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): Avoiding financial ruin
Forms This Might Take:
- Saving a failing business
- Saving a business from unethical practices that will cause it to go under if/when the perpetrators’ actions are brought to light
- Finding a job that will provide financial security
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): physiological needs
How the Character May Prepare for This Goal:
- In Business
- Getting a second mortgage on one’s home to cover the costs of the failing business
- Seeking advice from wise financial counsel
- Downsizing one’s home
- Selling extraneous material items
- Selling valuable collectibles (baseball cards, movie memorabilia, stamps, etc.)
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Losing employees, partners, or investors because of the fundamental changes to the business that need to be made
- Having to change the brand, clientele, or image of one’s business in order to save it
- Giving up a beloved job in pursuit of a better-paying one
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- Bureaucratic red tape that keeps necessary changes from happening
- A recession or depression that increases the business’s financial problems
- Competitors who wouldn’t want one’s business to thrive
- One’s ego keeping one from making the smartest financial decisions
Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- Plummeting self-esteem
- Being left by one’s spouse
- The death of one’s dream (of owning one’s business, having a certain career, etc.)
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!