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): Achieving Spiritual Enlightenment
Forms This Might Take:
- A new awareness of how society’s perceptions have become distorted (materialism, commercialism, racism, moral ambiguity, etc.)
- Becoming self-aware in a way that evokes curiosity and creates the desire for an even deeper understanding
- Awakening to new-found levels of love and connectedness with people, nature, animals, sacred spaces, the cosmos, God, etc.
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): self-actualization
How the Character May Prepare for This Goal:
- Going on a pilgrimage
- Attempting a near-death experience
- Partaking in hallucinogenics or activities that encourage hallucinations
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Pushing the mind or body too far
- Unintentionally neglecting loved ones in one’s pursuit of internal awareness
- Letting go of experiences, items, or activities that are symbols of materialism even though it conflicts with what family members cherish
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- Being scammed by people who are out to take advantage
- Discovering a mentor is not who they appeared to be and this leading to one questioning one’s path and beliefs
- Experiencing an event that causes disillusionment (seeing cruelty, observing godly people acting ungodly, etc.)
Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- Going back “to sleep” (and re-embracing distorted perceptions)
- Feeling disconnected with people and the world in general
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!