Character Motivation Thesaurus: Escaping Homelessness

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): Fleeing One’s Homeland

Forms This Might Take:

One of the most basic human needs is shelter. When an individual or family has no home of their own, their other basic needs become endangered. For this reason, finding a home of one’s own can be a driving force for someone who is homeless.

It should be noted that there are often factors contributing to one’s homelessness that are seemingly insurmountable, making the goal extremely difficult to overcome: addiction, mental illness, physical disabilities, and the need to pay for medications one can’t afford. Some of these factors can cause the person to abandon or sabotage this goal. Please know that this entry outlines some of the ways a person could achieve this motivation while understanding the very difficult, complex circumstances surrounding it.

Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): physiological needs

How the Character May Prepare for This Goal

  • Finding temporary lodgings (at a shelter, the YMCA, a motel, with a friend, in an abandoned building, etc.)
  • Borrowing money from a friend to secure the things one needs in order to get a job (clothing, shoes, toiletries, etc.)
  • Asking for help at a local church, shelter, or nonprofit organization
  • Finding a way to keep up with one’s hygiene
  • Securing a job
  • Arranging for someone to care for one’s child after school, so one can work
  • Overcoming a drug or alcohol addiction
  • Researching affordable home options
  • Planning a budget that will allow one to save up the money needed to get an apartment
  • Selling any valuable items one might have (a car, jewelry, etc.) to obtain money for a security payment or first month’s rent
  • Stealing money or items from others
  • Obtaining any necessary identification (birth certificate, driver license, etc.)
  • Completing a skills course that will enable one to secure a job
  • Maintaining a positive attitude
  • Facing one’s past so one can move forward

Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal

  • Facing the pain of things one might have been avoiding (failing, reconnecting with estranged family and friends, the truth about one’s addiction or mental illness, etc.)
  • No longer being on one’s own; having to be responsible for and to others
  • Having to live life according to a more traditional set of rules and expectations
  • Being rejected (by potential employers, landlords, etc.)
  • Getting one’s hopes up only to have them destroyed again
  • Facing prejudice, ambivalence, or scorn due to one’s homeless status
  • Giving up the things one has become accustomed to, even if they’re less than ideal or even harmful
  • Having to depend on others for help (instead of solely on oneself)
  • Having to lie or deceive in order to achieve the goal (by giving a fake address, making up details from the past, etc.)

Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved

  • Self-doubt and fear
  • Drug and alcohol addiction
  • Mental and physical disabilities
  • Lack of an ability to maintain good physical hygiene
  • Being unable to afford the things one needs to achieve the goal (a downpayment on an apartment, working clothes, food, laundry services, transportation, etc.)
  • Negative influences who don’t want one to succeed
  • Shelters and food kitchens that are full to capacity or closing down due to budget cuts
  • An injury or illness that occurs as one is just starting to bounce back

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

Blending In

Gaining the Trust of Others





A Knack for Making Money


Photographic Memory

Reading People


Strategic Thinking

Survival Skills

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

  • Never being able to reconnect with estranged family members
  • Sacrificing one’s moral code as one is forced to do dreadful things to survive
  • Never achieving one’s dreams
  • One’s self-esteem being forever compromised
  • Not being able to trust or connect with others
  • Falling into addiction
  • One’s existing addiction or mental illness spiraling out of control
  • Being arrested for breaking the law in order to survive
  • One’s children never being able to escape the cycle
  • Being attacked or taken advantage of by others
  • A shortened lifespan due to illness and a poor quality of life
  • Death

Clichés to Avoid: the homeless person who fails in his goal but teaches others some meaningful lessons about life along the way

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

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Theme: The Marrow of Your Story


If structure is the bones of story, theme is the marrow.

Plainly defined, theme is what our stories mean, and it is revealed through other literary elements such as character, plot, dialogue, perspective, setting, mood, and tone. Stories may have several themes. Oftentimes readers—and writers caught off guard—express themes as single-word motifs or a phrase that refers to philosophical-sounding concepts. Sometimes themes are so implicit, even the writer isn’t much aware of them. Other times, they are wonderfully obvious, such as when several characters in Moulin Rouge (2001) sing “Freedom! Beauty! Truth and Love!” to The Green Fairy. Throughout the film, different characters treat viewers to bittersweet dollops of “The greatest thing you’ll ever learn is just to love and be loved in return.” The themes of Moulin Rouge include the supremacy of love, the breaking down of social and economic barriers, and the freedom to self-determine one’s own fate.

What readers, writers, critics, philosophers, agents, publishers, and English Teachers Everywhere know is that theme strengthens story. Without a strong theme, a story tends to lack cohesion, characters act inconsistently, and conflict diminishes. Themes unify the elements of our stories into a meaningful narrative experience. Stories with strong themes provoke emotional and empathetic responses. They remain with us; we think about them long after we have experienced them: “Freedom! Beauty! Truth and Love!”

When I think about theme it is often paired with memories of filling blue essay books in my high school English classes with phrases like “love endures all things” or “the loss of innocence” or, more ambiguously, “man versus nature” in an effort to capture the essence of a canonical work. This is not an uncommon memory, and it is not a useless exercise. Many of us know what themes are, at least vaguely, because of this kind of reductive work. A friend of mine must have had a superb English teacher, because when she recalls her high school English class, she smiles and says with a sense of fondness that she “loved writing themes.” She is a cartographer, not a novelist—yet.

I like to think about theme as the worldview among the characters in a story. This worldview is the ideas and meaning they carry with them throughout the story. Inevitably, worldviews are going to clash with the worldviews of other characters or story elements—if we want to create conflict. When JK Rowling formed the four Houses of Hogwarts, she created a society based on four worldviews. Within those Houses, there is much room for individualism, but as an author, it was a very handy tool. It permitted her to create strong, deep themes with the latitude for nuance. Ultimately, the worldviews that triumph in our stories, the ones with keen resonance, are the ones that obtain enduring meanings.

How Do We Identify Theme?

We can discover or design theme, or if you are a writer like me, it’s something you manage during revision. You’re writing along or thinking about your story or in an editing phase, and Lo! There’s theme. It’s another one of those things I tend to write down on my editing list to check off, because I don’t really think about it, or rather it’s all I think about on the idea level when I’m first thinking about a story. Theme lingers underneath the surface when I’m thinking about other aspects of story, like character, plot, conflict and setting.

