Character Motivation Entry: Being The Best At Something

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 profiled in one’s local paper for an accomplishment or accolade
  • Coaching the winning team
  • Being chosen for the Olympic team
  • Being on a winning team at the champion level
  • Having one’s business win a prestigious award
  • Being acknowledged for being the one to put on the best parties or events
  • Being chosen (to act in a commercial, winning a part in a movie, being given a spot in an orchestra, etc.)
  • Being the best parent, grandparent, teacher, boss, etc.

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
  • Studying as necessary to become more proficient
  • Practicing one’s communication (written, verbal, etc.) and charm to “win over” those who may be in a position to help
  • Being open to trying new things, adding more “tools” to one’s toolkit
  • Seeking out mentors or coaches as needed
  • Practicing obsessively
  • Dedicating oneself to the area of study, cutting out distractions
  • Researching past winners and studying their methods
  • Understanding the risks and be willing to take the ones that make sense
  • Understanding one’s judges or the people one must win over to better deliver exactly what they need
  • Buying whatever equipment or services that might give one an edge
  • Putting in more effort than one’s competition
  • 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
  • Relationships that become damaged because of competition
  • Losing out on family time
  • Having less energy and focus for other things
  • Dropping the ball in other areas of one’s life because of a singular (possibly obsessive) focus on one’s goal

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.)
  • Deepening family problems that must be addressed, requiring one to refocus one’s time
  • A move due to work
  • A talented competitor with better resources and support
  • Sabotage
  • Not having the knowledge, talent, or experience to be the best (needing to be more seasoned)
  • Realizing this goal will not bring fulfillment (as it is a false goal and a deeper need is at the root)

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
  • A negative outlook
  • A future laden with underachieving
  • Low self-worth

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.

Image: 3dman_eu@Pixabay




Angela is an international speaker and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also enjoys dreaming up new tools and resources for One Stop For Writers, a library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.
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8 Responses to Character Motivation Entry: Being The Best At Something

  1. Pingback: Wiing Links 5/8/17 – Where Genres Collide

  2. Dylan says:

    there are no skills in the Talent & Skills section.

    • Hi, Dylan. Thanks for your input. I guess it would depend on how talents and skills are defined. For our purposes, a talent is a knack someone is innately born with while a skill is something a person becomes good at over time through practice and diligence. By these definitions, many of the entries in this thesaurus could be either talents OR skills, depending on how they’re acquired: archery, good listening skills, charm, wrestling, etc. Granted, there are other ways to define these terms; but for the purposes of this thesaurus, this is how we’ve chosen to characterize them.

  3. Mary Van Everbroeck says:

    Hi Angela: Excellent Post. I have been a member of ‘One Stop for Writers’ for a while. This Post and included links provided much clarity as to how I can better assess the tremendous resources contained within ‘One Stop for Writers’ website. I am in awe of the tremendous thought, research, time and energy that creating this resource for writers required. Thank you. Take care. Mary

  4. This might be a hard character to write. Like you said, you might go over the top like Chevy Chase in the Vacation movies. It’d be a challenge, definitely!

    • I keep thinking how a person like this could so easily be Unlikable—say, if he/she was driven to always be the best at everything. I think we’ve all been around people like that and know how challenging they can be. But they’re real life, right?

  5. My goodness, this certainly describes my main character’s motivation. Rhino wants to be the best at everything–he wants to be perfect. He wants to be the chief among his brothers, compelling their love and loyalty and ruling over them. Looking at your list of characteristics and behaviors, I see where Rhino hits all the markers. Very interesting and informative article.

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