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Wednesday, May 17, 2017

An In Depth Look at the Noble Quest

by Rachel Hauck

While talking with my Mentee the other day, we were trying to flesh out her heroine’s Noble Quest. What does she want? What is this story about? What journey does she embark upon?

This is an essential part of the Hero/Heroine’s journey that is key to the story.

My mentee’s first response was, “Well, she wants to start a clinic for children.”

Great goal. Very noble. But that’s not the heroines real Noble Quest. The clinic, if she accomplishes her dream, is the end result of the Noble Quest. It is her specific, measurable and realistic goal. (and if you can add a time-sensitive element to it, it ramps up the tension and stakes of the story!) Some people differentiate the two by calling the purpose behind the Quest the Noble Cause. It’s really one big package.

Many people have the end goal of the story without realizing they haven’t fully developed the Noble Quest. The Noble Quest is an emotional journey, seeking some inner resolve that manifest itself in an outer goal.

The internal goal drives the external goal.

Here’s a real life example:

My sister-in-law wanted to go to nursing school. But in the middle of her first clinical, she dropped out. She hated actually working with the patients. All those bed pans and germs… Oooo….

So I asked her, “Then why did you want to be a nurse?”

“Because I wanted to know what made people sick.”

She’d lost her mother when she was thirteen (if she were a character in a book, this would be the dark moment from her past.)

The death of her mother formed a driving desire in her – how to understand sickness.

That, in essence, was my sister-in-law’s Noble Quest. But she missed her desire by choosing a wrong end result – be a nurse. She wasn’t the nursing type.

So, she went back to the beginning. What she discovered was she loved to cook. Almost the opposite of being an nurse, right? But the love of cooking lead to a study of nutrition. She graduated with a degree in nutrition while being a mom of two little ones.

Because of losing her mother at such a young age, my sister-in-law wanted to understand sickness and disease which lead to her wanting to help people live healthier lives.

Noble Quest.

Now she’s a focuses on nutrition and sells Young Living essential oils.

Perfect end result of her Noble Quest. But first, she had to go back to the beginning, learn about herself, her own desires and wants, then she could focus her goal.

You must do the exact same with your characters. In order to build a full Noble Quest, you have to start at the beginning.

Let’s go look again at the protagonist who wants to open a children’s clinic. I asked my mentee, “Why?”

“Because she was sick as a child.”

“How did that affect her?”

“Her mother was over protective. She couldn’t do things the other kids could do.”

“So, she felt left out?”


“How does opening a clinic fix that feeling?”

“She’ll help other children with debilitating illnesses to feel apart of something, to be accepted.”

“Ah, so really your heroine is dealing with acceptance issues? She wants to fit in, belong, have a community?”


“How does that play into her over all journey? How does opening a clinic satisfy that need?”

Round and round we went until we understood the driving force of the heroine.

This process is how you understand your protagonist’s Noble Quest. Work from the inside out. Or work from the outside in, but ask why until you arrive at the core of the protagonist. Who she is and what she wants.

The Noble Quest must answer these questions:

  1. What does the protagonist want? (and Why?)

  2. How is this expressed in an overall story theme?

  3. How will he/she know when they achieve this (their Goal)
And, to add in stakes, which are essential to tension: What if the end result, a children’s clinic, is not achieved?

Find your Happy ending by asking: What is the right end result to answer the questions and goals of the protagonist?

Check your answer: Will final goal achieved satisfy both the emotional and physical journey?

We talk a lot about the lie, the dark moment from the protagonist past, the greatest fear and greatest desire of the character because these elements, molded together, create the Noble Quest.

Every story is about a character on a journey – the Noble Quest. Now, do the work and figure out what your character truly wants and figure a plan to achieve it.

New York Times, USA Today ​and Wall Street Journal best-selling, award-winning author Rachel Hauck loves a great story. She serves on the Executive Board for American Christian Fiction Writers. She is a past ACFW mentor of the year. A worship leader and Buckeye football fan, Rachel lives in Florida with her husband and ornery cat, Hepzibah. Read more about Rachel at


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