If theme doesn’t come naturally as you’re writing, here are some areas to explore to help bring those ideas to the surface.

Ask: “What is my story about?” Write down the first words and phrases that come to mind. Another way to think about theme is the age-old question since before Aesop: “What is the moral of my story?”

Understand the relationships among motifs, symbols, topics, and themes:

  • motif is a recurring idea or concept that develops and reinforces theme.
  • symbol is an object or thing that represents something else, including ideas, concepts, moods, and emotions. Symbols reinforce motif.
  • topic is the subject matter with which a piece of writing is concerned.
  • theme is how meaning is conveyed through the exploration of a topic along with elements such as motifs and symbols.

For example, in Jayne Eyre, fire is one of many motifs that recurs in different ways throughout the novel. There is the lack of fire and warmth when she is a child, both at Gateshead Hall and at Lowood Institute. This motif comes to symbolize a poverty of circumstance and emotion when she is a scorned and neglected orphan. The motif is further embodied in Jayne’s spirited, impassioned personality. Fire also symbolizes illumination, purification, and destruction. As a governess, Jaye explores Thornfield Hall by candlelight, the truth of her employer’s secret concealed in its shadow. Jayne saves Mr. Rochester from burning alive, and ultimately, it is Bertha’s destructive, purifying fire that aids Jayne in obtaining her ultimate desire. These motifs and symbols strengthen and develop some of the themes of Jayne Eyre that include the struggle between our desire and our duty when they conflict, the different moral expectations that apply to caste and gender in Victorian England, and above all,  love and passion in its many forms.

Know Your Character’s Worldview: Characters reveal theme and worldview through actions, gestures, and dialogue (what they say and don’t say), what they wear, how they behave, what their secrets are, what they reveal to themselves and others. Forrest Gump is famous for one unforgettable thematic line: My momma always said, “Life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” This is my preferred way to go about identifying theme. Ask yourself: “What is the worldview of my characters/story? What wins out in the end?” If you can boil your character’s worldview down to a simple sentence or two, you’ll have a starting point for theme in his or her story.

For more help identifying your theme, try word mapping or word association. Write down a list of five words from your story. Use each word in a phrase that refers to an essential or existential idea: the big ideas having to do with human nature.

Here are some links that will remind you of some familiar themes:

One Stop For Writers’ Symbolism and Motif Thesaurus

Themes, Patterns, and Symbols

List of Common Themes

Vehicles For Delivering Theme in Fiction

Symbolism: Symbols typically emerge organically in a work but sometimes not as often as a writer would like. During revision, pay attention to the symbols that are revealed in your story. What colors dominate, which objects are more noticeable than others? What actions do characters perform with more of a sense of significance than others? Are there seemingly mundane objects that make you think of other aspects of the story?

Repetition: the repetition of concepts, gestures, symbols, settings, phrases, or words indicate their significance in the story—they shouldn’t be distracting to the reader but should contribute to the overall thematic pulse of your work. Forrest’s box of chocolates, along with the recurring drifting feather, reinforce the theme of destiny—that life is a big collection of surprises that happen regardless of the person’s actions.

Setting: the setting can reinforce your theme or highlight it. Are you writing about revenge and the promise of its satisfaction as well as its pitfalls? Or how about good luck always running out? Observe how these kinds of stories work very well set in oppressive but stark settings like southern California or the bleak winters of Montana. Change your setting to experiment with how it strengthens or weakens your theme.

Contrast: This descriptive technique involves placing elements in opposition to one another in order to form a distinction. This can be accomplished with characters, values, setting, concepts, ideas, and even on the symbolic level. Going back to Forrest Gump, Forrest’s idea that life is a series of random coincidences is sharply opposed by Lieutenant Dan’s belief that everyone has a destiny. Differences can show competing themes.

Title: you can hint at or give away a great deal thematically in your title: The Age Of InnocenceAll The Light We Cannot SeeThe Virgin SuicidesThe Handmaid’s TaleThe Heart Of Darkness,Beloved.

Theme is one of the most misunderstood elements of writing, but when it comes to making your story resonate with readers, it can be one of the most important. Hopefully these tips will help you if you’re struggling in this area. If you have any suggestions for how you figure out the theme in your story, please share them in the comments.

april_bradley_framedApril has a Master’s in Ethics from Yale University and studied Philosophy and Theology as a post-graduate scholar at Cambridge University. Her fiction has appeared in many literary magazines and has been nominated for the 2015 Best of the Net Anthology as well as the 2017 Pushcart Prize. She is the Associate Editor for Bartleby Snopes Literary Magazine and Press and the Founder and Editor of Women Who Flash Their Lit. Find out more about April here, visit her website, and catch up with her online.

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What American Horror Story Taught Me About Anti-Heroes

Every time I search Netflix, Hulu, or primetime TV for a new show to watch, I’m convinced that anti-heroes are taking over the world. Breaking Bad, Sons of Anarchy, the Sopranos, Nurse Jackie, Dexter—all popular shows with a less-than-traditional protagonist. The anti-hero seems to be here to stay, so as writers, we should know how to identify and write them. Kathy Edens is here with some tips on how to do just that.

Protagonists of yore were inherently good, and villains were bad through and through. Remember Dudley Do-Right, Canadian Mountie, who was constantly rescuing the damsel in distress from the purely evil Snidely Whiplash?

For today’s readers, though, the hero can be too predictably good. We want characters designed after real-life people. We want to see that they have both dark and light inside, and that they’re not always the good guy.

Differences Between an Anti-hero and a Hero

An anti-hero is a much more nuanced protagonist with faults, foibles, and a dark side that goes against the grain of societal norms, morals, or just plain kindness. Anti-heroes are always deeply flawed. With contradictory traits, they are crafted after real people, unlike a hero who is sometimes too good to be true.

On the flip side, the classic hero is the main character who embodies the notion of “good.” A hero has exemplary morals and never veers from that code. While her may experience failures throughout the story, he will always overcome evil in the end. Consider Hercules as the manifestation of a hero.

