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Character Motivation Thesaurus Entry: To Escape A Killer

Saturday, October 22, 2016 3:23
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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?

the-fearIf 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): To escape a killer

Forms This Might Take:

  • a serial killer
  • a hit man
  • an assassin
  • a murderer
  • a person whom one has gravely wronged in some way
  • an angry spouse (infidelity)
  • a person seeking revenge for a past wrong
  • a family member looking to cash in on an inheritance
  • an unstable person (due to mental illness, hallucinogenic drugs, demon possession, etc.)
  • an enemy or a jealous rival
  • a person wishing to eliminate a witness
  • a loan shark’s henchmen
  • a criminal intent on tying up loose ends (after a home invasion, a sexual assault, a kidnapping, etc.)
  • a stalker
  • a super-fan suffering from delusions

Human Need Driving the Goal (Inner Motivation): Safety and security

Methods for Achieving This Goal:

  • hide in a place of concealment
  • hide in public where one is invisible by sheer numbers
  • attempting a blitz attack where one attacks and then runs
  • seeking out the help of police or FBI to track down the killer before he or she finds the character
  • obtain leverage that may sway the killer into letting one go
  • hire a mercenary or other type of protection
  • go off the grid completely
  • flee the country
  • enter into a witness protection program
  • investigate on one’s own to find the killer first
  • create a trap for the killer (to either capture or kill)
  • go on the offense in a kill or be killed scenario
  • use oneself as bait in order to capture the killer
  • learn new skills to be able to defend oneself (self-defense, weapon training, etc.)
  • reach out to the killer’s enemies to collaborate or gain help
  • utilize inherent skills to evade capture or go on the offensive (hunting or tracking skills, utilizing computer hacking or other investigative skills to uncover information or the location of one’s killer, using survivalist training to go off grid or lure one’s enemy into an environment where one has the upper hand, etc.)
  • fake one’s own death

Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal

  • draining one’s financial resources
  • having to give up one’s job or career to go into hiding
  • being viewed as a victim when one has worked so hard to not be seen that way by loved ones or society in general
  • putting one’s family at risk
  • a family member or friend being captured, hurt, or killed to “get to” the intended victim
  • having to flee and leave one’s family behind to protect them
  • asking for help and having that person be killed
  • making a decision which gets a bystander killed
  • being injured physically or psychologically

Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved

  • police who dismiss the threat because they don’t believe there is one
  • police that are inefficient or inadequate
  • police who are corrupt and can’t be trusted
  • having little money or resources to seek out help or flee
  • having family that one must care for or protect (especially if they are not mobile, such as a daughter in hospital care or husband tied to a kidney dialysis routine
  • the killer being highly technical and therefore able to track one online no matter what safeguards are in place
  • a killer who is well-connected, and so police are reluctant to go after him without solid proof
  • a killer who has many resources and so is difficult to out-maneuver
  • a highly motivated killer willing to cross any moral lines or take any level of risk to end the character’s life
  • knowing one’s adversary is getting help from someone close to the character, but not knowing who
  • the character being someone who is marginalized by society and so they are not taken seriously or little help is given
  • the character having a physical limitation (a broken leg, a medical condition, etc.) that interferes with their ability to flee or defend
  • the character being unable to travel out of country (because they lack proper paperwork, have a criminal record, etc.)
  • feeling one is unable to go to the police (because one also wanted by police, illegally in the country, or has loved ones who will be at risk of incarceration or deportation if one seeks help)
  • a past trauma that causes fear which incapacitates (one’s killer is tied to that trauma event, or one was a victim in an unrelated event, such as kidnapped as a child, etc.)

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

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

  • capture and/or death

Clichés to Avoid: 

  • discovering one’s killer is the very person one trusted to help
  • a killer who plays a deliberate game of cat and mouse and leaves clues to their identity that logistically will lead to being caught

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

Image: jarmoluk @ pixabay



The post Character Motivation Thesaurus Entry: To Escape A Killer 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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