Writing Lesson 7 – Your Hero’s Outer and Inner Journey

The Hero’s Outer Journey

A compelling hero takes two journeys in a story. The outer journey follows the plot line. It includes the goal, motivation and conflict we’ve already discussed. It begins with his goal and the steps he takes to reach that goal. Make sure you make the goal a seemingly impossible objective. A desire to have a great stamp collection isn’t strong enough to sustain an entire story. If the goal isn’t almost unattainable, the reader won’t care.

The outer journey continues with all the obstacles the hero faces during his quest to reach his goal. Make it difficult for him. Give him setbacks. Take away his resources. Make his time run out. Throw a powerful antagonist in his way. When you’ve done all this, make it even worse.

These goals we keep talking about usually fall into four categories.

  1. To win: a job, a war, a competition, custody, love, etc.
  2. To escape: from villains, from imprisonment, from any bad situation.
  3. To stop: the terrorists, the thief, the bad agenda, etc.
  4. To retrieve: the Holy Grail, the lost treasure, the kidnap victim, etc.

The outer journey ends when the hero either obtains his goal or realizes that something else was even better than his original goal. If you take your hero on this outer journey, you’ve developed your plot.

The Hero’s Inner Journey

Your hero also needs to take an inner journey. Far too many stories lack depth because they only follow the outer journey.

The inner journey’s all about the hero’s personal fulfillment. It develops because of the obstacles he faces on that outer journey. He may travel from fear to courage or from self-protection to courage. During this inner journey, the hero faces obstacles from within.

There are three basic character arcs for this inner journey.

  1. To risk being who you really are. The hero learns to stand up for who he is regardless of what others think.
  2. To risk doing what is right. The hero does the honest thing in spite of the consequences.
  3. To risk connecting with others. The hero opens up to relationships even if they bring trouble and sorrow.

We’ll show you in future lessons some important steps in this inner journey.


Think about some of the Disney movies you’ve seen and analyze the outer and inner journey of the characters.

  • What inner journey did Shrek take while he went to rescue the princess? What did he overcome inside himself to journey to fulfillment? Which of the risks did he finally make?
  • Analyze the inner and outer journey of the main character of Ice Age.

What outer journey will your character make? What active steps will he take to reach his goal? What will hinder him? Who will try to stop him?

What risk will your hero be forced to take to go on the inner journey of fulfillment?

About Teri Dawn Smith

Teri Dawn Smith lives in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas and tries to keep up with the holidays, quirks, and loyalties of her international family including her Canadian husband and three adopted Bolivian children.

Read more about Teri.

Speak Your Mind