Character Motivation Thesaurus Entry: Beating a Diagnosis or Condition

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.


Courtesy: Pixabay

Character’s Goal
 (Outer Motivation): Beating an illness

Forms This Might Take: 

  • Determining to overcome an illness that can be deadly, like cancer or HIV
  • Learning to live with a chronic illness (fibromyalgia, diabetes, STDs, lupus, etc.)

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

How the Character May Prepare for This Goal

  • Adopting a healthier lifestyle (eating organic foods, exercising more, getting more sleep, etc.)
  • Researching the illness or condition
  • Seeking a second opinion
  • Resorting to options one may previously have disdained (natural remedies, homeopathic medicine, spiritual healers, etc.)

Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal

  • Having to give up beloved hobbies and pastimes that are too strenuous or taxing
  • Losing the respect of others who think the illness is all in one’s head
  • Being unable to help others as one would like due to having to take care of oneself

Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved

  • Side effects from drugs
  • Unforeseen health complications that make it difficult for one to get better (fatigue making exercise impossible, food allergies that make healthy eating difficult, etc.)
  • Denial; wanting to get better but refusing to face all the facts and do what’s necessary

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

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

  • Death
  • Living a life that is less healthy and active than it could be
  • Self-doubt and self-loathing; hating what one has become and blaming oneself

Clichés to Avoid: 

  • The amputee or paralysis victim who refuses treatment and begs for death, only to  eventually recognize the need to fight for his/her life

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. You can find Becca online at both of these spots, as well as on Facebook and Twitter.
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Hervey Copeland
3 years ago

They say that the vast majority of books only have six or seven original plots, and that all the others are simply variations of those plots.

I like Stephen King’s approach to writing. His ideas always start with a “what if?”

In other words, he tries to figure out what would happen if certain scenarios were to take place. Then he goes looking for the answers, and everything falls into place. It’s a good way to develop a plot and write a good story.

3 years ago

Another excellent entry! Thanks, Becca 😀 😀 😀