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
- 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
- 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
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Relationship friction with those who don’t understand one’s needs
- 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
- 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
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!