To fully appreciate the anti-hero protagonist, it’s helpful to examine one in action. This is where American Horror Story’s third season, “Coven,” comes in. If you haven’t seen it yet, it’s full of witches, voodoo, and racism. These people are, for the most part, evil. But we’re meant to see them in a sympathetic light based on their past and a little light of hope we see inside them.

The main character, Fiona, is a supreme witch. She’s in charge of the coven, but she got to this exalted position through some very nefarious means. As you follow Fiona through the episodes, you see her as conniving and manipulative. And that is juxtaposed with scenes of incredible compassion and warmth, such as when she brings a stillborn baby back to life in the arms of its distraught mother.

The interesting thing about Fiona is that she’s aging and we find out she’s riddled with cancer. As the cancer eats away her body, what little bit that was good inside her gets eaten, too. By the end, you’re rooting for her demise.

The suspense is high in American Horror Story Coven as all of the witches use their incredible powers for good and evil. People are killed, then brought back to life, and there is a civil war between the voodoo priestess and the coven, not to mention an evil racist who tortured blacks in the time of slavery. It’s some pretty heady anti-hero stuff. Just when you start to think they have some redeeming qualities, someone else dies, and you realize they’re only in it for themselves. The beauty of Coven is that you don’t know until the end which anti-heroes have redeeming qualities and which are purely evil.


How To Create Three-Dimensional Anti-Heroes

An anti-hero is not simply a person with some major faults. There’s pathos involved, maybe a little psychosis, and usually a self-concept that is inflated and complicated. When you create your anti-hero, consider that they’re usually:

  • Not very good role models. We wouldn’t want to be like the witches in Coven (though sometimes it would be fun to kick butt like they do).
  • Somewhat selfish but can display good traits now and then.
  • Mainly motivated by self-interest. They do whatever it takes, sometimes crossing lines that others wouldn’t dare.
  • Motivated by conflicting emotions. One minute they’re intent on revenge and the next they’re doing something honorable.
  • More inclined to choose a wrong action because it gets them what they want quicker.
  • Display compassion for the underdogs, children, or weak and infirm characters.
  • They don’t apologize for their bad behaviors.
  • Chock full of contradictions.

One caveat when creating your anti-hero: he or she doesn’t always have to be redeemed by the final page. Some anti-heroes, while showing streaks of compassion and caring, are still damaged people at the end of a story. They’re characters we love to hate.

So watch American Horror Story to get an idea of carefully crafted anti-heroes. Or better yet, watch the movie Suicide Squad. Even Homer Simpson is a fully-realized anti-hero. Pay attention to how other successful writers create an anti-hero, and then let your imagination go to town.

Who are your favorite anti-heroes? Let us know in the comments below who your favorite anti-heroes are. Let’s start a resource list of great examples that we can refer to and learn from.


Kathy Edens is a staff writer at, the most comprehensive editing tool that helps you polish and sharpen your writing through readability analyses and technical edits reviews. Check out the free online editing tool that turns your good writing into great content.

Posted in Character Flaws, Characters | 21 Comments

We’re In This Together: How To Help Other Authors Succeed

A common query Becca and I get is, “Why do you do what you do?” It’s a fair question, because in order for us to coach writers through our books, speaking, and our One Stop for Writers site, we’ve had to temporarily put our fiction-writing on hold. Not an easy decision. But the fact is we love to see dreams realized. This is why we do it. As writers ourselves, we know the power of THIS particular dream–a book in hand, our name paired with the title, and the knowledge that readers are losing themselves in a world we’ve created.

We celebrate each time someone we know achieves this dream–and how could we not? It’s so wonderful to see all that hard work pay off! Today, we are celebrating because our friend Kristen Lamb has just released her first mystery thriller, The Devil’s Dance.

Many of you know Kristen and the giant heart she has for writers. She has such passion for those of us in this industry and gives her all every day through her blog and the relationships she builds. So when someone so authentic and genuine rounds the fiction horn, well, we can’t help but cheer especially loud!

I’ve been away the last month in Italy, but the book is on my kindle now and I can’t wait to read it. I hope you’ll check it out too. But first, let’s look more at book releases in general and talk about what we can do to help the authors we know.

Launching a Book: Behind the Scenes

When an author releases a book, it’s all smiles and excitement…on the outside. What we don’t see is the anxiety going on within: will this book find its readers? Will it become lost in the glut of fiction available? If I share my excitement too freely, will people see it as unwanted promotion?

These worries are universal among authors. And, with the saturation of promotion these days, it’s important we don’t push a book too hard ourselves. Inside, we hope others will step up and help.

(And BOOM, this is what community is about, right? Stepping up!)

So if you know an author like Kristen who is releasing a book and you want to help, here’s a few things you can do (beyond the obvious of purchasing the book).

1: Ask your local library to bring the book in. Many libraries have an online form and they often pay attention to requests. Click here to find a library near you…and why not request Kristen’s book while you’re at it? 🙂 If it is an ebook release, first encourage your author friend to make the ebook available to a service like OverDrive.

2: Leave a review. This is the clear obvious one, but often people stop at only submitting it to Goodreads or Amazon. Please cut and paste the review to all the main sites the book is being sold (Amazon, Kobo, Barnes & Noble, and if it applies, Smashwords.) For example, you can review The Devil’s Dance on Amazon and Goodreads. It wasn’t at LibraryThing, so I added it (if you’ve read this book, please give it some review love?)

3: Place the book on appropriate lists. If you loved reading the book, help others find it. Goodreads has many great lists you can add books to, or start your own. Using Kristen as an example, you’ll see her reviews are excellent. Think of how much it will help her if reviewers add The Devil’s Dance to some of the “best” lists so others also find it.

4: Visit Pinterest and pin the book & link to appropriate boards. We want to get that cover and link out there, right? If you have a board for books you love, add it. Look for group boards you can contribute it to (if the book’s genre is a match or it covers an area of interest that the board is about). Another tip: if you write a similar book as your author friend, then pin their book to boards where yours is. Why? Well, looking at Kristen as an example, she’s got a very strong brand. If I wrote in the Murder Mystery/Suspense/Thriller genre and my book was similar to hers, I would want our books to show up together as it may help my own book gain visibility.

