perspective, was, “Men kill each other for any number of reasons. Money. Power. Kicks. Defense. Revenge.” Add in sex, and you pretty much have a plot to any book or movie on the market.
I also pointed out in that post that a story can’t happen, or at the least, won’t be a good one, unless the characters have motivations and there are roadblocks in achieving whatever it is the character wants. This makes the story. If the character gets everything he or she wants, it can get frustrating to the reader or viewer, and at the worst, boring.
I came across a quote from Patrick Ryan that I found interesting. He says: “I want to write about characters who are earnest in what they’re trying to accomplish. Villains don’t see themselves as villains — that’s what interests me. No one wakes up and says, what kind of monster am I going to be today?“
That’s a powerful and thought-provoking statement. Honestly, I hadn’t thought of that before reading it, but I find it true. I look at the various villains in my work: a serial killer in Spiral Into Darkness; the gang leader in Caught in a Web; the contract killers in Blaze In, Blaze Out; and the landowner in Betrayed. In each case, the antagonist was motivated in whatever he or she did or attempted. They didn’t see themselves as bad, evil, nasty, or a villain. In each case, the antagonist had a goal and went about achieving it.
Which brings me to today’s topic: the Protagonist. So, what motivates the Protagonist? Generally, the same things you or I want and search for. Understanding. Love. Acceptance. One’s self. The reader needs to love them and root for them. We cry when they cry. We are at peace when they are. Rarely do the motivations mirror the motivations of the antagonist. If they do, the reader is left wondering who to root for.
My character, Brian, is a protagonist. I introduced his character in Caught in a Web, and his character grew with each book since. He has a fierce love for family and seeks understanding and belonging. Brian struggles with who he is, his identity. Not too different from other adolescents. He is the family protector and will often place himself in situations where it is a life and death struggle to protect his brothers and parents. He is intense when he needs to be, but most of the time, is easy-going.
George has been a consistent character, a protagonist since Taking Lives, the Prequel to the Lives Trilogy. His character has grown with each book. Similar to Brian, he is passionate about family. He is a full-blooded Navajo, groomed to become a hataalii, or singer for the Navajo Nation, just like his grandfather. George is protective of his Navajo upbringing, the Navajo belief system. He finds the life of the bilagáana, or white man, in conflict with the Navajo, yet he has a foot in both worlds. Like Brian, George’s motivation is the protection of his brothers and his parents.
Both Brian and George are reader favorites. As an author, I find ways to frustrate them, throw roadblocks at them. That drama, and the adolescent characters I present, are as much a core of my writing in each book as is the thriller-crime-mystery portion of my books. I think this sets my writing apart from other thriller-crime-detective writers.
As one blogger/reviewer, Sharon Rimmelzwaan, wrote in a review of Blaze In, Blaze Out: “Joseph Lewis is an author whose work I will always recommend. I have read some of his previous work and blogged about it too. This book is yet another success. A story that seems, on the surface, to be about organised crime and hired killers. It is so much more than that, it always is when you pick up a Joseph Lewis book.”
I think she is speaking to the fact that I have twin storylines: The “patchwork family of adopted boys” (as one reviewer wrote) who are the protagonists, and the drama that ensues with them, versus the antagonists who thwart them or those they love.
I treat the protagonists (my continuing characters) as “people” who are as real as you and I are. The reader must love and care about the protagonist and feel anger and hostility towards the antagonists who want to harm them. That’s what makes a great story.
As always, thanks for following me on this journey. I hope you enjoy the trip!
Connect with me on Social Media:
Author Website: www.jrlewisauthor.blog/
Twitter at @jrlewisauthor
Facebook at: www.facebook.com/Joseph.Lewis.Author
Amazon at: www.amazon.com/Joseph-Lewis/e/B01FWB9AOI /
Blaze In, Blaze Out: A Literary Titan Gold Book Award Winner! A Reader’s Ready Recommended Read! A BestThriller’s Editor’s Pick!
