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 Invaders
Forms This Might Take:
- A foreign army seeking to claim territory
- An alien invasion
- A group of people or animals being controlled in some way (a drug, an implant, mind control, a virus, etc.) who pose a immediate threat
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): safety and security
How the Character May Prepare for This Goal:
- Scouting escape routes
- Monitoring the enemy’s movements and patterns to determine the best opportunity to escape
- Arranging for transport (pay, steal, or acquire what one needs)
- Capturing and questioning an invader to obtain valuable information one needs for the escape
- Gathering survival gear and medical supplies
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Being injured
- A family member being captured during the escape
- Leaving behind one’s job, friends, and property
- Having to leave a family member behind (who has been captured and is beyond rescue, who refuses to leave, etc.)
- Having to live with the knowledge of what one did to survive (kill people, sacrifice others to live, fail to help others out of self-preservation, whatever fits)
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- One’s transportation being destroyed
- A cave-in within a tunnel network one is using to escape, a bridge collapse, a train derailment, a capsized boat, a car breakdown
- A checkpoint weakness being discovered and fortified
Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:
- A Knack for Languages
- A Way with Animals
- Astral Projection
- Basic First Aid
- Good Listening Skills
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- Losing one’s home, property, and assets
- Being captured and killed
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!