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.
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): Stopping an event from happening
Forms This Might Take: Stopping…
- a bomb detonation
- an assassination
- the killing of a captive
- someone from killing himself
- a war from being started
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): safety and security
Methods for Achieving This Goal:
- Infiltrating enemy ranks to gather information
- Gathering allies by identifying those who would benefit from one’s goal
- Removing, disabling, discrediting, or otherwise undermining any competition
- Calling in favors to gain resources
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Getting killed in the process, either because of the inherent danger or purposely by those one is opposing
- Those in close proximity (emotional and/or physical) to the hero being threatened or killed
- Losing credibility with loved ones or important people in one’s life due to one’s single-mindedness and passion
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- the person, corporation, race, or group of people one is opposing
- one’s family and friends (trying to dissuade the hero from pursuing such a ridiculous or impossible goal)
- physical boundaries (if one needs to travel)
- Incompetent allies
Talents & Skills That Might Help the Character Achieve This Goal:
See our complete list of talents and skills and find the ones that pertain to your specific story goal here.
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- Insecurity over one’s abilities
- A fear of trying to stop anything like this from happening again
- Losing one’s job (if the job is tied to one’s goals of stopping a certain event from happening)
Clichés to Avoid:
- The government going to any length to protect its biological weapon
- A madman at the helm of a country’s nuclear controls
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.
Ashley Harris says
I have ordered most of the books in this series and it has helped me so much! Would you ever make a book on starting a tv pilot regarding structure? You ladies are awesome. Much gratitude.
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
Structure specific to TV probably isn’t in our expertise, but have you looked at the blog, Bang2Write? Lucy, the site owner, does a ton of stuff for tv and film. I know she has a book as well, but not sure of the scope of teachings, but it is worth a look.
You women are simply amazing 😀 Thank you!
Mary Van Everbroeck says
Hi Becca: What a great Post. It is filled with many aspects that we need to be in tune with , and to pay close attention to. Thank you.