First, the goal is the one thing the main characters want. The goal needs to be something that they want so badly they will do anything to get to that goal. The goal should be important enough for characters to act against.
The motivation is why the characters want what they want—the drive and back-story. Anything is possible for a character as long as the writer explains why to give the reader enough motivation to give the story credibility. The writer needs to know their characters well so that the actions stay in character and are justified and clear to readers. When a character wants something bad enough, the reader will too.
The last piece is conflict—why the characters can’t get what they want, the trouble, tension and roadblocks that are preventing the characters from achieving their goals. Conflict drives the plot and motivates the characters. There are two types of conflict—external and internal. External conflict can be a person, an intolerable situation or an act of God. Internal conflict is inner struggles within the characters.
I find it helpful to have character charts for my main characters. Here is an example of a character chart that I use to help me get to know my characters so I can define their goals, motivation and conflict:
Religion or Beliefs:
What would destroy him:
What would help him survive and be better:
Kelley Heckart'Timeless tales of romance, conflict & magic'
Three different women, one ancient curse…