If there was one thing Michael Hauge told us over and over again, it was that every main character needs a tangible outer goal: a single, measurable “thing” that the protagonist is actively pursuing throughout the story. According to Hauge, there are only 5 types of outer goals:
- To escape from a bad situation
- To stop something bad from happening
- To deliver something of value so that something good can happen, or something bad can be avoided
- To retrieve something of value
- To win, either the game, the competition or the love of another character
As you can see, there are no items that start with “To understand…” or “To improve…”. Why? Because goals that involve feelings are, by definition, inner goals and while you certainly can (and must) have these as well, they cannot take the place of the outer goal. The outer goal is the thing that is visibly accomplished in the end of the story. It is what hooks the reader and carries them through to the end. If the reader cannot see it, he cannot attach to it and if he cannot attach to it, he probably won’t keep reading.