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Seeking Out One’s Biological Roots

Saturday, January 7, 2017 4:23
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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?

Seeking Out One's Biological RootsIf 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): Seeking Out One’s Biological Roots

Forms This Might Take:

  • Tracking down one’s birth parents
  • Connecting with a half-sibling that one has just discovered
  • Returning to an orphanage in one’s country of origin in hopes of uncovering one’s past
  • Searching for the family one was kidnapped from
  • Trying to find biological relatives (if one’s birth parents were killed)
  • Seeking connection with maternal or paternal grandparents if one was abandoned by parents
  • Trying to find surviving family members long after a war or violent event scattered the family across the globe
  • Seeking out one’s relatives after being rescued as an child refugee by aid workers and taken elsewhere

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

How the Character May Prepare for This Goal

  • Request access to one’s birth records (once one turns eighteen)
  • Ask one’s adoptive parents for details
  • Research the laws surrounding adoption at the time to understand the information hurdles ahead
  • Interview those involved in one’s adoption
  • Return to the city, town, and hospital where one was born and ask for records
  • Return to a foster home where one was before the adoption was finalized
  • Seek advice online from other adoptees in one’s situation (forums, support groups, websites)
  • Reach out to organizations that help adult children reconnect with birth families
  • Reach out to organizations that deal with refugee placement (if applicable)
  • Track down one’s family name if one knows it, searching for others with the same name
  • Get a job or put in extra hours to save up for a trip to return to one’s country of birth
  • Hire a lawyer to help facilitate access to one’s records (especially if they are in another country)
  • Look for police reports of local kidnappings, abuse or child abandonment (if this is a factor)
  • Hire a private investigator
  • Learn a foreign language or hire a translator (if there’s a language barrier)
  • Make a list of phone numbers and addresses of possible relatives to visit and interview
  • Start contacting possible leads and set up meetings if one is able

Possible Sacrifices or Costs Associated With This Goal

  • Becoming obsessed to the point it strains relationships with one’s adopted family
  • Losing one’s job because one is always needing time off to travel and investigate leads
  • Losing one’s sense of self and identity as one digs deeper into one’s past
  • Friendships that become strained because one is no longer working to maintain them
  • Draining one’s finances to pay for information, travel, and professional services (lawyer, etc.)
  • Reopening old wounds of rejection and abandonment as one uncovers information that may be hard to take
  • Discovering a past history that is difficult (that one’s parent is a serial killer, that one was part of a human trafficking ring, etc.)

Roadblocks Which Could Prevent This Goal from Being Achieved

  • Ineffective lawyers, investigators, and advocates
  • A fire or other disaster that destroyed one’s records
  • A lack of record keeping at the time (especially in the case of civil unrest)
  • Discovering the adoption was off the books and so documents are false
  • Discovering information that doesn’t mesh with what one’s parents were told
  • Language barriers
  • People who don’t want to talk for fear of repercussions
  • Finding relatives that are unhelpful (fearing inheritance issues, who are hurt by the discovery etc.)
  • Discovering leads have died because much time has passed
  • Discovering a cover up by the state because of some sort of wrongdoing
  • Running out of money for bribes (if needed)
  • Running into dangerous people determined to see one does not succeed (criminals, people involved in a past war crime, etc.)
  • Having to travel to dangerous areas to obtain information

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

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

  • Feeling incomplete because one doesn’t know one’s roots
  • Low self worth and doubt at not knowing why one was given up
  • Guilt that one should have tried harder or did more (in the case where the adoption was not the biological parent’s choice)
  • Having a lot of debt and nothing to show for it
  • Not knowing one’s medical history and running into possible complications as a result

Clichés to Avoid:

  • A “pauper to prince” scenario, where one discovers one is actually royalty and was adopted out for safety reasons (heir to a fortune, one’s enemies seeking out one’s children and killing them, etc.)

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

Image 1: Foundry @ Pixabay


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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