He would ask his son a question. His son would give a general answer, and then the dad would ask, "And then what?" or "Why?" or "How come?" And the son would give another answer, and the dad would ask again, "And then what?" or "Why?" or "How come?" The dad would continue this method of ping-pong with his son until he really got to the meat of the situation.
I tried it in business with people I was attempting to motivate, to find the root of their "blocks" to success. It worked. It was weird, but cool.
So, then the other day, I read this great article in Writer's Digest (July/Aug 2010, page 70). The article was called "Upping the Ante" by Victoria Lynn Schmidt. The first sub-heading was "Identify Character Motivation." The article goes on to discuss why your characters are doing what they're doing. And, it made me think of the ping-pong method.
So, I sat down with my main character, and I asked her, "What are you doing?" She answered. (I know, I'm a little crazy.) Then I asked her, "Why do you want to do that?" She answered. I asked, "So, why does that matter?" She answered. I asked, "How is that going to bring you pleasure?" "What difference is that going to make?" etc.
I learned some interesting things regarding my character's motivation.
Have a ping-pong conversation with your main character and see what happens.