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 Rescue a Loved One From A Captor
Forms This Might Take:
- A kidnapping
- A cult
- An abusive relationship
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): Safety and Security
How The Character May Prepare For This Goal:
- Plan an assault on captors in a kill-or-capture scenario
- Enlist the help of professionals (police, a hired mercenary, criminals, etc.)
- Plan an extraction (break and enter, grab and go)
- Infiltrate the group and both escape unnoticed
- obtain something to use for ransom (if applies)
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- going deep into debt or bankrupt
- being captured and tortured
- getting others who are helping with the rescue killed
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- well armed captors
- a turncoat on one’s team
- being unable to raise funds for the ransom
- having one’s loved one be moved somewhere beyond reach
Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:
Possible Fallout for the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- self-blame and depression
- one’s life falling apart
Clichés to Avoid:
- hiring a badass mercenary who is only in it for the money but comes to care for the main character and so goes above and beyond to save the victim
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!