CBC Literary Prizes·Writing Tip

Want a better plot? Give your character motivation

CBC Books regularly publishes writing tips.
The 2019 CBC Short Story Prize is open until Oct. 31, 2018. (Narikan/Shutterstock)

This writing tip is from Maria Lioutaia.

"I'm going to steal one from Kurt Vonnegut: 'Every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water.' The friction between character desire is, in essence, plot. Even secondary characters are motivated by something and the friction between these wants is what drives a story forward. Character is destiny, character is plot."

Maria Lioutaia was born in Moscow, lived for two decades in Toronto and is now based in New York, where she's completing her MFA in creative writing at NYU. Her last name means "fierce" in Russian. She has made the CBC Short Story Prize longlist three times.

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