I would move mountains to save my child. I would swim oceans. People, ordinary people, are capable of extreme acts if the motivation is right.
Desire can be anything that moves you to attempt the impossible if only for the smallest chance...
As fiction writers, one of the first things we need to look at in the editing process is desire, or motivation.
What does your character want?
Is their desire clear to you as the creator of the character? Can you explain it in a sentence? Why are they pushing forward despite all the obstacles thrown in their path?
Are they on a quest? Are they doggedly pursuing a killer? Are they attempting to rescue, escape, or exact revenge? Ronald Tobias, in his book 20 Master Plots, goes beyond the typical 7 themes (man vs. man, etc.) in fiction. If you're unclear on your character's goal, then perusing his list might help you define it.
It's up to you, the writer to figure out what your character's goal is. Why?
Because it will color every decision they make.
We want our characters to arc into something else, something more than what they were at the beginning of the journey. To do that, they have to want something enough to change for it. In your character's mind, is their desire worth a lie, a life, their life? Or maybe its dignity, or sanity, or safety that they must risk.
Ask yourself if the decisions your character is making are in line with their ultimate desire.
An advantage to truly understanding what your character wants is that revising your story is easier because you can see through the fat of the scenes you love, but don't really need, to the bone of the story.
A compelling desire, conflict to that desire, and consequences for not achieving it are what drive your story forward.
So get out your red pen and reread your manuscript with an eye toward clarity for the reader. They have to know what your main character desires so that for the duration of your book...they want it too.
Until next time...Go Write!
Photograph by Yasin Hassan