Every hero has two goals. The first goal is the most obvious one. The second goal is the real goal the hero needs, which the hero typically isn’t aware of until others point it out to him or her. Generally the hero chases after a superficial, physical goal while slowly realizing that he or she really needs to pursue a life-changing goal instead.
In the animated film, “Missing Link”, the hero is a British explorer who’s constantly trying to find proof of exotic creatures so he can gain acceptance into a royal club of notable explorers. To gain acceptance into this club of explorers, he needs to provide proof that the Sasquatch really exists.
Therefore, the hero spends the first half of the movie looking for this Sasquatch. Pursuing this superficial goal is always a selfish goal. That’s why when the hero achieves this goal halfway through the movie, the hero’s still stuck in a dead end life.
The second half of every good movie is about the hero learning to give up the selfish goal and learn to be selfless to help others. That often appears to contradict the selfish goal.
In “Missing Link,” the hero has found the Sasquatch, which will give him acceptance into the royal club of explorers. However, the problem is that the Sasquatch wants to find his relatives (yetis) in the Himalayas. Now the conflict is what will the hero do?
If he pursues his selfish goal, he risks hurting others. By helping others, he risks losing his selfish goal.
In every instance, the hero reluctantly decides to help others. By doing so, the hero gradually starts changing into a better person.
Eventually the hero winds up hitting rock bottom, the lowest point in the story. This rock bottom moment is when the hero finally admits their own flaws to him or herself. By acknowledging their flaws, the hero is able to fully and truly change into a better person.
So the first half of any movie is about the hero pursuing a selfish, physical goal. The second half is about the hero gradually learning to change and pursue a selfless goal that helps others. By doing so, the hero transforms into a better person.
In “Titanic,” Rose’s initial goal is simply to get out of her dead end life by committing suicide. In the second half of the movie, her goal is now to save Jack’s life. By doing so, she gradually learns to become a stronger woman in the process.
So Rose’s original, goal was to get out of her existing life, but in the end, she does, not by killing herself, but by taking charge of her life.
In the end, the following is likely to happen:
- The hero gets the physical goal and becomes a better person
- The hero fails to get the physical goal but gets something better and still becomes a better person
- The hero gets the physical goal but fails to become a better person (tragedies)
- The hero fails to get the physical goal and fails to become a better person (tragedies)
In “Star Wars,” Luke gets his physical goal (to leave his planet and have an adventure) and becomes a better person.
In “Titanic,” Rose tried to kill herself but winds up a stronger person who can take control of her destiny for the future.
In “The Boy in the Striped Pajamas,” a young boy becomes friends with another boy who’s trapped in a concentration camp. The hero then sneaks inside the concentration camp to be with his friend, only to get killed with his friend in the end.
In “The Godfather,” Michael (Al Pacino) tries to avoid his family’s organized crime business and fails, becoming the next godfather as a result.
Decide how you want your story to end. Then make sure your hero initially pursues a selfish goal. Finally, identify how your hero can change and achieve a better goal in the end.
This change in your hero is what really makes your story worth watching again and again.