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): Carrying on a Legacy
Forms This Might Take: Keeping alive a legacy begun by a respected person, organization, or culture. This could be personal (running the family business, fostering children because one’s parents did so), moral (supporting a charity organization, rallying around a topic of social awareness to right a wrong), or …
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): self-actualization
How the Character May Prepare for This Goal:
- Reorganizing one’s priorities to make time for this new endeavor
- Making necessary changes so one can pursue the goal (relocating, changing careers, quitting one’s job, etc.)
- Gathering support from others (if this applies to the specific goal)
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Risk of failure (if this is something one hasn’t tried previously)
- Giving up passions or hobbies due to a lack of time or decreased interest
- A temporary or permanent decrease in income
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- The people in one’s life who are averse to the changes that would come with one pursuing the legacy
- A lack of necessary knowledge (having the passion but not the smarts to succeed)
- External forces that don’t want the legacy to continue
- Illness, emergencies, problems at home, and other difficulties that would distract one from focusing wholeheartedly on building the legacy
Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:
- A Knack for Languages
- Skills specific to the legacy (Baking, Basic First Aid, Carpentry, Farming, Mechanically Inclined, Promotion)
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- The object of one’s legacy fading away and being forgotten
- Self-blame for allowing something important to fail
- Social wrongs going unchanged
Clichés to Avoid:
- The passionate believer who sacrifices everything only to fail, ending up ruined in every possible way
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!