"You know, this whole what's my motivation thing is really bullshit. Down at the bottom of it all everyone has the same motivation."
And he looked at me expectantly and I tried really hard to know the answer but I didn't.
"Everyone wants love. That chick in Sleepless in Seattle who did all that humidifier shit with a boyfriend she didn't like that much and the gangbanger who's walking around fucking everyone in the face, they're doing it to get love, to be loved. They might define love as something odd and fucked up, where dominance or money, which are indicators of a kind of primate love where if enough people acknowledge you as lovable you can get anything from them and do anything with it, get mixed up into it, but it's just love and that's it."
I think about this a lot with regards to characters. It's not just about romantic love, though that's a huge motivator, but I find it to be more or less true: everyone wants to be loved, and that isn't a twee or contrite thing, nor is it easy. People will do amazingly bizarre things for love, and even worse when they don't understand that love is what they're after, and they think the dominance or the money or the hooking people up to their machine in the Pit of Despair is the actual thing rather than the effect, the tell of being loved. If everyone loves and respects you, you dominate them (and if you love them too they dominate you as well, but if you don't love anyone and everyone loves you, you are a supervillain). If you get enough money no one will ever be able to not love you again. If you hook someone up to your machine, won't they have to look at you with awe and wonder? And isn't that almost as good as being loved and known? Everyone has to love the King. It's the law.
Love gets a bad rap for being cheesy because we see it as mushy and the province of girly writers and rom coms. But it's this deadly thing most people are out to get, because we are tribal animals and we want that close, protected, us feeling. Notice I'm not talking about sex--that's also a marker of being loved, not the loving itself.
I look around in my day to day interactions, at cons and at home, traveling and staying put, and I see us all wanting to be loved, to be accepted around the fire, to be counted as belonging. It's a powerful thing, one that can go dark and go light depending on how often it is thwarted and repressed.
I'm not sure my old teacher was completely right. But almost every time I write anything, I think about him, and what he said, and how he was not a very nice man, and he made me cry by yelling at me a few times, but he probably wanted to be loved too, to be seen as an authority, to be known as someone good and strong. He died a few months after our show closed, and I hope that he was loved, in the end.