Character Motivation Thesaurus Entry: Reconciling with an Estranged Family Member

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.

story goal, character conflict, outer motivation inner motivation writing conflict

Character’s Goal (Outer Motivation): Reconciling with an Estranged Family Member

Forms This Might Take: Reconciling with an ex-spouse, a sibling, parent or grandparent, son or daughter, or extended family member (cousins, aunts, uncles, nieces, nephews, etc.)

Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): love and belonging, esteem and recognition

How the Character May Prepare for This Goal:

  • Talking to other family members to get a feel for how receptive the loved one might be
  • Making a list of “safe” topics to talk about
  • Examining the loved one’s schedule to decide on the best place or time to approach them
  • Calling or sending a text to get the ball rolling; starting small
  • Practicing what one will say when the time comes
  • Getting into a positive mindset by mentally focusing on the person’s good traits
  • Replaying the past confrontation that ended the relationship to make sure one has the facts straight
  • Preparing arguments
  • Taking steps to look one’s best (buying a new outfit, getting a haircut or pedicure, dieting, etc.)
  • Seeking advice from wise counsel
  • Preparing a “peace offering” gift
  • Asking someone to accompany one to the meeting for moral support, even if they just sit in the car or wait in the lobby

Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:

  • Being rejected again by the loved one
  • Hurtful memories being dredged up
  • Being tempted into old habits and addictions associated with the person
  • Losing friends or family members who don’t understand one’s desire to reconnect with this person
  • Added stress and heightened emotions as one tries to reconcile
  • Decreased productivity at work due to distractibility 

Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:

  • Physical distance (if the loved one lives far away)
  • Loved ones (of the character’s and/or the estranged person’s) who don’t want the reconciliation to happen
  • Defense mechanisms and other forms of shielding that make it hard to let down one’s guard
  • Defensiveness, bitterness, and anger that make forgiveness difficult
  • Wounding events associated with this person that haven’t been dealt with
  • Other life pressures that add to the stress of the reconciliation (deadlines at work, an argument with one’s spouse, sickness, etc.)

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

Good Listening SkillsGaining the Trust of OthersESP (Clairvoyance)EmpathyCharmHospitalityMaking People LaughReading People

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

  • Debilitating regret or guilt upon the estranged person’s death
  • Being robbed of the chance to get to know extended family related to the person (nieces, nephews, grandchildren, etc.)
  • Lack of closure from not being able to address old wounds
  • Hurtful defense mechanisms being reinforced rather than overcome (running from conflict, ending relationships at the first sign of trouble, etc.)
  • Always feeling like an important part one’s soul or happiness is missing

Clichés to Avoid: 

  • A grave injury or diagnosis for the estranged party being the motivation for the character to try and reconcile
  • Discovering at some point that the estranged party has a terminal illness
  • Parallel subplots of estrangement (e.g., the character’s distant relationship with his son prompts him to make amends with his father)

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: Reconciling with an Estranged Family Member

  1. Pingback: Writing Links…7/3/17 – Where Genres Collide

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