External Goals

Main characters need concrete, physical external goals to carry them through the story. This is different from a character’s desires and motivations. External goals have a definite ENDING to them—the character knows definitely when they’ve either completed or failed at their external goal.

For example, Carrie wants financial success. But that’s hard to define. How would she know when she’d achieved it? When would be that moment?

But if Carrie had an external goal of paying back the last penny of her business loan before the bank forecloses, that’s definitive. She knows exactly when she’s succeeded—the act of paying the last installment—or when she fails—the bank forecloses.

In GETTING INTO CHARACTER, Brandilyn Collins uses the terms “Desire” or “Super-Objective,” but it’s the same thing as an External Goal because she requires that the “Desire” be stated in ACTION TERMS, meaning what the character is going to DO. That’s their external goal.