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): Escaping a Dangerous Life One Doesn’t Want
Forms This Might Take:
- Extracting oneself from a criminal group one works for
- Retiring as an assassin
- Leaving employment that is high risk (toxic waste disposal, working in a coal mine, etc.)
- Leaving a war-torn country or unstable political climate
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): safety and security
How the Character May Prepare for This Goal:
- Doing extra jobs for money that one can stockpile
- Stealing money or items that can be sold or traded
- Sketching out plans, making maps or lists as needed
- Behaving upbeat or emotionally stable to protect family and friends remaining behind if they are questioned
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Leaving behind family and friends
- Leaving behind property and assets one can’t take along
- Being forced to let go of mementos and special items
- Giving up what’s known for what is not
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- A powerful enemy who has the resources to track one down
- An injury or illness that hits as one is trying to escape
- Being victimized by others as one escapes (extortion for safe passage, trading one dangerous associate for another, etc.)
- Escaping initially but not fully and therefore being forced to live on the run (never fully achieving safety and security)
Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- Being captured and enslaved
- Being forced to continue doing what one did before under threat of death
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!