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): Protecting One’s Home or Property
Forms This Might Take:
- Protecting one’s home against the elements (a forest fire, a tropical storm)
- Protecting one’s community during a civil war or attack
- Protecting one’s farm from those wishing to seize one’s property and assets
- Protecting one’s property from animals or creatures intent on doing harm
- Protecting one’s business from rivals seeking to steal trade secrets, patents, or other information
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): safety and security
How the Character May Prepare for This Goal:
- Investigating one’s enemy to better understand their strengths and weaknesses
- Choosing a peaceful approach and attempting to work with those who represent a danger to one’s home or community by offering something they need (supplies, information, access to resources, etc.) in exchange for not interfering
- Gathering resources so one can operate independently for a period of time if necessary (food, water, medicine, etc.)
- Fortifying one’s home (boarding up windows, barring doors, installing shutters, reinforcing walls or other parts of the structure)
- Installing safes, panic rooms, or other fortified areas as a last resort if the home or building is breached
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Damaged relationships between family members or neighbors who may not see eye to eye on the path forward
- Destruction of one’s property during an assault
- A loved one being injured or killed
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- A traitor who flips and secretly helps those who are seeking to overtake one’s home
- An enemy who is well-equipped and well-manned
- An enemy who is patient, and willing to wait it out until one is forced to give up (when resources run out, or a critical need emerges, like needing access to a doctor or medicine)
Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- The loss of wealth, status, power, and property
- Making an enemy that puts one in even greater danger
- Losing one’s livelihood as a result of forfeiting one’s home or property
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!