Revising a scene today, I was reminded that in each scene, characters need a goal. The character must be passionate about something, passionate enough to fight for it.
Nothing is Neutral
However, we could take it a step farther: what positive thing is the character fighting for? Fiction is about the process of resolving a character puzzle: should I stay home or go on an adventure? The answer, yes or no, isn’t the point of fiction. Rather, we read to experience the struggle with the character. My MC is struggling to find a way to leave his sisters behind and do it safely, while also being free to take off on a quest. He’s actually fighting for two positive things, motivated by both family love and by his need for independence and adventure.
When you have a flat scene, look for something positive for the character to fight for. Often, you’ll find more than one thing and that’s often good because it involves more struggle. The process of resolving the conflict will be interesting for the reader, it will keep them reading.
Often, at least one positive thing will be the need for love: to give or receive love. Underneath much of what we do it the desire to be accepted, recognized, praised, cherished, enjoyed, appreciated–in short, some form of love from platonic to maternal to sexual. In other words, it’s the relationships.
Also, notice that they are fighting! Struggle, wrestle, conflict. Whatever the MC is fighting for must be worth putting out some effort. And there need to be obstacles. It can’t be easy for my MC to leave his sisters behind; instead, he must fight for the very best place for them to stay until he gets back.