>>The main villain of my sci-fi fantasy story is supposed to be the ruthless and cunning leader of a vague yet powerful organization that controls the world. I already have his backstory and who he is down, and now I'm focusing on what his motives are so he can cause conflict.
I have a character, where this was his pre-novel backstory. He was a ruthless, cunning leader; gathered up a few followers; formed an army; defeated one small tribe/clan and crowned himself king of them, then moved on to the next clan; before anyone knew what was happening he had mass waves of followers, his army got huge, and suddenly he controls the whole country; before long he's controlling a few other countries; this goes on for decades with him getting more powerful, his army gaining more control and it looks like no one can stop him from taking control of the planet... then boom... he has an affair with his general, and then things start falling apart. He finds out the general (Gibedon) doesn't really love him and is in fact plotting to kill him to take over the crown...
This is when his motivation point changes. Now he's looking at the general (Gibedon) and realizing, in the early years he was leading the army himself right in the front lines o battle, but now he just in his castle letting the general (Gibedon) do all the grunt work in his name. He starts realizing he's now old and no longer able to fight like he could in his youth, the general (Gibedon) is young and fit and could easily win a fight against hi. If the general (Gibedon) carries out the plot, he'd lose to the general (Gibedon) easily.
Motivation, now becomes trying to outwit the general (Gibedon) and play along continuing the affair long enough to figure out how to get the general (Gibedon) out of control.
So, you see what happened here, in my case, was the king (Gwallmaiic aka BoomFuzzy the Unicorn) suddenly realizes he's not invincible, and starts worrying, that this general really could take him out, what then? He starts to realize, yeah, he could die. He's not as young and strong as he was back in the early days of starting all this. His authority is being challenged, and maybe, this general really does have what it takes to take all this, his kingdom, his army, his country, away from him.
The motivation becomes self preservation, the fight to survive. The world still cowers in fear of his name, but really people fear his army more then him. He starts realizing this. He starts realizing the army could march on without him. The army has become a well oiled machine taking orders from the general (Gibedon). No one takes orders from the king (Gwallmaiic aka BoomFuzzy the Unicorn) any more. He's no longer the "true" power, he's just the name, the figurehead, the image people fear, but not the force behind the army any more.
Same time this is happening, the main character comes along. MC (Quaraun) is from another culture, on the other side of the world, unlike any culture the king (Gwallmaiic aka BoomFuzzy the Unicorn) has ever encountered before. the king (Gwallmaiic aka BoomFuzzy the Unicorn) is used to people trembling in fear at his feet, but the MC (Quaraun), having lived a sheltered life in a temple, is unaware of the politics and government, and has no fear of the king (Gwallmaiic aka BoomFuzzy the Unicorn). (It's the 900s so, long before news media was around to spread info to the far reaches of the world.) This intrigues the king (Gwallmaiic aka BoomFuzzy the Unicorn) who has never met anyone who doesn't fear him or isn't trying to take his throne. He becomes obsessed with the MC (Quaraun), to the point of stalking. He also starts worrying about the general (Gibedon). If the general (Gibedon) finds out the king (Gwallmaiic aka BoomFuzzy the Unicorn) loves the MC (Quaraun), the general (Gibedon) might kill the MC (Quaraun) to hurt the king (Gwallmaiic aka BoomFuzzy the Unicorn).
He sends the army away, off to defeat yet another country. No one thinks anything of this. While the general (Gibedon) is overseas, the king (Gwallmaiic aka BoomFuzzy the Unicorn) now stalks the MC (Quaraun) on obsessively frightening levels, obsessed with forcing the MC (Quaraun) to become his lover. He leaves his castle, changes his name, and pretends to be just another regular guy. As he becomes more obsessed with the MC (Quaraun), he becomes less obsessed with his throne, army, and country which allows the general (Gibedon) to step in taking over without the king (Gwallmaiic aka BoomFuzzy the Unicorn) realizing it is happening. Over the course of time the MC (Quaraun) falls in love with the king (Gwallmaiic aka BoomFuzzy the Unicorn), but still is in the dark about who or what he really is.
It's not until the very end that the MC (Quaraun) finds out who he is, learns he's the king (Gwallmaiic aka BoomFuzzy the Unicorn), and that he's the monster behind the horrible shit that has been happening in the world. The MC (Quaraun) finds this out, when the general (Gibedon) returns looking for the king (Gwallmaiic aka BoomFuzzy the Unicorn) and finds him with the MC (Quaraun). Now a lover's triangle motivation kicks in, as the general (Gibedon) tries to kill the MC (Quaraun), the king (Gwallmaiic aka BoomFuzzy the Unicorn) tries to protect the MC (Quaraun) and gets mortally wounded, then the MC (Quaraun) in trying to save the king (Gwallmaiic aka BoomFuzzy the Unicorn), ends up accidentally killing the general (Gibedon). With the general (Gibedon) dead and the king (Gwallmaiic aka BoomFuzzy the Unicorn) dying, the army is left on it's own, and quickly falls apart because most of them were just there out of fear and with the general (Gibedon) and king both no longer in power they couldn't think of a reason to be afraid anymore.
