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): Seeking Out One’s Biological Roots
Forms This Might Take:
- Tracking down one’s birth parents
- Connecting with a half-sibling that one has just discovered
- Returning to an orphanage in one’s country of origin in hopes of uncovering one’s past
- Searching for the family one was kidnapped from
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): love and belonging
How the Character May Prepare for This Goal:
- Request access to one’s birth records (once one turns eighteen)
- Ask one’s adoptive parents for details
- Research the laws surrounding adoption at the time to understand the information hurdles ahead
- Interview those involved in one’s adoption
- Start contacting possible leads and set up meetings if one is able
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Becoming obsessed to the point it strains relationships with one’s adopted family
- Losing one’s job because one is always needing time off to travel and investigate leads
- Losing one’s sense of self and identity as one digs deeper into one’s past
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- Ineffective lawyers, investigators, and advocates
- A fire or other disaster that destroyed one’s records
- A lack of record keeping at the time (especially in the case of civil unrest)
- Discovering the adoption was off the books and so documents are false
Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- Feeling incomplete because one doesn’t know one’s roots
- Low self worth and doubt at not knowing why one was given up
Clichés to Avoid:
- A “pauper to prince” scenario, where one discovers one is actually royalty and was adopted out for safety reasons (heir to a fortune, one’s enemies seeking out one’s children and killing them, etc.)
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!