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): 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
- 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
- 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.)
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
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)
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
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!