Character Motivation Entry: Discovering One’s True Self

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): Discovering One’s True Self

Forms This Might Take:

  • Embracing one’s sexual identity
  • Embracing one’s true gender identity
  • Experimenting to discover one’s passions
  • Shedding the expectations of others to follow a true passion
  • Seeking education to better understand one’s beliefs (about the world and how one fits in it, spirituality, etc.)
  • Achieving independence
  • Embracing travel and new experiences to leave one’s comfort zone
  • Taking on a big challenge which requires self-reliance and sacrifice

Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): self-actualization

How the Character May Prepare for This Goal

  • Leaving a unhealthy marriage
  • Cutting off communication with a toxic family
  • Selling one’s home and assets to travel
  • Quitting one’s job
  • Going back to school
  • Moving somewhere new, with a different sort of lifestyle than what one was used to
  • Volunteering for a cause that forces one to re-imagine one’s priorities
  • Traveling to a isolated location where one is often alone, allowing time to reflect (going on an extended sailing journey, volunteering to teach in a remote third-world village, etc.)
  • Giving up one’s responsibilities so one has the freedom to choose what comes next
  • Saving up money so that one may afford to go on a sabbatical
  • Researching locations one may wish to travel to, or live
  • Researching experiences that will challenge oneself to get reconnect with one’s inner self
  • Making a list of one’s mistakes and practicing self-forgiveness
  • Seeking out a therapist to help one better understand one’s path forward
  • Revisiting old wounds and learning how to let go, including finding a way to forgive others who caused them, or find peace in some way
  • Studying up on how to live frugally or how to work and travel so one is not tied to a job
  • Finding a school, organization, or place of sanctuary where one may learn new things and discover who one really is in the process
  • Seeking out mentors with good advice or guidance in one’s area of self-discovery
  • Preparing family and friends that one is about to embark on something new
  • Practicing self-control, meditation, or other centering techniques so one is no longer controlled by fear

Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal

  • Relationship friction with those who don’t understand one’s needs
  • Distance between loved ones who have different needs and feel unsupported or abandoned by one’s actions as a result
  • Draining one’s finances
  • A relationship partner not part of one’s inner journey may move on in one’s absence
  • Taking time away from one’s current path may cause one to fall behind (in a career, with other interests, losing one’s edge with certain skills that will not be practiced, etc.)
  • Growing apart from those one leaves behind (if one is choosing to go on a long distance sabbatical)
  • Having to give up a house, apartment, a vehicle, etc. that one cherishes because of financial strain

Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved

  • Financial struggles
  • A critical illness of a family member requiring one to return to one’s life and attend to them
  • Finding oneself in danger or harm’s way without support
  • Discovering the grass isn’t greener (by moving to another place, pursuing a new interest, job, relationship, etc.) and realizing one’s journey is an internal one, not an external one
  • A spouse who threatens to leave because he or she is feeling isolated
  • Personal responsibilities that must be dealt with (to do with one’s children, elderly parents, a sibling in trouble, etc.)
  • Contracting a disease, illness, or suffering an injury that sidelines all plans
  • Toxic family members who sabotage one’s journey in some way
  • Being asked to sacrifice something that one is not ready to give up

Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:

Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:

  • Ongoing dissatisfaction
  • Regret and believing one settled for less
  • Having to hide who one is from those who will not understand
  • Unhappiness which could lead to illness or depression
  • Developing a drug or drinking habit
  • Having a mental breakdown or experiencing a mid-life crisis which causes one to do something stupid, like cheat on a partner, rage-quit a great job, etc.

Click here for a list of our current entries for this thesaurus, along with a master post containing information on the individual fields.

Image: Hermann @ 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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6 Responses to Character Motivation Entry: Discovering One’s True Self

  1. Pingback: Writing 5/22/17 – Where Genres Collide

  2. JORDAN TEMBO says:

    Empowering tips for new novelists.

  3. :Donna says:

    I am always astounded at the invaluable information you ladies supply us with. Can’t state enough how very much it’s appreciated! 😀

  4. “…Shedding the expectations of others to follow a true passion…” that right there has been my journey!

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