5: Blog about the book or author. If your blog audience is readers who may like this book, please blog about the book. It doesn’t have to be full of promo–just tell your readers what made it special, and link to the book and the author. Or ask the author for an interview, or to guest post. These posts can then be shared on social media, finding even more readers. In Kristen’s case, featuring her and her book is also good for you too, because it is easier for her to share a post on YOUR blog than her own. She’ll send readers your way so they discover you as well!

6: Share the author’s content when it fits your audience. Authors are in many places, which gives us an opportunity to help their content be found by retweeting and reposting…as long as it matches our audience. Chances are, your author friend may have many social accounts. You can help them find their readership by connecting with them in these places. Let’s take a peek at Kristen. A social media maven, she has many accounts: twitter, facebook, an amazon author page, a goodreads profile, instagram, Google +, she’s at linked in, and has a you tube account. Like most authors she has a website…but she also has another space, the WANA tribe.) So wherever your author friend is online, find them. If you use the same networks, reach out, and share their content to help people discover them. Our industry is all about relationships and we help one another become more discoverable. If you are passionate about your friend’s book you can also share it on Instagram as it’s a great visual platform for book covers.

7: Upvote their best reviews on Amazon so they rise to the top. This is a simple thing that can really help! Simply “like” the best reviews that you agree with so these are the first ones potential readers see.

8: “Stumble” the author’s blog pages which will best help readers find them. StumbleUpon is something that’s been around forever. This site allows you to submit pages to be “stumbled,” meaning that people who are interested in that page’s content (which you create tags for) may find it when they use the Stumble it tool. You can submit your own posts (which I do) and traffic comes from those pages & tags FOREVER. Handy right?

It’s just after 9 am, and look at how many visitors are from Stumbleupon.

So sign up for an account, and find a page or two from your author friend’s blog that tie into their book. Submit these by clicking a toolbar Thumb’s Up icon you’ll add to your toolbar, and create appropriate tags. Here’s what I did for Kristen’s book page (click to enlarge)

9: Use your connections. Sooner or later we all realize that marketing is all about relationships, not promotion. You know people. I know people. Chances are, these aren’t the same people. If you can think about a connection you have (in real life, online, in media, etc.) that might help your author friend, then do what you can to make a match. Trust me, what goes around comes around. Even with someone like Kristen who is super-ultra-mega connected, Becca and I do what we can to help her–for example, to frequently recommend her as a speaker for conferences and workshops. To date this has been more with a writing or social media and marketing realm focus, so we’ll have to now figure out how to best try and raise her visibility with influencers in the mystery/thriller market specifically.

10: Ask what they need. This one is the most important, and I don’t know about you, but I am pretty terrible about asking people for help. (I like to be the helper, not ask for help, and frankly this hurts me a bit.) I think a lot of authors are like me so if you have an author friend who has a book out, ask them how you can best help. Marketing a book is tricky. Often other people can promote more directly than the author themselves can. Your offer of help will likely erase some of the anxiety that hits when your author friend is grappling with book marketing.

We’re all in this together. Let’s help one another out the best we can!

Have other tips to share? Let us know, or tell us something you love about Kristen Lamb. 5 commenters will win their own copy of The Devil’s Dance

Winners have been draw, so watch your email boxes!

And good grief, jetlag. I almost forgot to share this book’s killer blurb. Read on!

There’s no place like home…unless someone wants you dead.

When Romi Lachlan’s fiancé makes off with a half-a-billion dollars, she finds herself broke, blackballed and the FBI’s prime suspect. Forced to take refuge with her crazy-as-a-bag-of-cats family at the Cactus Flower trailer park, Romi’s sure her life can’t get any worse until Special Agent Benjamin Sawyer shows up, determined to recover the money and put her away. But persuading the hard-nosed G-man she’s innocent is the least of her worries. The body count is rising and Romi must uncover the secret to the town’s newfound prosperity before the secret buries her.

Amazon ~ Goodreads ~ Website

Do you know Kristen Lamb? If so, consider doing some of the things above. She’s done so much for writers and this is our opportunity to pay-it-forward. 🙂
























Posted in Book Review, Buying Books, Marketing, Promotion, Publishing and Self Publishing, Social Networking, The Business of Writing, Uncategorized | 33 Comments

Why You Should Never, Ever Go On a Destination Writing Retreat

So last week, Tim Raveling was here to let us know the what, where, and why of writing residencies. There are definitely a lot of options, but imo, one of the best destination writing retreats to attend is one where Angela Ackerman is speaking. I know, I know. Sounds like a pipe dream. But…Ange is going to be speaking at an amazing retreat coming up—one that has the word CRUISING in the title. Can you believe it? Well, read on, naysayers, because Christina Delay is here to share (in her own personal and beautifully snarky way) about this opportunity.

You’ll hear from loads of people why you should travel and go on writing retreats. There are lists, like The Case for Writing and Travel, that say why travel is super-important to writing. But there’s another side to this story. I’m here to reveal to you why you should never, ever go on a destination writing retreat. Especially not a Cruising Writers Writing Retreat.

Your Comfort Zone Will Be Tested

Leaving the cozy space of our comfort zone and traveling by plane, train, or cruise ship has the same feeling as starting a new school or a new job. Wouldn’t it be easier to stay at home, doing the safe thing and living within the known and explored shelter we’ve built for ourselves?

Because if we leave that comfort zone, the one that we know every nook and cranny of, we’ll have to enter a new space. A space where our comfort zone is not allowed.

There will be a different culture there in that space, maybe a different language. The food may not be what we’re used to. And the experiences we come across may not be what we expect. Surprises most certainly await us, if not around every corner, then at each new cruise port or country.

It’s definitely safer to stay at home, surrounded by the sounds and smells that we’ve known for years. Never mind that creativity is driven by new experiences and fresh senses. Is that burst of creativity and unlocking of the elusive muse really worth the leap into the unknown?

You’ll Change

“I am not the same, having seen the moon shine on the other side of the world.”                   – Mary Anne Radmacher

It’s been proven that change is one of the scariest things out there. And it’s also a fact that travel changes us. We cannot come home the same person again. Once a thing has been seen or heard or experienced, it cannot be undone. Traveling will broaden your world perspective.

Not only that, but your writing will change when traveling with Cruising Writers on a writing retreat. It will be influenced by world-renowned craft teachers like Lisa Cron, Angela Ackerman, and Margie Lawson. You will grow your writing tribe by meeting other retreaters who, like you, have bravely left their comfort zone. And you may make lifelong friends or add a new critique partner to your repertoire.

