WHAT DOES YOUR HERO WANT? #1: The Outer Motivation

What does the hero of your story want?
Lots of things. And that’s the problem. Sifting through all those desires to pinpoint the ones that drive your story can be confusing and overwhelming. So in six sequential articles, I’m going to break down a hero’s primary goals to help you identify the ones that are essential, and how to manage them all while keeping your story simple and powerful.

#1: The Outer Motivation

I’m beginning with the Outer Motivation, not because it appears first, but because it is essential.

This is the hero’s goal that will define your story, determine its structure, and keep your audiences (or readers, viewers and prospects) engaged and invested in your hero’s success.

I use the term Outer Motivation because this desire is outwardly visible. But don’t worry about the jargon. Just think of it as the finish line your hero is desperate to cross.

The outer motivation is not a feeling (happiness), or an abstract concept (success), or some ongoing condition (health). It’s a specific goal that your audiences can envision as soon as they read or hear what it is. And that image is pretty much the same for everyone you’re addressing.

Common visible goals in stories are winning a competition (The Karate Kid), winning the love of another character (Titanic), stopping some threat (Black Panther), escaping from a bad situation (Get Out), rescuing a person or a group in danger (Taken), and retrieving something of value (Raiders of the Lost Ark).

If you’re a consultant, entrepreneur or public speaker, your story might be about how you won a major client using your marketing process; how your financial advice helped a client stop the foreclosure of her house; what life lesson you learned when you escaped from an avalanche; or how you got back (retrieved) a major client you had lost.

In my 35+ years of consulting with professional storytellers and business leaders, the two biggest problems I encounter are 1) their stories are way too complicated; and 2) there is no clear outer motivation for the heroes of their stories.

Almost any other weakness in your own stories can be traced back to one of those two issues. But once you have clearly defined your hero’s outer motivation and clarified that visible goal, everything else in your story can fall into place.


Part 2 of this series will reveal a second form of desire: your hero’s Inner Motivation.

#2: Inner Motivations
#3: Longings & Needs
#4: Preliminary Goals and Ultimate Objectives
#5: The Desire for Sameness
#6: Revealing Your Hero’s Desires