Coming up with serious goals for your heroes is not enough to make a story shine. You have to know the characters’ motivation – the stakes. Why do they need to reach their goals? What is at stake for them? What will happen if they don’t get what they strive for?
Sometimes, the protagonist’s personal happiness is at stake. Other times, it might be the safety of the world, or one child’s health, or even a woman’s smile. In any case, the stakes must be high enough in the hero’s mind so he can’t imagine not trying, not doing his best to reach his goal.
In my science fiction short story NUDE BARGAIN, the protagonist’s original goal is to sell beautiful sculptures, and her motivation is to get rich. Then pirates attack her space ship, and her goal changes. Now she wants to trick the pirates, because her new motivation is to save her ship and crew, even if she loses her profit in the process. The stakes become much higher than before – everyone’s life and freedom. To learn how she achieved her new goal, read the story here.
In my magic realism short story AMBER SPIRIT, the heroine is a ghost, a spirit whose body died recently. Her goal is to find a new living body. Her motivation is much trickier: she needs to write. She has always had stories in her head but never wrote them down when she was alive: too busy with children, family, work, etc. Now, the Powers That Be wouldn’t allow her spirit to leave Earth until she fulfilled her destiny – wrote all the stories in her mind. You can read the story here.
Whatever your characters’ motivation is, it should be powerful enough to force them out of their comfort zone, into action and change. What drives your characters? Why do they have to overcome all those obstacles you’ve built on their way? What motivates them?