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): Caring for an aging parent
Forms This Might Take: Taking on the caregiving role for a parent who is no longer able to care for him/herself. This may mean the parent is declining due to dementia or Alzheimer’s, is suffering from a terminal or chronic illness, or is simply unable to get around safely on his or her own…
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): safety and security
How the Character May Prepare for This Goal:
- Renovating one’s home to accommodate the parent’s needs
- Moving into a home that is easier for the parent to access
- Coordinating duties and care between siblings
- Hiring out certain duties (lawn care, house cleaning, grocery deliveries, etc.)
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Quitting one’s job, or losing one’s job because of too much missed time
- Giving up on hobbies or dreams due to a lack of time
- Strife with siblings and other relatives (when they won’t help out, over differences of caregiving philosophy, when finances become strained, etc.)
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- The parent refusing to comply
- Legal issues that make it impossible for one to make necessary decisions on behalf of one’s parent
- Siblings and other relatives who disagree about the proper care for the parent
- Second-guessing oneself; doubting one’s ability to carry on
Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- The parent sustaining an injury or dying while living on his or her own
- The parent’s quality of life falling to an unhealthy level
Clichés to Avoid:
Taking in a parent with whom one has a strained relationship, and the relationship being healed because of the decision.
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!
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.