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Gaining Fulfillment By Giving Back

Saturday, April 8, 2017 2:45
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(Before It's News)

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.

Character’s Goal (Outer Motivation): Gaining Fulfillment By Giving Back

Forms This Might Take:

  • Volunteerism at an animal shelter or wildlife rescue facility
  • Giving one’s time to a group or organization that rescues and rehabilitates abused animals
  • Sitting on a board or committee that oversees and manages projects for the betterment of a community
  • Working to keep one’s parks clean or to maintain special areas that are neglected by city and park services
  • Organizing and fundraising to bring about a youth program, a re-education assistance program for the homeless, a soup kitchen, or other program to meet the needs of a neglected group
  • Giving time to work in a Women’s shelter, a homeless shelter, or food bank
  • Running an after-school program open to all at no cost
  • Teaching classes at the library or at a community space so those who wish to can learn a new skill
  • Becoming a Big Brother or Big Sister, a scout leader, or a mentor to kids and teenagers
  • Entertaining kids who are stuck in the hospital or spending time with the elderly in a care home
  • Giving one’s time to help with church programs and fundraising for humanitarian projects
  • Traveling abroad with an organization to teach, build structures, or care for the people or animals in another country
  • Participating in a fundraising event to raise awareness or support research for a disease or condition
  • Taking care of one’s friends and neighbors who need support (by shopping for them, helping with work around the house, taking them to appointments and helping them get around, etc.)

Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): self-actualization

How the Character May Prepare for This Goal

  • Setting time aside to think about how one can best give back (skills, time, abilities, one’s personality, etc.)
  • Researching existing groups and organizations to see where one might find a good fit
  • Talking with other volunteers to determine where there is a need for support that is being overlooked
  • Cutting down on stress (as one can) to make sure one has the mental energy needed to give to others
  • Becoming financially stable so one is able to give time to an organization without causing personal financial hardship (especially if one has a family)
  • Organizing one’s life to free up time for one’s volunteerism
  • Discussing this new direction with a spouse or family so they understand it’s important
  • Traveling to different areas or countries to get a sense of where one might best meet a need
  • Talking to the people that one is to help to find out what they feel they need most

Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal

  • Giving up free time for other interests and pastimes
  • Not being at home as much and “available” to others
  • Upset family members when time together is sacrificed, leading to strained relationships
  • Adding mental stress to one’s plate because the needs always outweigh what one can offer
  • Having less (or none) disposable income
  • Struggling to keep up with chores and responsibilities around the home
  • Not having as much time for extracurricular activities tied to work (team building events, an after hour get-together, etc.) that may affect one’s relationships
  • Having one’s worldview become negative or jaded from seeing how a group of people or a need is being ignored by society or the government
  • Being criticized for one’s beliefs (especially by family and friends who think one is “wasting one’s time”)

Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved

  • A financial crisis
  • Marital problems that force one to refocus one’s time and energy
  • A family member becoming sick and requiring care that takes up a lot of time (tests, dialysis, hospital stays, operations, home care, etc.)
  • Uncertainty at work that requires one to put more time and energy into one’s day job to ensure one can keep it
  • Suffering a health setback (breaking a leg, contracting a virus that is long term like malaria, being diagnosed with cancer, etc.)
  • Being kidnapped in a foreign country (as an aid or relief worker)
  • A corporation opposing one’s goals out of greed (trying to get a wetland area tied to one’s area of advocacy to be rezoned for commercial use, etc.)
  • Government funding being cut and programs closing as a result
  • Family problems that are the result of one giving time to others (children who feel minimized acting out and requiring a time investment to get back on track and ensured they are also a priority)
  • A secret from coming to light and making one a risk to a charity (such as a prior assault conviction, being a past drug abuser, being involved in fraud in the past, etc.)

Talents & Skills That Will Help the Character Achieve This Goal:

Possible Fallout For the Protagonist if This Goal Is Not Met:

  • Being disappointed in oneself and a general feeling of failure
  • Becoming depressed from a self-esteem hit or feeling one is being prevented from righting a wrong (especially if one feels accountable for the wrong in some way)
  • Feeling unfulfilled and losing one’s direction
Click here for a list of our current entries for this thesaurus, along with a master post containing information on the individual fields.



The Bookshelf Muse is a hub for writers, educators and anyone with a love for the written word. Featuring Thesaurus Collections that encourage stronger descriptive skills, this award-winning blog will help writers hone their craft and take their writing to the next level.


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