What does your character want? This is an important question to answer because it determines what your protagonist hopes to achieve by the story’s end. If the goal, or outer motivation, is written well, readers will identify fairly quickly what the overall story goal’s going to be and they’ll know what to root for. But how do you know what outer motivation to choose?
If you read enough books, you’ll see the same goals being used for different characters in new scenarios. Through this thesaurus, we’d like to explore these common outer motivations so you can see your options and what those goals might look like on a deeper level.
Character’s Goal (Outer Motivation): To escape a killer
Forms This Might Take:
- a serial killer
- a hit man
- a criminal intent on tying up loose ends (after a home invasion, a sexual assault, a kidnapping, etc.)
- a stalker
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): Safety and security
Methods for Achieving This Goal:
- hide in a place of concealment
- hide in public where one is invisible by sheer numbers
- attempting a blitz attack where one attacks and then runs
- utilize inherent skills to evade capture or go on the offensive (hunting or tracking skills, utilizing computer hacking or other investigative skills to uncover information or the location of one’s killer, using survivalist training to go off grid or lure one’s enemy into an environment where one has the upper hand, etc.)
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- draining one’s financial resources
- having to give up one’s job or career to go into hiding
- being viewed as a victim when one has worked so hard to not be seen that way by loved ones or society in general
- being injured physically or psychologically
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- police who dismiss the threat because they don’t believe there is one
- the character being unable to travel out of country (because they lack proper paperwork, have a criminal record, etc.)
- feeling one is unable to go to the police (because one also wanted by police, illegally in the country, or has loved ones who will be at risk of incarceration or deportation if one seeks help)
Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- capture and/or death
Clichés to Avoid:
- discovering one’s killer is the very person one trusted to help
Click here for a list of our current entries for this thesaurus, along with a master post containing information on the individual fields.
What does your character want more than anything else and what is he willing to do to achieve it?
On the surface, the protagonist’s goal seems to be the most important, but the inner motivation driving your character toward this goal, despite pain, suffering, fear, setbacks, and sacrifice is what really draws readers in.
Understanding the four cornerstones of character arc (Inner Motivation, Outer Motivation, Inner Conflict & Outer Conflict) and how they frame a story is paramount for today’s writers. To help with this, we have integrated our popular Character Motivation Thesaurus into our online library at One Stop For Writers.
Each entry has been enhanced and expanded to provide even more helpful information about your character’s motivation, and is cross-referenced with our other thesauruses for easy searchability. We’ve also included a must-see tutorial on Character Motivation—a crash-course on how unmet needs, when strong enough, will push your character through fire itself if it means they can fill the hole they feel within. Interested in seeing a sampling of our completed character motivation entries? Head on over and register for free!