This is a companion post to a YouTube video I created with the same name.
I created this worksheet for myself to make sure that I had a clear understanding of my main characters’ motivations. I fill this out for each POV character, villain, romantic interest, and any important side characters.
1. Inner Desire
a. Most basic unmet need
b. Should be simple: acceptance, love, stability
2. Outer Desire
a. What other characters could point out as what main character wants
b. Most likely to show up on back cover copy
3. Stems from. . .
a. Concrete backstory reason why they are the way they are
b. Should preferably be shown in the text to help readers understand character flaws
4. Results in. . .
a. Character traits that can be attributed to backstory
5. Achievement looks like. . .
a. One concrete thing the character thinks will define success
b. Should be clarified explicitly within the text
a. Inner and outer (can be the same)
b. What character has to lose if they don’t achieve their definition of success
c. Include this in query
7. Misbelief: The lie the character tells him- or herself
a. Three main types:
i. Definition of success is faulty (winning won’t actually make them happy)
ii. False belief about self (think about Dumbo and how he didn’t really need the feather to fly)
iii. False belief about world (“No one can be trusted”)
8. Worst thing your character can imagine
a. Make this happen and have your character contemplate it in the “dark night of the soul” beat if at all possible
b. Should be something your character can’t imagine recovering from
9. Character growth by the end
a. Ideally, character finds inner strength, learns to disregard misbelief, and overcomes the worst thing imaginable
b. Alternative: character redefines success after learning initial definition was incorrect (“I should define success as spending time with family instead of working long hours at my job”)