Eiselmann and O’Connor thought the conviction of Dmitry Andruko, the head of a Ukrainian crime family, meant the end. It was only the beginning. They forgot that revenge knows no boundaries, vindictiveness knows no restraints, and ruthlessness never worries about collateral damage. Andruko hired contract killers to go after and kill O’Connor and Eiselmann. The killers can be anyone and be anywhere. They can strike at any time. They care nothing of collateral damage. Andruko believes a target is a target, and in the end, the target must die. https://amzn.to/34lNllP
Betrayed: A PenCraft 1st Place Winner for Thriller-Fiction! A Maxy Award Runner-Up for Mystery/Suspense! A Literary Titan Silver Book Award Winner! A Reader’s Ready Recommended Read Award Winner! A Reader’s Favorite Honorable Mention Award Winner for Fiction-Crime-Mystery!
Betrayed is Now Available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback! https://amzn.to/3AfUUpS
A late-night phone call, a missing kid, a murdered family, but no one is talking. A promise is made and kept, but it could mean the death of a fifteen-year-old boy. Greed can be all-consuming, and seeing is not believing. No one can be trusted, and the hunters become the hunted. https://amzn.to/2EKHudx
Spiral Into Darkness: Named a Recommended Read in the Author Shout Reader Awards!
He blends in. He is successful, intelligent, and methodical. So far, he has murdered eight people. There is no discernible pattern. There are no clues. There are no leads. The only thing the FBI and local police have to go on is the method of death: two bullets to the face- gruesome and meant to send a message. But it’s difficult to understand any message coming from a dark and damaged mind. Two adopted boys, struggling in their own world, do not know they are the next targets. Neither does their family. And neither does local law enforcement. https://amzn.to/2RBWvTm
Caught in a Web: A PenCraft Literary Award Winner! Named “One of the Best Thrillers of 2018!” by BestThrillers.com
Caught in a Web is also available in Audio Book, Kindle and Paperback! http://bit.ly/2WO3kka
They found the bodies of high school and middle school kids dead from an overdose of heroin and fentanyl. A violent gang, MS-13, controls the drug trade along the I-94 and I-43 corridors. They send Ricardo Fuentes to find out who is cutting in on their business, shut it down and teach them a lesson. But he has an ulterior motive: find and kill a fifteen-year-old boy, George Tokay. Detectives Jamie Graff, Pat O’Connor and Paul Eiselmann race to find the source of the drugs, shut down the ring, and find Fuentes before he kills again. https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07CKF7696
The Lives Trilogy Prequel, Taking Lives:
FBI Agent Pete Kelliher and his partner search for the clues behind the bodies of six boys left in various and remote parts of the country. Even though they live in separate parts of the country, the lives of Kelliher, 11-year-old Brett McGovern, and 11-year-old George Tokay are separate pieces of a puzzle. The two boys become interwoven with the same thread Kelliher holds in his hand. The three of them are on a collision course and when that happens, their futures grow dark as each search for a way out. https://amzn.to/34nXBH5
Book One, Stolen Lives: Editor’s Pick by BestThrillers! Literary Titan Gold Book Award Winner! A Crime Thriller finalist in the 2021 Best Thriller Book Awards!
Two thirteen-year-old boys are abducted off a safe suburban street. Kelliher and his team of FBI agents have 24 hours to find them or they will end up like the other kids they found- dead! They have no leads, no clues, and nothing to go on. To make the investigation that much tougher, Kelliher suspects that one of his team members might be involved. https://amzn.to/3oMo4qZ
Book Two of the Lives Trilogy, Shattered Lives:
The boys are home, but now they have to fit back in with their families and friends. Their parents and the FBI thought the boys were safe. They were until people began dying. Now the hunt is on for six dangerous and desperate men who vow revenge. With no leads and nothing to go on, the FBI can only sit back and wait. A dangerous game that threatens not only the boys, but their families. https://amzn.to/2RAYIk2
Book Three of the Lives Trilogy, Splintered Lives:
Three dangerous men with nothing to lose offer a handsome reward to anyone willing to kill fourteen-year-old Brett McGovern. He does not know that he, his younger brother, and a friend are targets. More than anyone, these three men vow to kill George, whom they blame for forcing them to run and hide. A fun vacation turns into a nightmare and ends where it started, back on the Navajo Nation Reservation, high on a mesa held sacred by George and his grandfather. Outnumbered and outgunned, George will make the ultimate sacrifice to protect his adoptive father and his adoptive brothers- but can he? Without knowing who these men are? Or where they are? Without knowing whom to trust? Is he prepared for betrayal that leads to his heartbreak and death? http://bit.ly/SplinteredLives