So if what you’re wanting is for everything to stay status quo, a destination writing retreat is the last thing you should do.

Old Ideas Will Be Challenged

On a writing retreat, you’ll be introduced to new writing craft tools that may challenge what you’ve used in the past. Marketing strategies from bestselling authors that are contrary to what you’ve tried may be tossed around.

With Cruising Writers First Pages Readings, an editor and an agent will challenge your first page, telling you what works and what doesn’t…and it may lead to revisions that you had never before considered. Brainstorming is also a common side effect of getting together with a group of writers. New ideas and plot problems are tossed around and worked out.

But all of that takes courage to face and to participate in. If you like your old ideas, your same-ole way of doing things, and your current marketing tactics, then never, ever go on a destination writing retreat.

Your Writing Career May Never Be the Same

Going on a writing retreat will open you up to new career opportunities and new professional connections. It could be the link that you need to take your career to the next level.


There’s that whole fear of success thing a lot of us have. And if that’s you, certainly NEVER, EVER go on a writing retreat. Because you will be exposed to influential people who are serious about writing, and they will remember you.

At Cruising Writers, our retreats are kept small on purpose so you have the opportunity to make lasting connections. Because of this, you may develop a relationship with the agent and editor that travel with us; on our September cruise, that will be Michelle Grajkowski (agent and president of Three Seas Literary) and Deb Werskman (editor with Sourcebooks). More than a pitch session, you’ll see them every night at dinner, possibly on shore excursions, in workshops, at the spa, on the walking deck, at the casino, etc. And with less than 30 other writers on the trip, you’ll have to talk to them before you pitch to them.

“Cruising Writers is an amazing opportunity to improve your craft with top-notch teaching sessions. The small group format allows you to get to know your fellow authors as well as the guest speakers, editors, and agents. Through the contacts I made on this cruise, I was able to sign with a well-respected agency that I had on my wish list for several years. Go. Take the cruise. You won’t be disappointed.”                                                – Vicki Tharp, Author 

If you’re not ready to launch your career or take the next step on your writing journey, then stay in your comfort zone. You won’t be disappointed.

But neither will you grow or be surprised.

Christina Delay is the hostess of Cruising Writers and an award-winning author represented by Deidre Knight of The Knight Agency. When she’s not cruising the Caribbean, she’s dreaming up new writing retreats to take talented authors on or writing the stories of the imaginary people that live in her heart.

Cruising Writers brings aspiring authors together with bestselling authors, an agent, an editor, and a world-renowned writing craft instructor together on writing retreats. Cruise with us to Grand Cayman this September with Lisa Cron (author, Wired for Story and Story Genius), Angela Ackerman (co-author, The Emotion Thesaurus), Michelle Grajkowski (agent, Three Seas Literary), and Deb Werksman (editor, Sourcebooks).

Posted in Uncategorized | 26 Comments

Three More Lesser Known Archetypes

Back in January, Jonathan Vars was here to talk about some lesser-known archetypes and how utilizing them can bring a sense of freshness to our stories. Because of the positive feedback on that post, he’s back with three MORE archetypes you might not be so familiar with.

As I mentioned in my original post, there are dozens of character archetypes available to the fiction writer. Having a broad range of character types is like having a palette of different colors to paint with. Each archetype offers a different perspective and point of view. They provide unique insights into your story that you would be unable to achieve by clinging only to the “tried and true” characters. So, without further ado, here are three more lesser-known archetypes to use in your writing:

The Penitent

The literal meaning of penitent is “sorrowful or regretful.” So the penitent is that character who’s seeking cleansing, forgiveness, and redemption from a dark past. One of the best examples of this that I’ve seen in modern writing is the character of John Reese from the TV show Person of Interest. Reese’s somewhat jaded past in espionage leaves him with many regrets that haunt him throughout the show.

The penitent is interesting because his guilt can serve both as a motivator (spurring him on to seek cleansing) and an Achilles heel (leaving him vulnerable to self-doubt and feelings of unworthiness). Any time a character can embody this sort of dual nature, it adds depth, both to his personality and the story as a whole.

The Curmudgeon

The curmudgeon is essentially the “cranky old man,” the cynical character who seems happiest when bemoaning imperfections. Curmudgeons are versatile in that they can play just about any story role—antagonist, sidekick, mentor, jester, even villain. Ebenezer Scrooge, everyone’s favorite Christmas hater, is the perfect example of this.

Though seemingly one sided, this archetype can be used to represent many different points of view, depending on the depth of character established. Although crusty and probably not much fun to be around, the curmudgeon can add realism to a story, reminding overly optimistic characters of stark realities and potential problems. The curmudgeon can also become a sympathetic character when readers learn the backstory   responsible for his or her negative point of view.

The Sycophant

The sycophant is the quintessential “yes man”, the underling who goes along with whatever their superior says in a constant effort to maintain approval. Sycophants are generally portrayed as somewhat mindless, accustomed to taking orders instead of thinking for themselves. A comical example is Lefou from Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Despite being insulted and physically beaten by Gaston, Lefou remains devoted and eager to please, playing perfectly into this archetype.

Historically, the sycophant doesn’t have much of an arc, being used mostly to define other characters. Bring him to life by probing deeper into his background and making him more than just a subservient sidekick. An interesting concept is the idea of a pseudo-sycophant who poses as a “yes man” while secretly plotting against the hero in the background. By making him a unique and three-dimensional character in his own right, the sycophant can be used to provide singular insight, add tension and conflict, symbolize a larger idea or theme of the story, or act as a foil or mirror to the protagonist.

While archetypes are known for being certain kinds of characters, they don’t have to be etched in stone. Give them depth and add individualization by mixing them up. Who says you can’t have a penitent with sycophantic tendencies? Or a curmudgeon hiding his penitent roots? People are dynamic, and your characters should be as well. Applying human complexities to our characters can result in truly original characters that will greatly enhance your story and cast.

Jonathan Vars is a Christian fiction writer from New England, founder of the writing website His work in literary analysis of classic films and literature has been published by academic websites and he is the author of the soon to be released novel “Like Melvin” for which he is currently writing a sequel. In addition to writing, Jonathan enjoys running, painting, and trying not to freeze to death in the winter. He is currently willing to consider guest blogs for his website.

