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): Escape Confinement
Forms This Might Take:
- Being locked in a trunk of a car during a kidnapping
- Escaping one’s binds when being held against one’s will
- To find the way out of a building where one is trapped
- Getting out of a maze-like area (catacombs, a water and sewer system, underground tunnel system)
- To escape a facility (above or below ground) when the power is out and all access points are on lock down
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): Physical Needs, Safety and Security
How the Character May Prepare for This Goal:
- Pay attention to sensory details (sounds, smells, movement, etc.) to determine where one is being taken to find one’s way out
- Clock the movements of guards to determine the best time to try and escape
- Study the area to look for possible access points
- Take inventory of what one has to help with the problem of escape
- Mark one’s direction in case one has to backtrack or just to avoid being lost
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Being injured by broken glass or other debris
- Having to give up shelter or temporary safety for the unknown
- Having to take only the resources one can carry and leave the rest
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- Losing one’s way in the dark if one’s light source goes out
- Reinforcements being called in to help (guards, police, trackers, etc.)
- A guard whose loyalty can’t be bought
- Being poisoned or drugged, and thereby partially incapacitated
Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- Running out of a necessity if one cannot get free (food, water. air)
- Being beaten, sexually assaulted, or tortured by one’s captors as punishment when caught
- Finding oneself in an even more dire predicament (if a roof collapses, if one gets wedged into a pipe and can’t move, etc.)
Clichés to Avoid:
- Guards who fall asleep on duty
Click here to return to the list of sample entries for this thesaurus, along with a master post containing information on the individual fields.
Image: Unsplash @ Pixabay
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!
Angela is a writing coach, international speaker, and bestselling author who loves to travel, teach, empower writers, and pay-it-forward. She also is a founder of One Stop For Writers, a portal to powerful, innovative tools to help writers elevate their storytelling.
I have to tell you gals, this one could belong in a survival handbook 🙂 I’ve got a thing with any form of restriction or confinement—I’d say a phobia, so this one hits home, for sure!
julie mayerson brown says
Wow – so many things I never even thought of to be worried about. Anxious just reading the list! As always, Angela, great ideas. As to Robin’s question, some crossover for a character who is not trapped physically but is an emotional victim living under threat of harm to self or loved one.
Robin E. Mason says
what about escaping invisible barriers, that make you ‘feel’ trapped?
ANGELA ACKERMAN says
I guess it would depend on what they are–restrictions placed on the character because of their station or opportunities (self-actualization) a mental block (self-esteem based/self-actualization), or something else?
An invisible type confinement is definitely valid, but likely is more based on the need of esteem or self actualization rather than physical needs or safety/security. Not always, but many scenarios. We’ll have to look at this in another entry 🙂