Character Motivation Thesaurus Entry: Carrying on a Legacy

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.

legacy, character motivation, writing, story goal, character arc

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 surrounding a passion or interest (gathering informing about a person who broke ground in an important area and sharing it with others, building upon an area of study).

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.)
  • Allocating resources and making purchases toward the pursuit of this goal
  • Sacrificing time, money, or resources so they can be put toward the new goal
  • Increasing one’s knowledge in the area of the legacy (studying, collecting information, interviewing people)
  • Spending time with others who are involved in or passionate about the legacy
  • Gathering support from others (if this applies to the specific goal)
  • Mentally focusing on what it would take to continue this legacy

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
  • Having to move away from one’s home
  • Growing apart from friends due to the amount of time one is dedicating to the new goal
  • Losing the respect of others who don’t understand why one is making the change
  • Stressed relations with family members who are affected by the changes
  • Heightened worry and fear about one’s capability or venturing into a new area

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
  • Character traits or attitudes that will inhibit the hero’s success (impatience, closed-mindedness, recklessness, selfishness, etc.)
  • Those who began the legacy who disagree with one’s methods or the changes one would implement
  • 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

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
  • People associated with the legacy being negatively impacted when it fails to continue (those serviced by a charity, employees of a family-run business, etc.)
  • Personal discontentment and dissatisfaction due to one’s failure
  • The feeling that one has failed not only himself but the important people who began the legacy

Clichés to Avoid: 

  • The passionate believer who sacrifices everything only to fail, ending up ruined in every possible way
  • The “save the farm” storyline in which greedy corporations or neighbors sabotage one’s attempts to continue the family legacy

Click here for a list of our current entries for this thesaurus, along with a master post containing information on the individual fields.



Angela is an international speaker and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also enjoys dreaming up new tools and resources for One Stop For Writers, a library built to help writers elevate their storytelling.
This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

3 Responses to Character Motivation Thesaurus Entry: Carrying on a Legacy

  1. Pingback: Writing Links 8/14/17 – Where Genres Collide

  2. Talia says:

    Yay! You used my idea! I’m happy to have been able to contribute something to this thesaurus. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *