Getting Character Motives Right with Matriarchal Storytelling 

There is a difference between storytelling and storyselling: the former explores truths, while the latter pushes agendas and propaganda -- in other words, lies. Storyselling offers pleasing solutions to a conniver's psychic unease and cognitive dissonance. The hero is misused to justify actions, while the villain is a person or idea to be punished.

In storytelling, we have heroes and villains as well, but they are our guides into the human psyche. They can be conflicts within us or obstacles to overcome. The hero is not perfect, but faces his fears and flaws to overcome.

Storyselling is the opposite: the hero has no shortcomings. He has absolutely nothing to learn and everything is fine the way it is. More often than not, he is the one who is going to teach everyone -- including villain and supporting cast how it's done without input or outside help.

*Seinfeld* was a rare comedy show that excelled at deftly using storyselling. None of the protagonists ever had to change or learn a thing: but the technically sophisticated show told the story with honesty: showing the characters for all of their horrendously selfish ways and appalling flaws. It took storyselling to its extreme and made it a subtle farce on the technique. It was not a show about nothing per se: it was a show about nihilistic personal stagnation. Learn no lessons and it will still all work out for the best at the end, anyway. Yay!

Most storyselling is not that bold, even it is equally brazen. The hero is always spun to be in the right despite his deep Seinfedian flaws. He can be just as conniving and self-centred, but he will not have to be the one who eats crows for being arrogant and emotionally stagnant. The author is his publicist, and will justify it all for the hero. He is in the right. The villain is mean for questioning the hero and must be punished. The End.

There are no shortage of stories that follow this rote method with romance stories being the worst offenders. The protagonist is passive. The love of his or her life passes the protagonist by. It is the love struck hero we feel sorry for and blame everyone else for the tragic woes as the object of affection just falls into tragedy and dies for letting the catch of the century feel unrequited love.

Or the hero is ostracized for trying something new and at the end, everyone comes around because the hero did everything perfectly all along.

Matriarchal storytelling does not follow this path or formula: it challenges the very notions by allowing readers to explore various characters to see their faults and strengths to decide who they root for or not. 

In tragic romance, passivity is examined, not downplayed. The object of the unrequited love still goes on while the passive protagonist either grows up or morphs into a villain who exploits those he or she does not love, but beds to strike back on the real object of affection. No excuses.

The hero may be right in starting something new, but is not perfect and will make mistakes. Not everyone who disagrees will be in the wrong or will ever come around. The reasons may be justified or not -- but the various dynamics are ripe for exploring. We can still cheer the hero. We can still feel the pain of love unfulfilled, but not accept the conventional excuses for inaction. The hero may not be 100% perfect or right, but we learn to embrace the person whole rather than expect that perfection.

The author does not have to rig outcomes, and often, characters slated to be thrown into a villain pile get a reprieve as the author begins to understand the designated antagonist.

Once we begin to understand characters as nuanced people and not mere plot devices, old stories can be revisited, this time with refreshing twists that bring new beginnings and endings to stories that have been thought to be the absolute and universal truth.