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): Overcoming Addiction
Forms This Might Take: Addiction can be tricky to define because it’s similar in some ways to other kinds of compulsion disorders. For the purpose of this entry, behavioral addiction is defined as the overuse of a substance or practice that increases over time, continues despite negative consequences, and is incredibly difficult for …
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): esteem and recognition
How the Character May Prepare for This Goal:
- Taking a serious look at one’s addiction (tracking usage and financial expenditures, journaling about one’s feelings, examining the negative effects in various areas of one’s life, etc.)
- Purging one’s home of the substances or items that make using easy or more tempting
- Setting goals and coming up with a game plan
- Exploring treatment options
- Finding others who have been successful and talking to them
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Experiencing grief over the loss of the activity or substance one has always enjoyed
- Losing long-term friends or loved ones
- Financial difficulties due to the cost of treatment
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- Stressors and triggers that make success difficult
- Pressure from other addicts who don’t want one to change
- Past wounds and negative emotions that become more pronounced once one stops medicating
- Having no support system; having to go it alone
- One’s addiction of choice being inadvertently replaced with another one
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- Broken relationships
- Loved ones following in one’s footsteps and being led astray
- Long-term health issues
- Depression and other mental illnesses
- Suicidal thoughts and attempts
- Harming oneself or others while under the influence
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.