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): Finding a lifelong partner
Forms This Might Take: One of the most common story goals, this one is fairly straightforward: the protagonist wants to find true, never-ending romantic love.
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): love and belonging
How the Character May Prepare for This Goal:
- Getting into physical shape
- Ending entangling relationships that are keeping one from finding true love
- Frequenting places where likely candidates could be found (bars, church, singles mingles, etc.)
- Joining an online dating site
- Asking family and friends to set one up with possible love interests
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Friction with people who are jealous of one’s time (children, old flames, possessive parents, etc.)
- The consequences of poor decisions made in the attempt to find true love
- Hobbies, interests, and passions that must be set aside to make time for someone new
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- Selfish people in one’s life
- Selfish people in the love interest’s life
- Geographic isolation; living in a distant place where it’s difficult to meet and get to know others
- A job that requires much travel, making it difficult for one to spend time with others
Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- Living life alone
- Not having children
- Falling back into toxic relationships that give one a semblance of love
Clichés to Avoid:
- The character being torn between two love interest choices, one of which is obviously good and the other is obviously bad
- The character falling in love with someone who solves all his/her problems
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.