I once read a ghost story of mine at a writer’s group. The ghost dwelt within a bracelet and sought to kill women for the sake of stealing their men. So as I finish reading this lady says, “I identify with the ghost. I like her.” Sick or sad as she sounded my heart soared. My inhuman villain’s motivations came through as plausible and connected with the audience.
The male character in the ‘ghost story’ struggled with keeping his wife happy while seeking his own satisfaction in their bed. While reading the same story to a different audience another woman opined, “Where do those kind of men live? I don’t know any of those men.” Odd to me considering whom I drew upon for the character that he’d seem less believable than the ghost. Maybe this lady just hasn’t been hanging around the right men all her life.
Motivation that makes sense helps readers find some firm ground to stand on while traipsing through whatever imagined environments you write. Motivation common to us all, bent in just the right way, by conceivable circumstances, make for lovable characters.