Wednesday, September 29, 2021

Welcome, CJ Bahr

But Why?

Motivation. It’s what good writing contains. Why are your characters doing what they are doing? Why do they feel a certain way? Here’s a look into one of my writing tips…always ask “but why?”


I can’t say I came up with this challenge. It first appeared to me in my monthly Friday Nighters critique group, though I’m sure it’s older than that. I’m not sure how many times my pages came back with multiple “but why?” in the margins. I soon came to despise them; however, I later embraced them. You see, by not taking the easy way out, it forced me to look at the various motivations in my WIP and validate or clarify them, for myself and more importantly, my readers, making my writing richer.


For example, in how many movies, as an audience member, have you watched someone enter a dark and scary basement knowing the character was crazy because he/she was going to die, get captured, tortured, fill-in-the-blank. You think to yourself the character is a complete idiot, call 911, get backup, turn tail and run, anything but enter the basement! As the audience member you just asked yourself the first “but why?”


The easiest explanation (in a horror movie) is the audience needs the scare/suspense so we’re gonna send the character into implausible danger to make it happen. It doesn’t matter why, just so long as we have the big scare. Well a movie may get away with this, but your story won’t.


Have enough unanswered “but whys” in your WIP and it will make the reader shut down in disgust thinking your hero/heroine is stupid.


The good news? It doesn’t take much to fix the unanswered “but why”. It could be a simple thought in your character’s head (if he/she is alone): I really don’t want o go into this dark and scary basement, but the circuit breaker is in there and I really want lights on about now. Motivation now revealed, your character’s IQ has jumped by leaps and bounds.


If you have two characters eyeing the dark and scary basement, you could have them arguing:


Bob: “Are you crazy? The killer is probably down there!”

Jane: “But we need the lights on, besides there are two of us and one of him.”

Bob: “Screw that, let’s get out of here.”

Jane: Be brave, we can do this.”

Bob: “Fine, we’ll go down into the dark and scary basement, but if we die, I’m blaming you!”


Not the best of examples, but I’m sure you get my drift. It’s a great question to work into your internal editor. And if you can’t figure out your “but why”? Well, you could “cover it up” and hope no one notices. Not the best of choices. Or you could “hold it up”, have a character point out the problem and shine a glaring flashlight at it. Oh, and there’s one “but why” fix you could get away with (probably) just once: “I have no idea why…” the “gloss it over” trick. After all, remember Casablanca?


Signor Ferrari: “…why, do not know. Because it cannot possibly profit me, but…”


Actor, Sydney Greenstreet’s line is a classic example of a “Plot Hole / Motivation cover up”.


But it’s better and more believable if your motivations are justified. Do you have a favorite “but why” solution? Share it below in the comments sections.


Don’t take for granted your readers know the unmentioned motivation or see the gaping hole in your plot, remember to ask yourself, “but why?”




Author Bio:


First published in Marion Zimmer Bradley's "Sword & Sorceress" anthology, C J was bitten by the writer's bug and hasn't stopped since. The Wild Rose Press published her award-winning first novel, "Walking Through Fire"— a Scottish ghost romance. She is currently working on the fourth book in the interconnected standalone series, The Fire Chronicles, as well as a new Urban Fantasy starring a kick-ass Time Enforcer.


When her pen isn't scribing, you can find her busily cutting and tracking music for film and television.  With over thirty years of music editing experience, her credits range from "Northern Exposure" and "The Muppets Christmas Carol", to "The Kill Point", "The Following", and ABC’s hit comedy, "The Middle".


In her downtime, you’ll find her curled up with a cup of tea, her cats and a great book in Tarzana, California.




Social Media Links:



Twitter: @cjbahr





Amazon Author:



Cassanne Thomas returns to New Orleans to start her life over and becomes the target of a supernatural serial killer. Escaping her close call with death, Casi is the only witness to the crime and finds herself placed in protected custody by a handsome Cajun detective. But with her dark, troubled past, trusting the police is the last thing she wants to do.


Detective Lucas Avery, the top homicide detective in NOLA, is unaware of the supernatural world surrounding him. With the killer stalking the streets, he vows to shield the beautiful, enigmatic, Casi with his life while fighting his growing attraction to her. He's been burned before.


Danger chases Lucas and Casi from the streets of the French Quarter to the wilds of the bayou. Will they be able to stop a monster, straight out of a nightmare or become victims themselves?




Casi screamed and covered her ears, though too late. The loud boom made her ears ring. Who was shooting at them? She tried to see, but Luc’s weight had her effectively pinned. Squealing tires along with a string of Cajun curses from Luc, had Casi guessing the shooter had fled.


Luc holstered his weapon when Casi spotted the blood dripping off his arm.


“Oh my God!” She pushed at him. “Let me up. You’re hurt. You’re bleeding!”


Luc rolled off her and did as she asked, while gripping his thigh with both hands. Her gaze left his arm drawn to the blood oozing out between his fingers. The thigh wound appeared much more serious. She tugged her phone out and quickly dialed 911. But before it connected, Luc’s bloody fingers grabbed her phone and disconnected the call.


“We can’t call this in.” Luc exhaled harshly and gritted his teeth as once again, he applied pressure to his leg.


“You’re shot. You’re bleeding from multiple places. We need an ambulance!”


He shook his head. “Can’t. We need to leave. Now.”


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Redeemed By Fire Specific Buy Links:










  1. Best wishes on your writing. Thanks for sharing. D.

    1. Thanks! I’m so glad you enjoyed my musings!

  2. Great writing tips, CJ! I'll remember this in my current wip. Wishing you all the best with Redeemed by Fire!

    1. As always, thanks for your support, Mary! I'm so happy my "buy why" might help.

  3. Good grief, CJ! when do you have time for 'down time' :) What a schedule! Wishing great things for your latest, Redeemed by Fire.

  4. Ha! Down time? What's that? I think everyone might be sick of me pushing away.

  5. Great writing tip, loved the example of why the heck the knuckleheads go into the scary basement. Reminds me of the line in "National Treasure" about who gets to go down in the spooky tunnel first LOL.

  6. I love this, CJ! Asking "but why" is a great way to get to the nitty gritty of a story! Thank you for such a great tip and wow!! What a great excerpt! Thank you, Jennifer for hosting!