Posted in Characters | 11 Comments

Character Motivation Entry: Discovering One’s True Self

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): Discovering One’s True Self

Forms This Might Take:

  • Embracing one’s sexual identity
  • Embracing one’s true gender identity
  • Experimenting to discover one’s passions
  • Shedding the expectations of others to follow a true passion
  • Seeking education to better understand one’s beliefs (about the world and how one fits in it, spirituality, etc.)
  • Achieving independence
  • Embracing travel and new experiences to leave one’s comfort zone
  • Taking on a big challenge which requires self-reliance and sacrifice

Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): self-actualization

How the Character May Prepare for This Goal

  • Leaving a unhealthy marriage
  • Cutting off communication with a toxic family
  • Selling one’s home and assets to travel
  • Quitting one’s job
  • Going back to school
  • Moving somewhere new, with a different sort of lifestyle than what one was used to
  • Volunteering for a cause that forces one to re-imagine one’s priorities
  • Traveling to a isolated location where one is often alone, allowing time to reflect (going on an extended sailing journey, volunteering to teach in a remote third-world village, etc.)
  • Giving up one’s responsibilities so one has the freedom to choose what comes next
  • Saving up money so that one may afford to go on a sabbatical
  • Researching locations one may wish to travel to, or live
  • Researching experiences that will challenge oneself to get reconnect with one’s inner self
  • Making a list of one’s mistakes and practicing self-forgiveness
  • Seeking out a therapist to help one better understand one’s path forward
  • Revisiting old wounds and learning how to let go, including finding a way to forgive others who caused them, or find peace in some way
  • Studying up on how to live frugally or how to work and travel so one is not tied to a job
  • Finding a school, organization, or place of sanctuary where one may learn new things and discover who one really is in the process
  • Seeking out mentors with good advice or guidance in one’s area of self-discovery
  • Preparing family and friends that one is about to embark on something new
  • Practicing self-control, meditation, or other centering techniques so one is no longer controlled by fear

Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal

  • Relationship friction with those who don’t understand one’s needs
  • Distance between loved ones who have different needs and feel unsupported or abandoned by one’s actions as a result
  • Draining one’s finances
  • A relationship partner not part of one’s inner journey may move on in one’s absence
  • Taking time away from one’s current path may cause one to fall behind (in a career, with other interests, losing one’s edge with certain skills that will not be practiced, etc.)
  • Growing apart from those one leaves behind (if one is choosing to go on a long distance sabbatical)
  • Having to give up a house, apartment, a vehicle, etc. that one cherishes because of financial strain

Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved

  • Financial struggles
  • A critical illness of a family member requiring one to return to one’s life and attend to them
  • Finding oneself in danger or harm’s way without support
  • Discovering the grass isn’t greener (by moving to another place, pursuing a new interest, job, relationship, etc.) and realizing one’s journey is an internal one, not an external one
  • A spouse who threatens to leave because he or she is feeling isolated
  • Personal responsibilities that must be dealt with (to do with one’s children, elderly parents, a sibling in trouble, etc.)
  • Contracting a disease, illness, or suffering an injury that sidelines all plans
  • Toxic family members who sabotage one’s journey in some way
  • Being asked to sacrifice something that one is not ready to give up

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

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

  • Ongoing dissatisfaction
  • Regret and believing one settled for less
  • Having to hide who one is from those who will not understand
  • Unhappiness which could lead to illness or depression
  • Developing a drug or drinking habit
  • Having a mental breakdown or experiencing a mid-life crisis which causes one to do something stupid, like cheat on a partner, rage-quit a great job, etc.

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

Image: Hermann @ Pixabay


Posted in Uncategorized | 6 Comments

Is a Writers’ Residency Right For You?

If you’re like me, you’ve heard vaguely about residencies for writers. Our own Sara LeTourneau just blogged about one she attended in Iceland (yes, Iceland!), and while I kind of knew what they were, I wasn’t totally clear on what they had to offer. Luckily, Tim Raveling is here to pull back the curtain and let us know what residencies provide and how they work.

An antique desk used by attendees of the New Orleans Writers’ Residency

If you’re a writer, the idea of taking a month off now and then to go somewhere quiet and work on your craft probably falls somewhere along the axis between wistful daydream and deep need. There’s a lot to get in the way – family obligations, calendar commitments, day jobs. Interruptions are part of the fabric of everyday life – but that doesn’t mean they always have to be.

A writers’ residency is meant to be a retreat from distraction, a solid block of time to devote entirely to your writing. Most residencies tend to last about a month, but you can find shorter and longer options as well. Some, such as the Norton Island Residency, are completely off the grid; others, such as my own New Orleans Writers’ Residency, are surrounded by bustle.

Most residencies charge an up-front application fee, usually around $25 or $30. If accepted, you may simply be able to attend for free or, in many cases (such as the Kerouac Project ) will even receive a stipend for food and living expenses. Other residencies, such as the Martha’s Vineyard Writer’s Residency, will charge a weekly amount in addition to the cost of the application.

If you’re wondering exactly what a writers’ residency has to offer, here are some of the many helpful takeaways.


The main thing a residency gives you is time that you could theoretically take for yourself but likely never will. A residency is a single block of time that you can commit to well in advance, that you can put on your calendar, that you can make plans for. You can take the time off work, tell your friends and family about it, and when the date arrives, just leave. And for an entire month, all you’ll have to worry about will be your writing.


Most residencies will ask you in the application what you intend to accomplish while in attendance. This is your chance to outline a goal—a central focus within a limited timeframe—that can provide clarity and direction often lacking in the bustle of everyday life. Want to finish the first draft of your novel? Edit that anthology of short stories? Finish a new poetry series? A residency can offer you the framework to make that happen.


One of the best things about attending a residency is that, for the duration, you’ll be surrounded by other writers and artists. Connections are made that can last a lifetime, ideas are sparked, paradigms expanded, collaborations commenced. Many residencies accept only writers, but others, such as the Willapa Bay AiR in Washington, encourage artists of all stripes to apply. Some attendees like to be surrounded by other writers for the critique and reading opportunities, while others find spending time with artists from other disciplines an inspiring change.


