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): Trying Again When One Has Previously Failed
Forms This Might Take:
- An athlete who was injured before reaching a specific level of achievement
- Returning to school after dropping out
- Summiting a mountain after having to turn back before
- Mastering a particular skill or solving a difficult and vexing problem
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): self-actualization
How the Character May Prepare for This Goal:
- Alter one’s eating habits to improve nutritional health
- Strength-training and physical conditioning
- Researching an area of expertise
- Practicing by achieving smaller goals
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Spending one’s savings to work toward achievement
- Giving up employment to go on a sabbatical or travel
- Placing more financial and emotional strain on other family members in one’s absence
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- Age taking its toll and one’s body becoming compromised (if the goal is physical)
- Mental fatigue
- Bad weather or unsafe conditions (if travel is an element)
- Competition that is just as determined to reach the goal themselves
Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:
Note: the below are generalized skills that may help, but depending on the nature of the individual goal, many different specific skills and talents may aid the character in achievement.
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- Feeling incomplete
- Regret, feeling one has failed, again
Clichés to Avoid:
- Going up against the same rival one was bested by before
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!