I was thinking about the kind of motivations that we give to our characters, and it occurred to me that they're often much larger than life. Now, I believe in writing larger than life. I sometimes wonder, though, if we rely on motivations as a crutch, an easy way to communicate something deep about a person.
For instance, as I think about the EMT's I know, this list is a pretty good sampling of the reasons they do what they do:
1) They live in small towns where there's nothing else to do.
2) They're trauma junkies that like adrenaline
3) They had dreams of medical careers that got short-circuited.
4) They have jobs that leave them unsatisfied and so volunteer with EMS for satisfaction.
5) They want to tap into a family or community tradition.
6) They hope to end up as nurses, and they hope EMS helps with that.
7) They jumped ship from the pharmaceutical industry and landed in EMS.
8) They're volunteer firemen and required to get EMT certification.
9) They just always wanted to be on an ambulance.
10) They're people-oriented and like helping people.
As writers, if we explore a character's motivation for being an EMT we are more likely to ascribe something like one of these:
1) They have a God complex.
2) They're trying to make up for something horrible by doing something wonderful.
3) They're full of courage and EMS is just a safe outlet.
4) They could be doctors but have chosen to serve in the field for immediate impact.
5) They use EMS as a way to meet people to kill / stalk / rob / get married to.
I think a career and motivation in this case become a prop or a tool by which we can simplify the communication to the reader of what is more likely to be worked out subtly in person's personality. On the other hand, we don't real life so I'm not exactly saying we need to give our characters ordinary, boring motivations for things. If anything, I'm just suggesting that we approach motivation more delicately than we often do.
I'm not sure. What do you all think?