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): Being The Best at Something
Forms This Might Take:
- Winning a local competition (best chili in the city, prettiest garden display, best home brewed beer, etc.)
- Winning an election (Being chosen as prom king, elected to student council, winning a seat on city council, becoming mayor, becoming a minister or judge, etc.)
- Being awarded a scholarship (for an art competition, for one’s prowess in math, for an essay one wrote, etc.)
- Being acknowledged for being the one to put on the best parties or events
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): esteem and recognition
How the Character May Prepare for This Goal:
- Reading up on the activity one wishes to master or the issues of importance that one should know
- Observing (in person, watching video footage, etc.), studying one’s competition
- Buying whatever equipment or services that might give one an edge
- Practicing affirmations and positive self-talk
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Giving up one’s free time
- Friendships that grow strained because others aren’t supportive of one’s passion
- Spending one’s savings on training, equipment or other things needed to be the best
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- A health crisis (either one’s own or that of a family member) that requires time, money, or both
- A financial crisis (losing a job, a sudden expense like needing a new car, etc.)
- Not having the knowledge, talent, or experience to be the best (needing to be more seasoned)
Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- Crippling disappointment
- Losing the respect or esteem of family or friends for not succeeding
Clichés to Avoid:
- Because of the popularity of the Chevy Chase “Vacation” movies, one would want to avoid creating a character who was obsessed to the same degree
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 a few of 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.
there are no skills in the Talent & Skills section.
BECCA PUGLISI says
Hi, Dylan. Thanks for your input. I guess it would depend on how talents and skills are defined. For our purposes, a talent is a knack someone is innately born with while a skill is something a person becomes good at over time through practice and diligence. By these definitions, many of the entries in this thesaurus could be either talents OR skills, depending on how they’re acquired: archery, good listening skills, charm, wrestling, etc. Granted, there are other ways to define these terms; but for the purposes of this thesaurus, this is how we’ve chosen to characterize them.
Mary Van Everbroeck says
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Traci Kenworth says
This might be a hard character to write. Like you said, you might go over the top like Chevy Chase in the Vacation movies. It’d be a challenge, definitely!
BECCA PUGLISI says
I keep thinking how a person like this could so easily be Unlikable—say, if he/she was driven to always be the best at everything. I think we’ve all been around people like that and know how challenging they can be. But they’re real life, right?
Sharon M Hart says
My goodness, this certainly describes my main character’s motivation. Rhino wants to be the best at everything–he wants to be perfect. He wants to be the chief among his brothers, compelling their love and loyalty and ruling over them. Looking at your list of characteristics and behaviors, I see where Rhino hits all the markers. Very interesting and informative article.
BECCA PUGLISI says
We’re so glad it hit the mark for you and your character.