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Character Motivation Thesaurus Entry: Mending a Broken Relationship

Saturday, October 29, 2016 3:24
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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.


Courtesy: Pixabay

Character’s Goal (Outer Motivation): Mending a Broken Relationship

Forms This Might Take: Relationships founder for many reasons, leaving our characters in a position of trying to put them back together. Your character might find herself needing to mend a less-than-satisfactory relationship with

  • an estranged sibling
  • a caregiver whose parenting left something to be desired, leading to distance in the relationship
  • children she doesn’t know as well as she wants to (due to a long-term absence, divorce, a drug problem that has been overcome, etc.)
  • a childhood friend she grew apart from after an argument
  • an ex she never quite got over
  • a spouse who’s emotionally distant and considering a separation
  • a jealous co-worker she now has to work with
  • a difficult neighbor
  • the person her son or daughter is going to marry

Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): love and belonging

How the Character May Prepare for This Goal

  • Setting up a meeting with the person
  • Calling him or her on the phone
  • Moving nearer to that person
  • Showing the person one’s determination by giving up something important that once stood in the way of the relationship (a job, a hobby, another unhealthy relationship, etc.)
  • Reaching out to him or her on social media
  • Doing recon to find out more about the person’s interests and passions
  • Bringing the person a peace offering (favorite flowers, chocolates, a coffee on a cold day, etc.)
  • Arranging to meet the person in a group setting before getting together one-on-one
  • Showing interest in the person’s favorite sports team, TV show, music groups, etc.
  • Building bridges with the person’s close friends or relatives as a way of getting closer to him or her
  • Cutting back one’s work hours or taking a sabbatical so one can devote more time to the relationship
  • Creating time in one’s schedule to spend with that person
  • Going to counseling
  • Recognizing the part one played that contributed to the problem, and owning it
  • Asking forgiveness
  • Employing a neutral mediator to help bridge the gap

Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal

  • Pride taking a hit when one truly looks at the part one played in the broken relationship
  • Moving closer to the estranged person and leaving one’s job or friends behind
  • Other relationships becoming strained if the people don’t understand why one is reaching out to this person (if the estranged relationship is due to past abuse, for instance)
  • Asking for forgiveness that isn’t granted
  • Being rejected
  • Giving up something one loves (a job, hobby, or relationship) to show the other person how important the relationship is
  • Time
  • Having to face the prejudice and bad feelings of those close to the estranged person who want to protect him or her

Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved

  • People in the person’s life who don’t want to see him or her hurt again
  • People in one’s life who don’t want to see one hurt again
  • Selfishness
  • Falling into old habits that sabotage the new relationship
  • The other person’s fear, resentment, or anger
  • Old wounds that are too deep to overcome
  • Geographical distance
  • Time limitations
  • Jealous or petty family members who don’t want the relationship fixed
  • Habits that contributed to the break-up that one of the parties still struggles with (addictions, character flaws, etc.)
  • Personality conflicts
  • An unethical counselor with an unhealthy interesting in one of the parties

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

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

  • Unfulfilled relationships
  • Doubting one’s abilities to be a good parent/spouse/sibling/etc.
  • Giving up and regressing into destructive habits
  • More broken relationships as one reverts back to patterns one is comfortable with
  • Loneliness

Clichés to Avoid: 

  • The big city girl/boy returning to his/her small home town to make amends with someone

Click here for a list of our current entries for this thesaurus, along with a master post containing information on the individual fields.

The post Character Motivation Thesaurus Entry: Mending a Broken Relationship appeared first on WRITERS HELPING WRITERS®.

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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