(To survey other elements and author quotes, visit the Elements of Fiction home page)

“First, find out what your hero wants, then just follow him.” Ray Bradbury

“Chekov said ‘he-and-she is the machine that makes fiction work,’ or something near that.” Flannery O’Connor

“Let him be a monster because he wants to be a monster, not just because he is a monster. He seems to me evil but not sinful. Sin is interesting but evil is not. Sin is the result of an individual’s free choice, but evil is something else.” Flannery O’Connor

“To appreciate what makes a good plot situation, you must identify not only a character’s specific purpose, but also all the conflicts that this purpose necessarily engenders.” Ayn Rand

“To illustrate the achievement of a purpose, you have to show men overcoming obstacles. This statement pertains strictly to writers. Metaphysically—in reality—one does not need obstacles in order to achieve a purpose. But you as a writer need to dramatize purpose, i.e., you have to isolate the particular meaning that you want your events to illustrate—by presenting it in a stressed action form.” Ayn Rand

“The events are determined by the goals that the characters want to accomplish, and each event is necessitated by the preceding one—necessitated not deterministically, but logically.” Ayn Rand

“You must show that the goal is of supreme importance to her.” Barnaby Conrad

“The reader should be in sympathy with the goal, whatever it is, and hope fervently that he achieves it [or manages to avoid it].” Barnaby Conrad

“The protagonist’s want or pressing goal should be something wanted more than anything else. Something very important to him, wanted with passion.” Ulf Wolf

“Motivation is the fuel, what propels the story.” Ulf Wolf

“He must want—in some desperately serious way—” John Gardner.

“Want is the soul; desire is the man; passion is an affliction. All three will serve my story.” Ulf Wolf

“In nearly all good fiction, the basic—all but inescapable—plot form is: A central character wants something, goes after it despite opposition (perhaps including his own doubts), and so arrives at a win, lose, or draw.” John Gardner

“For every crime there is a motive. For every motive there is a passion.” Jake Kasdan