Character Motivation Thesaurus: Escaping Homelessness

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): Fleeing One’s Homeland

Forms This Might Take:

One of the most basic human needs is shelter. When an individual or family has no home of their own, their other basic needs become endangered. For this reason, finding a home of one’s own can be a driving force for someone who is homeless.

It should be noted that there are often factors contributing to one’s homelessness that are seemingly insurmountable, making the goal extremely difficult to overcome: addiction, mental illness, physical disabilities, and the need to pay for medications one can’t afford. Some of these factors can cause the person to abandon or sabotage this goal. Please know that this entry outlines some of the ways a person could achieve this motivation while understanding the very difficult, complex circumstances surrounding it.

Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): physiological needs

How the Character May Prepare for This Goal

  • Finding temporary lodgings (at a shelter, the YMCA, a motel, with a friend, in an abandoned building, etc.)
  • Borrowing money from a friend to secure the things one needs in order to get a job (clothing, shoes, toiletries, etc.)
  • Asking for help at a local church, shelter, or nonprofit organization
  • Finding a way to keep up with one’s hygiene
  • Securing a job
  • Arranging for someone to care for one’s child after school, so one can work
  • Overcoming a drug or alcohol addiction
  • Researching affordable home options
  • Planning a budget that will allow one to save up the money needed to get an apartment
  • Selling any valuable items one might have (a car, jewelry, etc.) to obtain money for a security payment or first month’s rent
  • Stealing money or items from others
  • Obtaining any necessary identification (birth certificate, driver license, etc.)
  • Completing a skills course that will enable one to secure a job
  • Maintaining a positive attitude
  • Facing one’s past so one can move forward

Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal

  • Facing the pain of things one might have been avoiding (failing, reconnecting with estranged family and friends, the truth about one’s addiction or mental illness, etc.)
  • No longer being on one’s own; having to be responsible for and to others
  • Having to live life according to a more traditional set of rules and expectations
  • Being rejected (by potential employers, landlords, etc.)
  • Getting one’s hopes up only to have them destroyed again
  • Facing prejudice, ambivalence, or scorn due to one’s homeless status
  • Giving up the things one has become accustomed to, even if they’re less than ideal or even harmful
  • Having to depend on others for help (instead of solely on oneself)
  • Having to lie or deceive in order to achieve the goal (by giving a fake address, making up details from the past, etc.)

Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved

  • Self-doubt and fear
  • Drug and alcohol addiction
  • Mental and physical disabilities
  • Lack of an ability to maintain good physical hygiene
  • Being unable to afford the things one needs to achieve the goal (a downpayment on an apartment, working clothes, food, laundry services, transportation, etc.)
  • Negative influences who don’t want one to succeed
  • Shelters and food kitchens that are full to capacity or closing down due to budget cuts
  • An injury or illness that occurs as one is just starting to bounce back

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

Blending In

Gaining the Trust of Others





A Knack for Making Money


Photographic Memory

Reading People


Strategic Thinking

Survival Skills

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

  • Never being able to reconnect with estranged family members
  • Sacrificing one’s moral code as one is forced to do dreadful things to survive
  • Never achieving one’s dreams
  • One’s self-esteem being forever compromised
  • Not being able to trust or connect with others
  • Falling into addiction
  • One’s existing addiction or mental illness spiraling out of control
  • Being arrested for breaking the law in order to survive
  • One’s children never being able to escape the cycle
  • Being attacked or taken advantage of by others
  • A shortened lifespan due to illness and a poor quality of life
  • Death

Clichés to Avoid: the homeless person who fails in his goal but teaches others some meaningful lessons about life along the way

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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3 Responses to Character Motivation Thesaurus: Escaping Homelessness

  1. Pingback: Writing Links 6/5/17 – Where Genres Collide

  2. Great ideas on this!

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