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): Escaping Homelessness
Forms This Might Take:
One of the most basic human needs is shelter. When an individual or family has no home of their own, their other basic needs become endangered. For this reason, finding a home of one’s own can be a driving force for someone who is homeless.
It should be noted that …
Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): physiological needs
How the Character May Prepare for This Goal:
- Finding temporary lodgings (at a shelter, the YMCA, a motel, with a friend, in an abandoned building, etc.)
- Borrowing money from a friend to secure the things one needs in order to get a job (clothing, shoes, toiletries, etc.)
- Asking for help at a local church, shelter, or nonprofit organization
- Facing one’s past so one can move forward
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Facing the pain of things one might have been avoiding (failing, reconnecting with estranged family and friends, the truth about one’s addiction or mental illness, etc.)
- No longer being on one’s own; having to be responsible for and to others
- Having to live life according to a more traditional set of rules and expectations
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- Self-doubt and fear
- Drug and alcohol addiction
- Mental and physical disabilities
Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- Never being able to reconnect with estranged family members
- Sacrificing one’s moral code as one is forced to do dreadful things to survive
- Never achieving one’s dreams
- One’s self-esteem being forever compromised
Clichés to Avoid: the homeless person who fails in his goal but teaches others some meaningful lessons about life along the way
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.