Many residencies take a very hands-off approach. You’re there to work. You’ll be given a place to sleep and, in some cases, meals, but otherwise will be left to your own. Others, like the Blue Mountain Center in New York State, have specific programs with focused discussions. Our program falls in the middle, offering mentoring and counseling and occasional readings and events.


One of the great advantages of most residencies is the setting. The Writer’s Colony at Dairy Hollow in Eureka Springs, Arkansas, offers beautiful stone cottages in a small arts village on a river. Artcroft in Kentucky is set on a 400-acre working cattle farm. The 360 Xochi Quetzal residency is located in a small town on the shores of the largest lake in Mexico. ThNew Orleans Writers’ Residency is located a few minutes away from the French Quarter, and the Kerouac Project is located in the house in Orlando where Jack Kerouac typed the original manuscript of Dharma Bums. Residencies aim to inspire, and whether you’re looking for remote wilderness or culturally rich urbanity, there’s most likely a residency out there to scratch your particular itch.

If you’ve ever attended a residency, we’d love to hear thoughts from your own experience—pros and cons, tips for applying, things to take into consideration, or what you would have done differently.


Tim Raveling is the co-founder of the New Orleans Writers’ Residency. He’s a writer, artist, and traveler. You can find him on Twitter at @nomadico.

Posted in Writing Time | 4 Comments

Using Real-World Locations to Ground Your Story’s Setting


Last month I went on a writing retreat in Iceland. (Yes, Iceland! In fact, you can learn more about the annual Iceland Writers Retreat here.) It sounds like a remote location for a writing event; and when I first told people I was going, some said, “Um… why Iceland? Why not someplace closer to home?”

My answer? Well, I had many reasons for going, but the most resonant one was:

The northern latitudes of my story’s fictional world were inspired by Iceland’s geography and climate.

Granted that before the Iceland Writers Retreat, I had never set foot on that subarctic, geologically active European island. However, I had fallen in love with it after watching the Iceland episode of Art Wolfe’s “Travels to the Edge” on PBS. Since then, I’d been studying photographs and researching whatever I could on Iceland’s weather, natural landmarks, and so on.

Thanks to the retreat, I had the opportunity to visit Iceland for the first time. And in addition to attending writing workshops, I was able to take a countryside tour that put me right there, on the ground of my story world, hearing and smelling and seeing an environment much like where I imagined my characters living.

Regardless of the genre we write – be it contemporary, historical, or speculative fiction – chances are our story’s setting might be a real place or a fictional world inspired by a real location. And in order for us to recreate that setting in a story, we should consider the “how” and “why” of its existence and understand how it influences other aspects of the story.

Understand How a Setting Functions Above and Underground

One of my favorite bits of worldbuilding advice comes from fantasy author N.K. Jemisin: “Build your world from the ground up – literally.” This can also apply to settings for stories in other genres. By learning how a real-world location “functions” above and underground, as well as why it functions in this manner, we can ensure that our story’s depiction of that setting is not only realistic, but also factually accurate.

How can we do this? By doing our homework, of course! Whether visiting the actual place or (if travel isn’t an option) researching by reading and interviewing trustworthy sources, we should have a list of questions that will give us a firm grasp on the location’s geography and climate. Here are some suggestions:

  • What are the setting’s latitude and longitude in the story’s world? What types of weather or seasonal changes does the setting experience as a result?
  • What types of terrain (mountains, tundra, forests, etc.) comprise this setting? What makes their existence possible (tectonic plates, latitudes, soil conditions, etc.)?
  • What are some of the setting’s natural landmarks? How did the area’s geology, climate, etc. form these landmarks?
  • Does this setting experience any seismic, geological, or meteorological phenomena? If so, what? Why are these phenomena possible in this location?
  • What kinds of wildlife (plants, animals, etc.) are found in this setting?

If it helps, here are three setting-related facts I learned about Iceland during my trip:

  • Iceland sits on two tectonic plates (Eurasian and North American) that are slowly drifting apart, thus causing the island’s earthquakes, volcanoes, and geysers.
  • Despite its latitude just south of the Arctic Circle, Iceland has a relatively temperate climate because it lies in the path of the North Atlantic Current, which directs warm water northward from the Gulf Stream. This leads to cool summers (10 to 20 deg Celcius, or 50 to 68 deg Fahrenheit) and mild winters (-1 to 5 deg Celcius, or 28 to 41 deg Fahrenheit) compared to other countries at the same latitude.
  • Iceland’s rich, nearly-black soil is comprised of andisols, which form from the weathering of volcanic materials such as ash and are typically found in areas with cool temperatures and moderate to high rainfall.

What’s worth remembering is that a setting’s climate and geology will determine the geography, biodiversity, and other natural factors. For example, Iceland’s soil is a result of its climate and geological activity. If Iceland had warmer weather and sat in the middle of one tectonic plate instead of on the edge of two, its soil would be different. So would myriad other aspects of its environment. This is why it’s crucial to understand how or why a setting has its distinctive features, and how any changes, additions, or losses can impact that setting as a whole.

How Does Setting Influence Other Aspects of the Story World?

Think of all the social and cultural features that a setting’s many layers can determine: food, clothing, occupations, housing, hobbies or pastimes, even fuel and electricity. And that list is just for starters. So when using a real-world location for our stories (or basing a fictional setting on a real place), pay close attention to how geography or climate affect the people who live and work there. Every detail we include must have a solid reason for existing based on past setting-building decisions we’ve made. It wouldn’t make sense for mountain goats to call a rainforest home, right? 😉

How much does Iceland’s climate and geography influence its culture? Let me share three examples I learned during the retreat:

  • Because of its climate and island location, Iceland’s cuisine primarily consists of seafood, lamb, dairy products (yogurt, cheese, etc.), bread, and root vegetables such as potatoes and rutabaga.
  • Iceland is one of the world’s leaders in renewable energy. Thanks to its volcanic activity and abundance of water (ocean, rivers, waterfalls), the country generates 100% of its electricity and about 81% of its primary energy needs (heating, transportation, etc.) through geothermal and hydropower sources.
  • Most houses in Iceland are made from concrete, due to the island’s lack of native trees. Older buildings were constructed of stone, turf, and (in rare cases) timber.