The story concludes when the king (Gwallmaiic aka BoomFuzzy the Unicorn) dies and the MC (Quaraun) is left heartbroken, in spite of now knowing what he was, the MC (Quaraun) knew and loved the man he pretended to be and never really knew the king (Gwallmaiic aka BoomFuzzy the Unicorn) as the villainous monster he truly was.
So basically what I did was take the bad ass super villain leader of a world controlling organization, and hone in on his personal desires (he wanted to be loved) and fears (he was afraid of people plotting against him) and made that his motivation. Because of his desire for love, he fell in love with the general (Gibedon), but then the general (Gibedon) embodied his worst fear, when he realized the general (Gibedon) did not love him back and was only using him as part of a plot the general (Gibedon) had to kill him and take his throne. This leads him to seek love from the MC (Quaraun), but his once-bitten, twice-shy fear of being plotted against, makes him hide who he really is from the MC (Quaraun).
Thus the villain's motivation for his actions are based off his very deep rooted emotions. His desire for someone to love him, and his fear that no one loves him and that all lovers only are with him because of who he is, mixed with his fear of people plotting to take his throne. He desires to be loved and this motivates his actions, yet he's afraid of losing his power, which also motivates his actions and hinders his ability to seek love.
Basically, his inner conflicting turmoil of emotions is what drove my villain onward. He seemingly had everything: power, armies, kingdoms... but with all he had, he lacked feeling truly loved and the more power he had, the more paranoid he became that people were out to take his power away.
In the end, the answer is simply: emotions. The villain was driven/motivated by his emotions.
Not sure if this helps give you ideas for your story or not. Hopefully something here will spark an idea for you. Good luck with it.
My main character is actually the villain, which is not immediately known to the reader. The reader sees him fighting the bad guys and then also sees the people of the world living in mortal terror of him. The assumption is that he's a ruthless hero. Right from the beginning the reader sees him pulling wanted posted down, sees him on the run from the law, and knows from the start that he's hunted for murder, but because he's the PoV character, the reader also sees it as though he's innocent, because he believes he's done nothing wrong.
In the 8th volume you see him take his wondded lover to a healer, and as soon as they walk in the door she and her guards attack them with everything they've got. He kills her and the guards and to the reader it seems that she was evil, and he was acting in self defence. But then the reader starts to see minor characters referring to her as having died a hero trying to save the world.
The whole series is told through his eyes and he doesn't believe he is evil, he doesn't think he is a villain, he does not see himself as a bad person. He's a very unreliable narrator, because he has a warped perception of himself and he's leading the reader to believe he's the hero, when he's not. The series in fact has no hero, because he's too powerful and no one ever is able to defeat him. The series follows his whole life, with readers seeing 'bad guys" one after another coming at him in every volume, and him cutting them all down. Over time the wanted posters start calling him a dangerous serial killer.
It's the wanted posters the readers need to pay attention to, to get the truth. Every volume, has a scene of him reading the latest wanted posters. Him laughing at the stuff they say about him. The price ever getting higher. The reader who pays attention to the world around him, can see that he's the true villain, but can also see that he, simply does not believe himself bad or evil at all and thinks of himself as good, even though the world lives in mortal terror of his very existence.
I've always felt that this was the best kind of villain, because, you learn to love him and see him as a normal everyday ordinary person, and then suddenly it hits you that: OMG! He's the bad guy! And you want to hate him once you realize who he is, but, you know him too well, you've come to love him and no matter how much you want to, you just can't bring yourself to hate him.
That kind of creep factor makes a villain even worse, because now he can get away with anything and the reader will still never hate him... they can't, they've become too conditioned to care about him.
I'm going to add this here on this page, because the guild in question in the answer, is the very same Guild run by Finderu, that is hunting Quaraun and BoomFuzzy and is also the Guild of mage's trying to take over Quaraun's world.
This answer deals, not with why the Guild is motivated to take over the world,, but rather with why Quaraun, who has now power ambitions at all, came to be motivated to join the Guild.
>>>What motivates my character to join the guild?
