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 quickly identify what the overall story goal’s going to be; this will better enable them to root for the character because they’ll know exactly what he’s trying to achieve. But how do you know which 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.
We hope the sample list of ideas below helps you better understand how your character’s motivation drives the story. For a much more detailed entry, follow this link to the official Character Motivation Thesaurus.
Character’s Goal (Outer Motivation): Having a Child
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): Love and Belonging
Methods for Achieving This Goal:
- Conceiving a child with a partner
- Becoming artificially inseminated (if one is single)
- Undergoing fertility treatments
How the Character May Prepare for This Goal:
- Reading up on pregnancy and parenting
- Giving up things that could harm an unborn child or decrease one’s chance of conceiving (cigarettes, alcohol, certain medications, caffeine, heavy weight lifting, boating, etc.)
- Getting into good physical shape
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Going into debt
- Putting off vacations and high-end purchases in order to afford fertility treatments or adoption fees
- Changing one’s standard of living so one can afford the associated financial costs
- Replacing sex as a pleasurable experience with sex that is purely clinical and a means to an end
- Going to jail (if one is trying to obtain a child through illegal means)
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- Health conditions that could make a pregnancy or birth difficult
- A spouse or partner who doesn’t want children
- An inept fertility doctor
Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- Heightened feelings of loneliness and unfulfillment
- Growing apart from other couples one’s age who have families
- Tension with one’s partner that could lead to a breakup
Clichés to Avoid:
- External stressors tearing apart a couple during the adoption process, forcing one of them to move forward and adopt on his/her own
Click here to return to the list of sample 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 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 to provide even more 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. Interested in seeing these expanded character motivation entries? Head on over and take advantage of our FREE TRIAL!
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.
I just finished writing a post on my blog this past week about listening to the universe and allowing it to convey the message you most needed to hear right now. Funny thing is, this particular post did that – but, even more so, stumbling upon “Writers Helping Writers” was an even more serendipitous discovery.
The way that you provide information sends my creative mind off on tangents that I always encourage it to take, uncovering and considering so many different avenues to take with character and plot development. Thank so much for sharing!
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Dave, I am so glad you found us when you needed to. Becca and I both believe the universe works in mysterious ways, and there are many times when serendipity has really played a part in our path! I’ve learned to pay more attention to things that come along for this reason. 🙂
Thank you for creating this fantastic new thesaurus. It is very helpful because as Dian said, it adds elements you wouldn’t have thought of.
I’m reading Eva Ibbotson’s “The Secret of Platform” 13 right now. Mrs Trottle fulfills her goal of having a baby by stealing someone else’s child. So I’m wondering if adding the illegal component to the list would be a good idea because it opens up possibilities for other genres.
BECCA PUGLISI says
This is a great point that I hadn’t thought of. I’ll add it :).
I will forever be astounded with how open your minds are to brainstorm such a wide variety of info and possibilities. Just amazing! 😀
I totally agree with you on this element of character. Having an achievable goal is important. I was struggling with this myself, and greatly appreciate what you have here. You broke it down into more elements than I realized there actually were, which is helpful!
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Glad to hear this was a helpful entry. 🙂