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): Helping A Loved One See They Are Hurting Themselves (and Possibly Others)
Forms This Might Take:
- Helping an addict sister see she’s an addict
- Encouraging a parent to get involved in a 12-step program
- Talking a friend out of suicide and working to get them into therapy
- Being honest with a brother regarding bad influences in his life and pointing out the legal repercussions if he continues down the road with them
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): safety and security, love and belonging
How the Character May Prepare for This Goal:
- Observe and gather evidence to support one’s argument
- Make notes about instances that happen so one can bring them up if needed
- Research options for therapy and aid
- Work on one’s patience, especially if the loved one is difficult or tends to lash out
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Broken relationships that may not be able to be saved
- Sacrificing time and energy to be with this person in their time of need
- Taking flak at work if one must leave often to deal with situations as they crop up
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- Resistance to being helped
- Unsupportive family members
- An environment that is toxic and rife with abuse
- A loved one who has lost all hope
- A crisis with someone else that must be attended to, meaning the loved one’s needs will be temporarily not met
Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- Developing an addiction to cope with the pain one is unable to alleviate for another
- Strained relationships with other family who are not understanding about one’s desire to help this individual
Clichés to Avoid:
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!