>>>So in this fictional world there is a guild type of thing and people join for the purpose of fulfilling peoples needs and helping people when there is trouble. My main character wants to join not only to help people, but to remove a deadly spirit that is attached to his body. His romantic interest also wants to help people, but he also wants to be the best and help people so they don't end up like he did in his childhood. And the last character wants to join because he also wants to help people, but im having trouble on to what other goals he might have other than just trying to help people. I want this to be in his background as a motivation. But heres what i have so far on his background...
>>>I want there to be a moment in his childhood where he meets a member of the guild. But i don't know what the guild member will say to give him hope or motivation to be a part of the guild. What motivates my character to become a guild member? I want some ideas that u guys might have.
Maybe it's not anything a guild member says? Or even anything they do? But maybe it's something completely unrelated to the guild itself?
That was what the situation turned out to be for my MC(Quaraun). He literally, sees a wanted poster of a criminal mage (King Gwallmaiic aka BoomFuzzy) who is a former guild member, and falls in love with the guy's long dreadlocked hair. He starts carrying the wanted poster around with him, just to lust after the criminal mage's long hair. Later he meets other guild members, and realizes everyone in the guild has long hair and so, even though he hates the guild, he joins the guild, just so he can lust after their long hair at the meetings. His motivation is literally that he has a fetish for long hair and several guild members have long hair. No other reason whatsoever.
So in my case, the MC (Quaraun) ends up joining the guild for a VERY "silly" reason, that, probably would seem odd for most stories, but it worked for his personality. It's a world where there are mages born with magic powers (very rare) and others who can learn to use magic even though not born with it.
The MC (Quaraun) is born with the powers, and the guild in question wants him to join because no one in their guild is a natural born magic user. He on the other hand, wants nothing to do with them, for lots of various reasons. But than, one day he actually meets the guild members, and, they all have long hair, so he joins the guild, just so he can sit in the meetings and lust after their long hair. He never participates in the meetings, and doesn't get along with the other members, but he keeps going to the meetings so he can daydream about the long hair of several of the members.
Like I said, it's a rather silly reason to join a guild, but he has a long hair fetish, which is a major plot point, and his obsession with long hair gets him in a mess of trouble later on, so it's logical that he would join a group for no other reason than because several members have long hair.
My character has long Rapunzel hair and is prone to chase after anyone with equally long hair, and in this setting, most mages believe that the longer their hair/beards, the more powerful they are, so most of the mages have super long Rapunzel hair and/or beards, so he is prone to lusting after wizards, just because they have super long hair. And had the mages in the guild NOT had long hair, he never would have joined the guild.
His obsession with long hair is a personality trait/quirk that had previously been a theme in several novels before this one (and several novels after it) so it's well established in the story that this character can be easily convinced to do this or that, if the person doing the convincing, has long hair. So, by the time the reader reaches the novel (volume 3 out of 138) when he joins the guild, the reader EXPECTS him the join the guild because the other members have long hair, simply because by this point, the series has established the fact that this character becomes a total love-sick idiot around anyone with long hair.
And so while, any other character or in any other story, it would seem silly for a guy to join a guild simply because another member has long hair, for this character it fits, it matches his personality, this is the type of thing HE would do. Making a very silly and implausible motivation, become very logical and plausible given this guy's personality.
I say all of this because, this is the type of thing you need to look at with your own character. Look at your character's personality. Why does HE specifically do anything? Does he have a quirk or a fetish or a hobby, that he's compelled by? What is his passion in life? His driving obsession? His secret guilty pleasure? Try making a list of such things that he has/does, and see if you can take one of those things and implement it to your story.
Like in my case, I originally had no clue why he joined the guild. He hated them and made it well known he hated them, but the story reached a point where he needed to be a member and I had no idea why would he join this group. I ended up skipping writing the scene, and not going back to it for several months because I couldn't figure out what his motivation would be.
Than one day I was writing a scene about the guild leader (Finderu) and, the MC (Quaraun) started talking about how he hated this wizard (Finderu) but loved his hair, and I thought: That's it! OMG! Why didn't I think of that earlier! It was so logical, that he'd join the guild for no other reason than to sit at the meeting lusting after the other mages' long hair, so I went back and wrote that scene and it just fit so well with his personality, even though it was the silliest danged reason any one might have for joining a guild.
So, yeah, with your character, look at everything they enjoy and ask not what SHOULD be the motivation, but rather, what WOULD they do? I would definitely look at all areas of his life, and look for something that may seem silly or trivial to others, but for him personally, it's a pretty big driving factor.
Maybe do what I did and skip writing the scene, keep writing the rest of the novel, and maybe, something you write later in the novel will spark an idea for you same way as happened to me?
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