What does your character want? You will need to consider each character in your story and figure that out. It’s the goal, the want, the need, the urgency, that will make or break your novel.
Think about it. Have you read a book where the character’s goals were undefined? Most likely not. You may have started reading a novel where the character(s) had no goals, but it would have been difficult to finish. You might have thrown it across the room out of frustration.
Every character must have a goal.
Let me say that again. Every character must have a goal.
The best goals are important and urgent. Why? Because your character will (should) be willing to act against their own self-interest. This means that your characters will brave hardship and death to get what they want. The goal should equate to troublesome consequences.
But why? Because YOUR goal as the author is to hook the reader. You want your readers turning pages. You want your readers staying up well past their normal bedtime just to read one more chapter. And it is the goals and those troublesome consequences that will cause your readers to turn the page.
Failure is an important aspect of your character’s goal. The goals should be difficult. Your character should fail but keep trying.
The goal should also be based on the type of novel you are writing. Remember earlier we chatted about reader expectations and the requirement that you meet those expectations, or else your book will end up in the garbage. If you are writing a thriller, then your character’s goal is to thwart the killer. If you are writing a romance, then your character’s goal is not to fall in love.
Regardless of the genre, and regardless of your character’s goals, the most important thing is that the goal is urgent. The character needs that thing, whatever it is, NOW! NOW! NOW! And it’s the inability to have it NOW! NOW! NOW! that creates the drama that readers love.
Keep working on your character goals. Keep thinking about the urgency issue. If the goal isn’t urgent, consider coming up with a new goal.