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): Escape Confinement
Forms This Might Take:
- Being locked in a trunk of a car during a kidnapping
- Escaping one’s binds when being held against one’s will
- To find the way out of a building where one is trapped
- Getting out of a maze-like area (catacombs, a water and sewer system, underground tunnel system)
- To escape a facility (above or below ground) when the power is out and all access points are on lock down
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): Physical Needs, Safety and Security
How the Character May Prepare for This Goal:
- Pay attention to sensory details (sounds, smells, movement, etc.) to determine where one is being taken to find one’s way out
- Clock the movements of guards to determine the best time to try and escape
- Study the area to look for possible access points
- Take inventory of what one has to help with the problem of escape
- Mark one’s direction in case one has to backtrack or just to avoid being lost
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Being injured by broken glass or other debris
- Having to give up shelter or temporary safety for the unknown
- Having to take only the resources one can carry and leave the rest
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- Losing one’s way in the dark if one’s light source goes out
- Reinforcements being called in to help (guards, police, trackers, etc.)
- A guard whose loyalty can’t be bought
- Being poisoned or drugged, and thereby partially incapacitated
Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- Running out of a necessity if one cannot get free (food, water. air)
- Being beaten, sexually assaulted, or tortured by one’s captors as punishment when caught
- Finding oneself in an even more dire predicament (if a roof collapses, if one gets wedged into a pipe and can’t move, etc.)
Clichés to Avoid:
- Guards who fall asleep on duty
Click here for a list of our current entries for this thesaurus, along with a master post containing information on the individual fields.
Image: Unsplash @ Pixabay
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!