Character Motivation Thesaurus Entry: Avoiding Financial Ruin

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.

save the farm, avoid financial ruin, bankruptcy, foreclosure, crisis

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
  • Pursuing a degree that will enable one to make more money
  • Paying off a large amount of debt (credit cards, medical bills, student loans, a mortgage, etc.)
  • Seeking to avoid declaring bankruptcy
  • Escaping a blackmailer or extortionist who is bleeding one dry

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
    • Studying successful businesses to see what they’re doing
    • Downsizing at work (cutting or combining positions, lowering wages, etc.)
    • Increase marketing to try and increase revenue
    • Implementing a short-term spending freeze
    • Identifying who or what is causing the problem and requiring that changes be made
    • Negotiating better arrangements with the institutions or people one is losing money to (banks, suppliers, manufacturers, etc.)
    • Streamlining processes to make them more efficient
    • Engaging in illegal activity to make things happen (offering bribes, blackmailing someone, stealing money, extorting a competitor, etc.)
  • Personally
    • Downsizing one’s home
    • Selling extraneous material items
    • Selling valuable collectibles (baseball cards, movie memorabilia, stamps, etc.)
    • Selling luxury items (sports cars, a boat, smart phones, expensive jewelry or furs, etc.)
    • Looking for a windfall (by playing the lottery, gambling, waiting on an aging benefactor to pass away, etc.)
    • Becoming more self-sufficient (growing vegetables rather than buying them, making clothes for one’s family, etc.)
    • Creating a budget and sticking to it
    • Cutting up credit cards
    • Requiring family members to get on board with the new plan
    • Moving to a location that is less expensive
    • Getting rid of one’s car and biking, walking, or using public transportation
    • Adopting a “saving” mentality over a “spending” state-of-mind
    • Getting a second (or third) job
    • Giving up a low-paying or unprofitable job (that might involve one’s passion) for one that makes better money (even if it’s not enjoyable)
    • Finding alternative ways of making money (by selling one’s artwork, taking care of someone’s child after school, etc.)
    • Making education a priority (if one is pursuing a degree to change one’s financial situation)

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
  • Having to give up expensive hobbies, pastimes, or activities that one enjoys
  • Growing apart from friends involved in expensive activities that one no longer sees
  • Conflict at home with family members who refuse to see the truth of what’s happening and get on board with the plan
  • Losing esteem in the eyes of others (when they discover one isn’t as affluent as they thought)
  • Giving up a beloved job in pursuit of a better-paying one
  • Loss of freedom as one works multiple jobs to make ends meet
  • Short-term financial hardships that must be accepted in order to make long-term headway
  • Having to give up the luxuries one has become accustomed to

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
  • Being unable to get the loans and mortgages that would help one get into a better financial situation
  • A personal setback that makes it difficult for one to work (an accident or medical diagnosis, being fired or having one’s hours cut, a family member needing extra support at home, etc.)
  • One’s ego keeping one from making the smartest financial decisions
  • Family members who don’t want to give up their lavish lifestyle
  • A poor credit score (due to past poor choices) that makes it difficult to get a loan or line of credit

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

Gaining the Trust of Others

Skills specifically tied to one’s job or that could help the character make money (FarmingForagingGardeningMechanically InclinedPromotion, etc.)




A Knack for Making Money



Reading People



Strategic Thinking

Survival Skills

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

  • Plummeting self-esteem
  • Losing one’s home
  • Exhausting one’s savings and being left with nothing
  • Being left by one’s spouse
  • The death of one’s dream (of owning one’s business, having a certain career, etc.)
  • Health problems (hypertension, ulcers, migraines, etc.) due to long-term stress and anxiety
  • Losing one’s moral way; stooping to unethical means in an effort to hold onto what one has without having to make the hard sacrifices
  • Depression

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


Becca Puglisi is an international speaker, writing coach, and bestselling author of The Emotion Thesaurus and its sequels. Her books are available in five languages, are sourced by US universities, and are used by novelists, screenwriters, editors, and psychologists around the world. She is passionate about learning and sharing her knowledge with others through her Writers Helping Writers blog and via One Stop For Writers—a powerhouse online library created to help writers elevate their storytelling. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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One Response to Character Motivation Thesaurus Entry: Avoiding Financial Ruin

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