Importance of Central Motive in Books

What makes a story interesting?

Is it the characters? Plot? Suspense? Murders? Emotions? Romance? Tension?

What is it? What if I say, none of it!

The most important part of any story is the motive. The story cannot be pointless. I am not saying that the story should have a conclusion or some lesson out of it. Or the structure of the story should be coherent, and sensible.

You can mess it all up, and the book will still work if it finds the right audience. But without the motive, without the central thread through which the story runs, the book will become boring quickly. It will not give the reader anything to look forward to.

For example, we have the Harry Potter series.

Every book has a story, which contributes to making the complete series. For the first one is about the boy going to school and exploring magic. While it is all fantastic and interesting, the primary thread joining all the pages are the questions why Harry is alive and when/how Voldermort is coming back.

If you remove that, the story would be not much. It will be a trip to a magic land, and then back. Nothing to look forward to. Every book in the series is independent. In one there is a murderer on the loose, in another, an animal is roaming around. Look closely, & you will find that the Harry Potter series runs through this common thread: How did Harry survive that night?

More than often, writers put the motive of reading the book as early as possible. Because if the reader, at any point, asks himself why he is reading this book, the book fails.

The reader, at every moment, should be aware of what he is looking for. What he is expecting – however the book might surprise with twists & suspense. Not knowing, or knowing the wrong thing is also a way to know.

For example: If I have not mentioned why you should read the book, would you be reading the article?

Maybe yes. But after a few scrolls, you would have asked, what is the point of reading it? Where is this article taking me to? And at that moment, I will lose you.

The concept of common thread is invisible when it is there, but the lack of it is quite visible when I edit the books and articles. It breaks down the story in multiple independent stories, sub characters become heroes of their own arc instead of supporting the protagonist – leading to weakening the protagonist’s position.

The novel become the event after event after event. Not a event contributing to the larger event.

There is a fantastic way to make the central arc happen is to follow the ‘this happens so that happens’ formula. Never use the word ‘AND’ when describing your story. It should be, this happened here, which leads to this, then that leads to this, leading to that. A complete chain of events, tied by action & reaction.

Though I have read books with no center of mass. It could interest the reader with its prose, and amazing writing, but at the end of it will bore the person.

Like this review of Emotionally Weird by Kate Atkinson.

Emotionally Weird Review Lack of Central Arc

As Alex mentions, the books can become a series of gags. Gags, that could be charming or boring, but they don’t stand on any solid foundation.

So next time when you read a book, see how it is leading to a definite direction. If it’s not, you will find it hard to keep reading the book.

All comments are welcome on the post. Let me know what you think.

Faizan Fahim

Hello, welcome to this blog. Just writing reviews of the book I like. Also, favorite quotes, poetry, memes, sometimes other topics too, but always related to literature. So join me on Twitter to talk to me.

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