Character Motivation Entry: Obtaining Shelter From The Elements

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?

shelterIf 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): Obtaining Shelter From The Elements

Forms This Might Take:

  • Breaking into a vacant home or building
  • Breaking into a vehicle
  • Building a lean-to, tent, or structure with the materials at hand
  • Finding a crawlspace or stairwell to huddle up in
  • Entering a cave or wide crevice despite what may be within
  • Sneaking onto a train or other transit vehicle (a bus, etc.) if one can’t afford a ticket
  • Holing up in a public washroom, a bus shelter, or a covered car park
  • Finding an all-night diner or fast food restaurant
  • Paying for a hotel or motel
  • Sleeping in one’s car
  • Sneaking past guards or police to access a building or structure
  • Breaking into a RV at a park or storage facility
  • Creating a snow cave (if one is out in winter elements with no other choice)
  • Sleeping in the stairwell at an apartment building
  • Accessing a condemned building
  • Seeking out a church or hospital
  • Breaking into a closed business or empty warehouse
  • Accessing an unlocked shed or hiding under a porch at someone’s residence
  • Sleeping in a bus station or transit terminal
  • Going door-to-door in a neighborhood and asking to be let in
  • Sneaking onto a boat that is anchored and vacant

Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): Physical Needs

How the Character May Prepare for This Goal

  • Gathering materials one needs to build a shelter
  • Travel whatever distance necessary to find adequate shelter
  • Strike out alone in reconnaissance to see what one’s options are
  • Pull money from a credit card or bank to purchase shelter
  • Offer to barter or work for one’s shelter
  • Fight others for access to a safe haven in dangerous circumstances
  • Avoid opposition (guards, police, structure owners) using stealth to access a building
  • Pretending to be waiting for someone (at a hotel lobby or bus station)
  • Waiting for nightfall to access shelter unseen (if danger is present)
  • Move on to find a suitable shelter if the first option doesn’t work out
  • Plead one’s case to those who may help one gain shelter
  • Pick a lock or break a window

Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal

  • Draining one’s finances or other resources
  • Becoming lost as one seeks out shelter
  • Having to give up one’s resources to obtain shelter (leave one’s belongings behind to go on foot, etc.)
  • Running into a danger associated with the area (wild animals, militant groups, gangs, aggressive property owners, etc.)
  • Hypothermia or injuries associated with the environment if one is caught out too long
  • Being charged with trespassing

Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved

  • Opposition in the form of police, owners, or security guards protecting the property
  • Competition for the shelter
  • Being mugged or assaulted
  • Running into a scam artist or violent individual looking to take advantage of the situation
  • A companion who is injured and cannot travel far
  • An illness or injury that acts as a ticking clock
  • Weather elements that shift quickly and become dangerous
  • Animals in the area that pose a threat because they are territorial
  • Being robbed and left with no resources to bargain with
  • Mobs or other violent parties in one’s path
  • Not having the knowledge needed to survive elements in one’s environment
  • Losing all sense of direction (such as during a whiteout storm)
  • Going into shock from exposure (hypothermia, etc.)
  • Extreme fatigue

Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:

Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:

  • An injury or illness
  • Frostbite and limb loss (if winter)
  • Being caught by one’s pursuers
  • Death
  • The death of someone in one’s care

Clichés to Avoid: 

  • Being out in the woods and coming upon an abandoned cabin in the nick of time
  • Being hunted during extreme weather for added tension where one’s predators would logically not venture out
  • Having pursuers take extreme, illogical risks for the environment to try and capture the character

Click here for a list of our current entries for this thesaurus, along with a master post containing information on the individual fields.

Image: Jnightfall @ pixabay



Angela is an international speaker and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also enjoys dreaming up new tools and resources for One Stop For Writers, a library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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4 Responses to Character Motivation Entry: Obtaining Shelter From The Elements

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  3. :Donna says:

    I just love this, Angela 🙂 Every time you gals post an entry, it immediately gets my creative juices flowing. I just wish my life was allowing time to make use of it! lol Thanks 😀

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