Before we jump into today’s thesaurus entry, I wanted to let you know that I’m at Adventures in YA Publishing, talking about 3 Kinds of Story Arcs. If you’re curious to know which one is (or should be) in your story, hop on over and check it out.
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): Stopping an event from happening
Forms This Might Take: Stopping…
- a bomb detonation
- an assassination
- the killing of a captive
- someone from killing himself
- a war from being started
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): safety and security
Methods for Achieving This Goal:
- Infiltrating enemy ranks to gather information
- Gathering allies by identifying those who would benefit from one’s goal
- Removing, disabling, discrediting, or otherwise undermining any competition
- Calling in favors to gain resources
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Getting killed in the process, either because of the inherent danger or purposely by those one is opposing
- Those in close proximity (emotional and/or physical) to the hero being threatened or killed
- Losing credibility with loved ones or important people in one’s life due to one’s single-mindedness and passion
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- the person, corporation, race, or group of people one is opposing
- one’s family and friends (trying to dissuade the hero from pursuing such a ridiculous or impossible goal)
- physical boundaries (if one needs to travel)
- Incompetent allies
Talents & Skills That Might Help the Character Achieve This Goal:
See our complete list of talents and skills and find the ones that pertain to your specific story goal here.
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- Insecurity over one’s abilities
- A fear of trying to stop anything like this from happening again
- Losing one’s job (if the job is tied to one’s goals of stopping a certain event from happening)
Clichés to Avoid:
- The government going to any length to protect its biological weapon
- A madman at the helm of a country’s nuclear controls
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!