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): Being The Best at Something
Forms This Might Take:
- Winning a local competition (best chili in the city, prettiest garden display, best home brewed beer, etc.)
- Winning an election (Being chosen as prom king, elected to student council, winning a seat on city council, becoming mayor, becoming a minister or judge, etc.)
- Being awarded a scholarship (for an art competition, for one’s prowess in math, for an essay one wrote, etc.)
- Being acknowledged for being the one to put on the best parties or events
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): esteem and recognition
How the Character May Prepare for This Goal:
- Reading up on the activity one wishes to master or the issues of importance that one should know
- Observing (in person, watching video footage, etc.), studying one’s competition
- Buying whatever equipment or services that might give one an edge
- Practicing affirmations and positive self-talk
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Giving up one’s free time
- Friendships that grow strained because others aren’t supportive of one’s passion
- Spending one’s savings on training, equipment or other things needed to be the best
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- A health crisis (either one’s own or that of a family member) that requires time, money, or both
- A financial crisis (losing a job, a sudden expense like needing a new car, etc.)
- Not having the knowledge, talent, or experience to be the best (needing to be more seasoned)
Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- Crippling disappointment
- Losing the respect or esteem of family or friends for not succeeding
Clichés to Avoid:
- Because of the popularity of the Chevy Chase “Vacation” movies, one would want to avoid creating a character who was obsessed to the same degree
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!