The Devil’s in the (Sensory) Details

If you’ve read Angela and Becca’s Urban and Rural Setting Thesauri, you’ll know the importance of sensory details in setting descriptions. Sights and sounds are usually the first ones we think of. But what about smells, tastes, or textures? They can enhance the reader’s experience beyond what’s seen and heard, and make the setting seem vividly real.

And when basing a story’s setting on a real-world location – well, what’s better than visiting that area or someplace similar first-hand and experiencing it with our senses? But if we have to rely on research instead, we can still investigate which sensory details are appropriate for that setting. Here are some questions that can help:

  • Sights: What kinds of objects, natural features, and colors stand out in this location? What tiny details might some people overlook?
  • Sounds: What noises, voices, etc. can characters hear in this location? Are these sounds natural (leaves rustling, waterfall roaring) or manmade (the drone of a vehicle motor)?
  • Textures/Sensations: What does the character touch in this setting? How does it feel? How about the ground/floor under his feet or the air indoors or outdoors?
  • Smells: What fragrances and odors can the character smell? Are they natural or manmade? Pleasing or off-putting? Fresh or stale? Are any smells food-related?
  • Tastes: Does the character eat or drink anything in this setting? If so, how does it taste? Do any strong scents leave an artificial taste in the character’s mouth?

One of the most unique sensory experiences I had during the Iceland Writers Retreat was at Deildartunguhver, Europe’s most powerful hot spring. As I stepped off the bus with the rest of my tour group, I immediately noticed plumes of white steam rising from the spring and a sulfurous (“rotten egg”) smell. The most intriguing details, however, greeted me when I stopped at the spring’s safety gate. There, I found spring-green moss growing on the reddish-brown rock, heard the hiss of steam and hot water, and felt the air grow humid and slightly warmer compared to the Icelandic April chill. Water droplets pelted my clothes as a burst of wind kicked up, and it was impossible to tell if it was raining or if Deildartunguhver was “spitting” at us.

Now, think of how vivid your reading experience would be if those details were included in a scene set at a hot spring. They would make you feel like you were actually there, wouldn’t they?

Are any of your stories set in or inspired by a real-world location? What research have you done (either by traveling or reading/interviewing) to capture that setting as completely as possible? Do you have any other tips or suggestions to add here?

sara-_framedSara is a fantasy writer living in Massachusetts who devours good books, geeks out about character arcs, and drinks too much tea. In addition to WHW’s Resident Writing Coach Program, she writes the Theme: A Story’s Soul column at DIY MFA and is hard at work on a YA fantasy novel. Find out more about Sara here, visit her personal blog, Goodreads profile, and find her online.
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Posted in Resident Writing Coach, Setting, Uncategorized | 27 Comments

Character Motivation Thesaurus Entry: Caring for An Aging Parent

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): Caring for an aging parent

Forms This Might Take: Taking on the caregiving role for a parent who is no longer able to care for him/herself. This may mean the parent is declining due to dementia or Alzheimer’s, is suffering from a terminal or chronic illness, or is simply unable to get around safely on his or her own. While the character could choose to pay for a parent’s care in a separate facility, this entry will focus on the character who makes it a goal to care for the parent him or herself.

Courtesy: Pixabay

Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): safety and security

How the Character May Prepare for This Goal

  • Renovating one’s home to accommodate the parent’s needs
  • Moving into a home that is easier for the parent to access
  • Educating oneself on the parent’s illnesses
  • Planning meals for the parent (if there are special needs in this area)
  • Researching and purchasing necessary accommodations (a wheelchair, walker, toilet, etc.)
  • Revamping one’s budget to cover caregiver costs
  • Meeting with a lawyer to discuss wills, power of attorney, and other end-of-life considerations
  • Making changes to one’s insurance policy
  • Redistributing duties between other household members to create extra time for the parent’s care
  • Coordinating duties and care between siblings
  • Hiring out certain duties (lawn care, house cleaning, grocery deliveries, etc.)
  • Finding a job one can do from home, or one that has more flexibility
  • Joining a support group for caregivers
  • Becoming more organized to stay on top of the additional duties
  • Bringing in someone to help care for the parent (a health care professional, a companion, etc.)
  • Researching activities or hobbies that would be good for the parent

Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal

  • Quitting one’s job, or losing one’s job because of too much missed time
  • Giving up on hobbies or dreams due to a lack of time
  • Having no “me” time
  • Strife with siblings and other relatives (when they won’t help out, over differences of caregiving philosophy, when finances become strained, etc.)
  • The deterioration of one’s health due to stress and “caregiver burnout”
  • Depleting one’s retirement fund or nest egg to cover costs
  • Missing out on opportunities with one’s own children due to having to care for one’s parent
  • Growing apart from friends due to having no time to get out and socialize
  • Falling victim to a scam or con-artist
  • Strained relations with the parent, who may harbor resentment over the loss of control and necessary changes being made that she isn’t happy about

Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved

  • The parent refusing to comply
  • Legal issues that make it impossible for one to make necessary decisions on behalf of one’s parent
  • Siblings and other relatives who disagree about the proper care for the parent
  • Immediate family members who don’t want to make the required sacrifices
  • Limited finances
  • Insurance limitations
  • Desperately needing to keep one’s job, but having a boss who is inflexible and unsympathetic
  • Personal health problems that make caring for someone else difficult
  • Having a child or spouse with special needs that also require attention
  • Growing resentment over the situation
  • The pain of having to watch the mental or physical decline of one’s parent
  • Second-guessing oneself; doubting one’s ability to carry on

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

Basic First AidGood Listening SkillsESP (Clairvoyance)EmpathyHospitalityMultitaskingOrganization

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

  • The parent sustaining an injury or dying while living on his or her own
  • The parent’s quality of life falling to an unhealthy level
  • The parent receiving poor care or being abused in a facility
  • Broken relationships with relatives who won’t forgive one for giving up or not doing what they believe was rightTortuous guilt over having failed one’s parent
  • Losing everything (one’s job, life savings, important relationships, etc.), and still having to stop caring for the parent when one runs out of resources

Clichés to Avoid: 

Taking in a parent with whom one has a strained relationship, and the relationship being healed because of the decision.

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

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment