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): Reconciling with an Estranged Family Member
Forms This Might Take: Reconciling with an ex-spouse, a sibling, parent or grandparent, …
Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): love and belonging, esteem and recognition
How the Character May Prepare for This Goal:
- Talking to other family members to get a feel for how receptive the loved one might be
- Making a list of “safe” topics to talk about
- Examining the loved one’s schedule to decide on the best place or time to approach them
- Asking someone to accompany one to the meeting for moral support, even if they just sit in the car or wait in the lobby
Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal:
- Being rejected again by the loved one
- Hurtful memories being dredged up
- Being tempted into old habits and addictions associated with the person
Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved:
- Physical distance (if the loved one lives far away)
- Loved ones (of the character’s and/or the estranged person’s) who don’t want the reconciliation to happen
- her life pressures that add to the stress of the reconciliation (deadlines at work, an argument with one’s spouse, sickness, etc.)
Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:
Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:
- Debilitating regret or guilt upon the estranged person’s death
- Being robbed of the chance to get to know extended family related to the person (nieces, nephews, grandchildren, etc.)
Clichés to Avoid:
- A grave injury or diagnosis for the estranged party being the motivation for the character to try and reconcile
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.