I’m not sure what to write today, not because there’s nothing going on, but because my soul is in ruins right now.

This year at the Mount Hermon Christian Writer’s Conference I had the distinct privilege of sitting under Brandilyn Collins’ expert instruction for my major morning track. The bulk of her advice revolved around getting our character’s desires straight. “What does your protagonist want?” she asked, then didn’t let up until we could articulate it. She basically told us that most author’s story problems can be traced back to the answer—or inability to answer— that question.

– If the character’s “Big D” Desire is unclear to the author, the story will sag and probably never take off. The real story is how they go about trying to achieve that Desire and what they must overcome to get there. Shauna and I are “Lost” enthusiasts. Have been since season 1. I have to confess, though, last season didn’t grip me. Why? Because Jack, Kate, Sawyer, and a few others kinda got lost within themselves. I wasn’t sure what they wanted. Neither were they. The story sagged.

– If the Desire is too trivial, the story won’t hold anyone’s interest. If my goal in life is to make fifty bucks, I’ve already been there, done that, and nobody else should think that’s interesting, either.

– If the Desire is gripping and clear, you’ve got the makings of a great story.

– But—and this is huge—if the Desire is twisted (if the character wants the wrong thing or something dangerous) the story will be interesting to read, but has the makings of a tragedy.

This applies to life, not just to writing. If we don’t know what we want, or we want something too small from life, or want the wrong thing, our story won’t play out the way we’d hoped it would. Brandilyn is absolutely right about fiction, but she’s also right about life: Most life story problems can be traced back to our Big D Desire.

What do you want?

If your Desire isn’t gripping, your life won’t be, either. If your Desire isn’t clear, your life will lack focus. If your Desire isn’t pure, your life will lead you into dark places.

What do you want?

God has been asking me that question repeatedly over the past few weeks. Each time he poses it, he peels back another layer in my soulish onion. I said my soul is in ruins, and that’s because I think we finally got to the core—or one of them, at least—and I hate what we found there.

It’s still too raw to write any further today. I’ll see about tomorrow.